Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Who's Faster?

Sometimes before the Tyke goes to sleep, we have a little bedtime chat. Last night Tyke provided the subject: ostriches.

It turns out Tyke is afraid of ostriches, knows they can run really fast and kick the daylights out of people, cars, and anything else they decide to obliterate. "Mom, are there ostriches in our town?"

Well, of course not, unless there's a zoo I don't know about, or some wacko criminal is harboring ostriches as an organic protection system.

I tell Tyke a story (intended to amuse and console) that I heard on National Public Radio on the Saturday program "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me." The program has a segment called "It's Not My Job" featuring some unlikely guest. This person has to play the game representing an NPR listener, and the subject matter of the game is always something way out of the league of the "Not My Job" person. For example, past participants have included Adam West, the original TV Batman; and Don LaFontaine, the world-famous voice-over artist who invented the "In a world where . . ." imposing movie preview trailers. He makes millions terrifying theater audiences by simply saying "In a world where . . ." and then describing a movie. (Nice work if you can get it.)

Anyway, in this "Not My Job" episode, the not-my-job guy was an exotic animal remediation specialist who works mostly in Florida. As in, "get this friggin' twelve-foot-long python out of my septic system!" remediation. So when they ask him about his actual job, he recounts several notable encounters, one of which involves ostriches. It seems there were several escaped ostriches that somehow wound up running around on the runway of a Florida airport. Wait, it gets better. The ostriches got near the terminal windows. They are very aggressive but have no self-awareness, so they see their own reflections in the windows, freak out, and get into sparring matches with the "other ostriches." They peck and kick the hell out of the windows and break them. It's ostrich chaos at the terminal. Not-my-job Guy to the rescue!

Not-my-job Guy and his trusty cohort(s) rush to the scene to apprehend the flightless perpetrators, only to discover that they have multiple ostriches, but only ONE tranquilizer dart.

At this point, panelist comedienne Paula Poundstone pipes up, "Hey, in a situation like that if I found out I only had one tranquilizer, you know who'd take it, doncha?"

Ultimately they bring down the one ostrich. I can't remember how the story ends because by this point I was laughing so hard my short-term memory was impaired.

Well, needless to say, this story did not help the Tyke, who now had even more reason to believe in the menacing qualities of ostriches. He is now wondering if they can come through HIS window--three stories up, hah-hah. Well, no, they're not going to. (I have to get him reassured quickly; otherwise he won't be able to fall asleep, thinking about being maimed by angry ostriches coming through his third-story window.)

But it turns out he is now, (for some reason) more interested in the speed of the ostrich than its kicking and pecking. His favorite animal to date is the cheetah. "Mom, are ostriches the fastest MAMMALS, even faster than cheetahs?"

I'm momentarily quiet, stifling a guffaw. "Are ostriches MAMMALS?"

He thinks a minute. "Uh, no. Are they the fastest BIRDS? Even faster than CHEETAHS?"

I give him a look. "Uh. Oh. Okay. But are they here? And will they kick me through the window?"


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