For three summers during my undergraduate career at the University of Puget Sound, I worked for the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries as an analyst and computer support person. For the most part, the databases I used were accessed via batch on some old IBM mainframes (using JCL, for heaven’s sake!). My co-worker, Bill, was a big tea drinker. In fact, he bought Red Rose tea in bulk. In the spirit of modern cereal manufacturers (I guess), Red Rose decided to include a “prize” in their boxes of tea bags. One such prize turned out to be a small (approximately 1 inch tall) ceramic zebra.
Later that day, our co-worker on the other side of the cubicle, Francis, received an interesting delivery in the mail. Well, actually, it had to be delivered to her on a hand-cart. Somehow, she had accidentally printed off several reams of unneeded printouts.
Bill and I enjoyed giving Francis a hard time when such things happened… and she enjoyed razzing us from time to time, too. For some unknown reason, Bill and I decided to give her the Zebra as a reminder of her error. From that point on, the Zebra became a symbol of errors, screw-ups, mistakes, and general flakiness. Needless to say, the Zebra rested atop my monitor often.
Gradually, I became known as The Zebra, and I adopted the phrase Zebras@Play to represent my occasionally stupid mistakes on the computer. Upon my departure from Labor and Industries, I received several cards and gifts, most of which had something to do with zebras. Maybe someday I’ll post some images of my zebra mugs, my zebra key chain, my zebra mask, my zebra… well, maybe someday.
While the original ceramic zebra still resides at L&I (as far as I know), I carry the mighty Zebra spirit with me. Perhaps the Zebra will find a second home here in Cyberspace.
Feb-2011 UPDATE: Our blog is no more, but this Zebras@Play page has been rebuilt in our new CMS platform.
07-Oct-2005 UPDATE: This Zebras@Play page has been integrated into our blog website.
04-Oct-2005 UPDATE: I’ve upgraded to a “real” photo gallery. Users can now create their own galleries and upload their favorite zebra photos and graphics! Check it out here: Zebras Graphics Gallery and Zebras Photos Gallery.
Jul/Aug-2001 UPDATE: On a whim, I took to the ‘net to see if I could find a ceramic zebra of my own — to replace the one that still resides in Washington. I learned that the figurines are produced by a UK company called Wade Ceramics, and to my surprise, there’s a whole community of collectors out there. That little ceramic zebra is actually part of a huge collection of ceramic figurines. And there are serious collectors out there! For example, check out Brenda’s site: Huggybear’s Wade Whimsies Website. Brenda helped me acquire not one, but four ceramic zebras! Check them out in my new Wade Ceramic Zebra Gallery.
15-Sep-1999 UPDATE: A picture of the Red Rose ceramic zebra is now available thanks to its new owner at the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. I’ve posted it up above.
23-Nov-1998 UPDATE: Recently, I was contacted by some old friends at L&I. To my delight, the current owner of the ceramic zebra also contacted me. He was not aware of the history behind the zebra until he saw this website. He has since restored the zebra statue to the prominence it deserves. Hopefully, I’ll have some pictures coming soon!
Leave your zebra comments below! The Old Zebras@Play Guestbook with comments from 2000-2005 is also available.