“NEW SIGN. WE MAKE. YOU SEE.” At first I thought I might have been misinterpreting BoBo, but he kept repeating the signs until it was clear what he meant.
“YES YOU SEE” Dian added. “WE MAKE SIGN. YOU HAPPY.” Noam crowded in behind them, eager to get in on the action. Where was this enthusiasm coming from? For months the chimpanzees had all been so uninterested in learning sign language they had seemed downright surly, but now they could barely contain themselves. “GOOD. YOU SHOW ME” I signed back.
BoBo waved Kong over and the four of them arranged themselves in a line. They were about to start, but then Noam stepped forward flailing his arms. “BANANAS FIRST!” So I gave them each a banana, and they took a long time peeling them, eating them, exchanging looks that appeared to be commentary on how the bananas tasted.
“YOU SHOW ME NOW?” I signed. “YES” replied BoBo. “NEW SIGN. WE SHOW YOU.” The four of them sat still for a moment, then in unison began making a one-handed jack off motion. This continued for about thirty seconds until the chimps collapsed on the ground shrieking uncontrollably. “NEW SIGN. WE HAPPY!” Bobo managed to tell me between shrieks.
I hate this job.