AAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!!!

14 07 2012

The element of surprise… It enabled the seriously outnumbered Gideon’s army to defeat the Midianites. It served the Japanese well the morning of December 7, 1941. It makes for a fun time at parties and is fodder for some of the funniest episodes of Funniest Home Videos. It can also scare the beejeebees out of you. Let me explain.

Once I was walking through the woods looking for downed trees and limbs I could use to decorate my father-in-law’s clothing store. That should be a surprise to his grandchildren who may read this and learn for the first time he once operated a Levi’s franchise before making his fortune in real estate. Anyway, as I walked along, I was just about to put my right foot onto the ground when I happened to notice, right where I was about to plant my foot, a Copperhead moccasin curled up, head raised and body drawn back as if ready to strike. So as my foot was moving forward and down, I quickly changed course and nearly lost my balance at the same time. I managed to miss the snake but you should have heard the sound that came from my mouth. I screamed out like a 13-year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert.

Another time, I was walking from my parking space to my office.   As I passed by a clump of bushes, a mockingbird flew out from within and “attacked” me. I sounded like a man who nearly stepped on a Copperhead.

I have come to realize that for all my manly bravado, when surprised by a life-threatening situation, such as a mockingbird attack, I don’t sound very John Wayneish. I just can’t see the Duke ever squealing like a school girl when some side winding hombre takes a shot at him.

Now, see how that differs when you replace surprise with the thrill associated with an intentional act of stupidity. And don’t sit there reading this and tell me you’ve never done something, only to look back later and think to yourself just how stupid it was.

I was on assignment in Malawi in central Africa, and had been there nearly three months, when a co-worker and I decided we wanted to see more than just our hotel room. We talked another co-worker, Mohamed Bashir, aka, “Bash”, who was a local resident, into taking us to a nearby game reserve for the weekend. Upon our arrival at Lifupu Lodge, we hired a guide, but soon realized he wasn’t showing us what we wanted to see. It was an hour into the tour and we hadn’t seen the first wild animal. So, we ditched the guide and set out on our own.

We soon began to see animals, mostly elephants. At one point we stopped beside a river where a baby elephant and its mother were watering. They quickly ran up the hill in front of our car and stopped just inside the edge of the bush. We could see them no more than about 50 feet away. I thought it would be a good idea to have my picture made with an elephant; so I decided to see just how close I could get and have my friend snap a picture. Although this seemed like a good idea at the time, I would later look back on this moment and realize how stupid it was.

“Bash” warned me not to get too close, especially with the calf nearby, because mama elephants are extremely protective of their young. As I recall, I got within about 25 feet before the mother raised her trunk, flapped her ears and sounded her trumpet. I decided that was close enough as I made a very quick retreat back to the car. In other words… I ran!

The experience wasn’t scary like a mocking-bird jumping out of a bush to attack you, and I didn’t do my  Ned Beatty impersonation from Deliverance, but it was thrilling. And, actually, pretty low on my Stupid Things I’ve Done list.

Lifupu Lodge, where we spent the night

Are you st!upid or what? That’s an elephant

Elephant through the binoculars

Bash and me at Kamuzu View. Check out my knee socks. Malawi chic.

Bash and his family. Wife Angie, daughter Sheenaz and son Jehangeer

Laundry Day

Baking a cake? Get your flour at the market.

One of our employees and his family

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