Stupid is as stupid does — and hops and flies and …
I was riding back to work after dinner the other night, and up ahead I saw a flash as something darted from between a parked conversion van and pickup truck, right at my eye level.
I quickly deduced it to be a bat, which I see frequently and of which I’m quite fond.
However, it was a rather close call. Ecolocation or not, the beastie came out of nowhere and disappeared. Had I been a split-second earlier — or faster — I wonder if even the ecolocationest bat would have had time to dodge my noggin. I’m convinced I would have had bat in my belfry.
I had another thought, too, which resurfaced just a couple of days later, when I was riding in front of my son’s before-school track club. I lead out the kids — no passing the nice man on the bike — and other parents ride herd to bring up the rear. We had just left school grounds and were tooling along the nearby nature trail when I had to swerve abruptly to miss a tiny snake on the path.
I’m not a big snake guy, but I’ll admit even this one was cute — a bitsy garter snake, maybe 7 inches long and smaller than my little finger. It saw me coming and froze. It remained still as the lead runner came pounding down the path and … just about squashed said serpent. Never saw it. I almost turned around and shooed it into the safety of the nearby grass but didn’t think I’d be able to turn around in time to cut off the next wave.
Besides, once I saw the snake, I immediately channeled my inner Samuel L. Jackson and bellowed, “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! I’VE HAD IT WITH THESE MOTHER SNAKES ON THIS MOTHER BIKE!” I glanced back at all those adorable, innocent, suddenly aghast faces and decided to pedal on, hoping the dozens of beating hooves that followed would scare the beast to safety — and that the little darlings in my charge wouldn’t tell mommy and daddy about the new word they learned at track club that morning.
The thought that entered my head in both critter near-misses? Are some animals just … dumb?
I don’t mean all members of a kingdom or phylum or class or order or family or genus or species (wow, that ninth-grade taxonomy sure sticks with a fellow). I think it’s safe to assume a snail, say, isn’t quite as intelligent as a chimp; everybody knows dogs are braniacs compared to stupid kitties; I’ve heard it said cows are smart and horses are D-U-M-B; and octopuses (or -pi, if you please) are bright, while squid are just delicious.
I mean, isn’t it safe to assume that some squirrels are smarter than others? Same for bats and snakes and all other manner of creature?
What if the winged rat I nearly ran into the other night had been too stupid to take evasive maneuvers? Like the snake. It easily could have high-tailed it (Get it? A snake? High-tail?) into the nearby grass, where it would have been close to invisible. Instead, it opted to freeze — a blue-striped, black squiggle standing in stark contrast to the white concrete below.
I’ve had squirrels try to run between my turning wheels (and a surprising number run headlong at my rolling bike). Birds sometimes fly parallel to my path, their beady eyes panic-stricken as they frantically flap faster to escape. Unlike the ground-bound beasties, birds can, of course, fly in any direction, including, oh, I don’t know, up, to escape the more gravity-locked set, yet a few insist upon flying alongside until one of us tires or pulls away (or, presumably, breads and deep-fries the other). Once a deer that had been a good half mile away ran toward me and swam across the small pond that separated us, all the while heading straight for me. It sped up and slowed down to match my attempts to give it safe passage before veering off at the last minute, its eyes bulging in terror, leaping a fence and bolting into the nearby trafficway. Obviously it wasn’t the sharpest ungulate in the herd.
I’m a big fan of natural selection, so I can only assume all the really stupid animals didn’t stick around long enough to pose much of a threat to me or my bike.
But sometimes I wonder.
These are the kinds of thoughts that rattle around my hollow head as I pedal along on my commute. At least, they are until it gets pelted by some moronic bat.