Thursday, January 03, 2008

Here There Be Tigers

When I was very young, my mother would take me to doctor appointments at our nearby Medical Center. The waiting area for pediatrics had a very large (probably even larger in my memory) aquarium at the center. There were no fewer than four signs to remind the young patients and their caregivers "Do Not Tap On The Glass". I could sense the allure of the big, smooth panes that made up the outer walls of the fish's world, but I was also very keen on following rules. As my mother rightly pointed out, "Think of having some giant come along and banging on the side of your house." She didn't have to tell me twice, and I could only roll my eyes in disapproval at those kids who were either too dim or illiterate to get the message.
And that's where I find myself, nine days after a tiger killed a teenager at San Francisco's zoo. The zoo reopened today, along with new signs warning people not to pester animals. It reminds me of the warnings that McDonald's had to print on their coffee cups after they were sued by a woman who was burned by their piping hot java, calling it “gross negligence” for selling coffee that was “unreasonably dangerous” and “defectively manufactured.” Would she have sued if the coffee was ice cold? Maybe that's what led to McDonald's new Iced Coffee drink.
Back to tigers: These are wild animals, just ask Roy Horn (of Siegfried and Roy) about the relative temperaments of jungle cats. I have learned valuable lessons about such things while riding on Disneyland's Jungle Cruise. The guide will invariably point out the lurking dangers in the brush, and will remind all of us that that "when fully grown, a Bengal tiger can jump over fifty feet - luckily we're just twenty feet away." That's how I like my tigers: twenty feet away, attached to a complicated series of electric and hydraulic cables, and I still won't be pestering them any time soon.

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