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  • During college I worked at the Cincinnati Zoo as a cashier. Usually I was at the ticket gate, but on this particular day, they'd put me at the Children's Zoo.

    I was standing there, collecting the extra dollar admittance fee from people entering the Children's Zoo when all of a sudden the person standing in front of me was none other than Melissa Gilbert of Little House on the Prairie fame! I was a HUGE Little House fan as a kid. (Read "I am a Child Memoir Junkie" blog entry.) So I was immediately starstruck by Laura Ingalls handing me a dollar bill.

    I took her dollar, all the while staring at her. She seemed much too glamorous for Cincinnati, even though she was wearing jeans and sunglasses and should have been inconspicuous behind her child's stroller. (Her husband was performing in a play downtown.) As she entered the Children's Zoo, I leaned out over my counter and watched her out of eyesight, still clutching the dollar bill that I should have had her sign. Ah, hindsight!

    More people filed through the line and I collected their entry fees, keeping Melissa's separate. I would swap out one of my own dollars later and keep hers as a souveneir. I was still berating myself for not having her sign the bill, but I knew that it was Melissa Gilbert's dollar.

    Still enthralled, I was shocked when she suddenly appeared in front of me again! The exit gate was at the other end of the Children's Zoo, so I never saw people twice. This time, other people noticed who she was, too.

    "Excuse me."

    She was talking to me!!!!

    "The monkeys have pulled the fan cord out of the wall and it's lying next to a bowl of water."

    "Okay," I replied. I wondered whether I should take this opportunity to ask her to autograph my dollar. But I couldn't get up my nerve. She stared at me staring at her.

    "It's dangerous," she said.

    "Okay," I repeated.

    She huffed a little bit and looked around my booth. I suppose she was looking for a more rational person, or a phone, but there was only me, the cash register, and her dollar bill in my hand.

    "Can you call someone? The monkeys have pulled the electrical cord out of the wall and it's next to a bowl of water."

    Frankly, I had no idea what to do. I couldn't leave my register, and I was young and stupid anyway. And let's not forget starstruck. I really wanted to get her autograph.

    Luckily for Melissa and for the monkeys, a zoo staff member walked by and she grabbed him and lead him to the monkey house. I watched them walk away, still thrilled that I'd met Melissa Gilbert. She'd even talked to me! I knew I'd never forget that day. And I think I made an impression on her, too.
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