All the safety in the world (doesn’t help stupid)


I’ll let you hit up Google on your own for this one.

Story you’re looking for involves a woman in Arizona that decided to cross a barrier in a zoo to get a picture of a jaguar and… I’m going to pause for a moment here in a dramatic way just because, but honestly the reality is you have already guessed what happened… get a picture of a jaguar and was attacked by the jaguar.

But I’m not linking to that specific story because this essay is about more than one incident. The jaguar in Arizona is just one example. Stupid people do stupid things all the time.

When I see news like this, the people-in-the-tiger-pit stories (so to speak), one of my first thoughts is about the barriers in place. Was there something that said “don’t go here” and perhaps even a bit more? Was there something making an attempt at preventing a person from going there?

After all, it’s one thing to know what you are about to do is a bad idea. But as I have said (and heard said) so many times over the years: Common sense ain’t that common. What makes it a slightly different level of stupid thing is being told what you are about to do is a bad idea.

Signs are a good start. Locked doors can be anywhere. Railings, open pits, walls, water features are there in zoos. Hold on… just for a second… zoos…

Zoos… yeah, those present interesting problems.

When people are going to jump in for pictures of jaguars and hugs from gorillas and kisses with tigers and whatever, the zoo has a funny little hurdle on their end of the process. Zoos need to be safe for the animals. Safe for the people. And yet, safety on both sides, zoos have to create displays that allow the people to see the animals.

We don’t go to zoos to see really tall walls with a sign on them that explains there are cheetahs on the other side. No, we want to see the cheetahs.

And line of sight tends to create an amazing opportunity for stupid to enter the equation.

Are you one of those people that wants the perfect picture at the Grand Canyon? You know the shot. You have zero intentions of getting too close to the drop, but you just know in your heart it will be ok to slide past this wooden fence, turn around, and smile for the camera.

Not just Google. Pick any search engine and you can find plenty of stories about people climbing in to the animal enclosures… and, plenty of stories about people slipping off the edge of a cliff. (And almost as many as the number of stories you’ll find about people driving thousands of miles to a bakery to see the baby Jesus in the frosting on a brownie. But that’s quite another scenario, with a different type of stupid.)

The other day—though certainly several steps below people-in-the-tiger-pit level—I made one of those great safety moves. We have a clock in the garage. Time to adjust it by an hour. It’s about ten to twelve feet up in the air. Way to get to it is by ladder, but there’s a workbench kind of in the way a classic ladder could be used. The easiest way to get to it is to use a stepladder to get onto the workbench, then set up a smaller stepladder on the surface of the workbench, then… well, you see where this is going.

I do stupid things all the time.

I climb ladders outside in the winter, because ice and snow has collected on the satellite dish and disrupted the signal. I check the electrical outlets without turning the power off. But…

The workbench is actually huge, and roughly equates to placing a stepladder on a large deck more than putting one a table. I wear sensible shoes. I take my time. I don’t begin working on the electrical outlet without turning the power off. And I don’t go around fences or jump over water to take a selfie with a jaguar.

I love gorillas and tigers. I also enjoy having my arms attached.

Douglas Adams, as I recall, had a quote attributed to him that went something like this (I’m close, though the words may be off so I’m not quoting, and you shouldn’t say I did): People that believe they have made something completely foolproof have underestimated complete fools.

Climbing a few rungs on a ladder to a staggering height of five or six feet while holding a broom to sweep snow off a satellite dish? We’re not in complete fool territory.

But the world is a place that contains complete fools. And they’ll find a way to the jaguar, even if we lock the doors.


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