Friday, November 14, 2014

The Tiger that Wasn't

My favorite Ernie Kovack's joke it the one about the Great Wall of China: It is not that great, it is not a wall, and it is not even in China; it is in New York, where it is called the Triborough Bridge. This seems to be the fate of the "tiger" that escaped from the Disneyland Park outside Paris, prompting an alert for everyone in nearby towns to stay indoors. The scare quotes have to do with the fact that the animal is no longer claimed to be a tiger, and even the fact that it is from Disneyland now seems open to question. While a wild animal on the loose is still cause for concern, it is hard to avoid reading the latest BBC News account of the situation without letting at least a few chuckles loose.

My favorite probably involves the paw prints. Trackers have been following these and now claim that they are too small to come from a tiger. The BBC Web site therefore obliged by showing a range of feline paw prints. Unfortunately, these were not imaged to scale, making it difficult to determine just how critical the size difference actually it. Second prize then goes to the observation that one of the sightings could only have taken place had the animal crossed the A4 motorway. Admittedly, the animal could have done this late at night when traffic is minimal; but it is hard to avoid asking "Why did the [fill in your favorite feline] cross the road?" Third prize then goes to the footprints found near a gas station. Was this nostalgia for the old put-a-tiger-in-your-tank ads? Finally, the article includes a photograph "purporting to show the animal," as the caption puts it, whose blurred imagery rivals some of the classic photographs of the Loch Ness Monster.

Let me repeat: a wild animal on the loose is serious business. I am sure that cooler heads are trying to resolve this problem; but, regardless of size, cats do what cats do. It is hard to avoid reading this as yet another cute cat story in a more ominous disguise.

Note that, in light of the current hypothesis about what the animal is, I did my best to avoid any "missing lynx" jokes!

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