One thought ahead. Three sentences behind.

Predators

I’m not a fan of cats. Actually, I envy them for one reason alone: they never appear to work. When I’m vacuuming the living room, trying to remove fifty pounds of cat hair, I see my cat sprawled out on the floor where sunlight peels through the shades. Later, when I’m washing clothes to remove an infinite amount of cat dander, she lies on the dryer with not a care in the world. And when I’m making dinner, she comes into the kitchen with a purr, which is a request.

“What,” I ask. “What have you done?”

Before she can respond, I say, “Don’t. No need to do anything that involves cat-work.”

How do cats do it? Near as I can tell, they are idle twenty-five hours of the day. But in less time it takes to flip a pancake, a cat can pounce on a mouse or a bird and claim it as its own. If I set out to capture a mouse, it would take me twenty minutes to set the trap before accidentally stepping on it.

Even in the wild, cats don’t appear to do any work. For them, stretching out on a sun-drenched veld is enough excitement for the day. Even when they go on the hunt, you never see them sweating. You’ll never see a lion pacing back and forth, muttering, “Got to get an antelope. Got to get an antelope.” Cats are so laid back the male lions don’t even have to provide for the den. It’s the lioness’ job to stock the freezer. All the males have to do is hang out, procreate and offer protection. (Kind of like the mob but without the track suits, loan sharking and Long Island mistresses.)

The lifestyle of cats smacks an interesting contrast to their human counterparts. For if you want to make your mark, you have to stand up and bark for attention. From the start it’s go! go! go! Get up early and never go to bed. Sleep died with the dodo. Rest is for the retired. To be successful you need to know what’s going on in Tashaki, Japan as well as Bangor, Maine. Be adaptable. Be vigilant. Be prepared.

And as we fight and claw our way into middle management, the cats in the wild lie low and wait. Waiting is no problem. A whole day can go by and that’s fine. Patience is their ally, for as they wait, they are no longer there. And if they are no longer there, only the wind through the tall grass remains. And with the stillness comes the prey.

When it comes to predators, alligators seem like a lazy lot. They resemble pieces of driftwood floating down a river. They never seem to move, ever. The alligator at our zoo never moved its whole life. Snow, wind, rain, passing postman, it didn’t matter. We’d toss peanuts at it to see if it was alive, but the nuts bounced off its thick skin and littered ground. The alligator didn’t even blink. It just laid there, probably listening for our names and where we lived.

Even in the wild alligators do very little besides keep their eyes above the waterline. Whenever I’m golfing in Florida and see one by a lake, I always wonder what it is thinking. I believe there is only one thing that goes through an alligator’s mind: “If I ever find the kid who brought me home as a family pet and flushed me down the toilet, I will eat him like a cold duck sandwich. No wait, better yet, I’ll take him to the closest gas station and flush his little butt down the toilet. See how he likes it. Oh, wait, here comes a golfer.”

With little legs and squat bodies, alligators don’t look like they could chase anything on land but a boneless chicken. But I heard they can run pretty quickly. I even heard an alligator outran a wild boar and a panther to catch a golfer trying to escape in a golf cart. True story! So I heard. Maybe bits and pieces… All right, maybe I made the whole thing up.

Sharks rarely work. After surviving for millions of years, maybe they deserve to take it easy. Even if they find something to eat, they don’t necessarily attack it like a Sunday pancake feed. Instead, they circle for fifteen days, saying with each pass, “I don’t need to eat you, but I might.”

Why do sharks do this? My personal theory is sharks have no reason to rush for they don’t need much to survive. They can go a month without eating a full meal. A license plate can last a week. Sharks can wake up every morning and say, “I don’t need to do Bo Diddley today.” And that puts them in an enviable position that most of us cannot afford. They can be choosy.

I love it when a film crew goes out into the blue waters to film sharks in their natural habitat. The film crew always brings a marine biologist to lend an air of credibility, but they come with one goal: to cover their intern with fish entrails and throw him in a cage in hopes of creating a shark attack. The marine biologist can expound all he wants about the migration patterns of The Great White Shark, but what really sells a documentary is drama and there is nothing more anti-climatic than watching a film crew in the middle of an empty ocean waiting for a shark to appear.

Shark documentaries may last an hour, but it takes five years to get the footage. Why? Even if the film crew finds a shark, it doesn’t necessarily mean the shark will do anything. Remember, sharks don’t have to eat for weeks and the last thing on their grocery list is a mealy college student. And so the shark circles and the film crew waits and waits and…

A shark endlessly circling does not provide compelling footage. For a documentary to work the shark needs to grab a hold of the intern’s cage and whip it around so the camera crew can capture it in super-slow-mo. To create this pearl of savagery the film crew will chase the shark, following it for days, stalking it, taunting it, trying to do anything to provoke an attack. Whether the intern survives is no longer a priority. The film crew needs a climatic ending and so they will pander to the lowest form of persuasion – the bribe.

 

PRODUCER: All right, if you promise to turn the shark cage into scattered metal, we will pay you twenty thousand dollars.

SHARK: And a cut of the gross? I need four points.

PRODUCER: We can arrange two.

SHARK: All right, let’s do it.

PRODUCER: Make up!

 

Dogs hardly make good predators. Predators never make a sound but dogs can be heard from miles away. Why? I think the main reason dogs bark is because they don’t want to catch anything. They just want to run after anything that is trying to get away. That is why they chase cars. Dogs may look idiotic following a moving vehicle but I don’t think they care. They would happily chase after an airplane if it meant they can avoid going home to fetch their owner’s slippers.

I never really understood why the law uses bloodhounds to track fugitives. Sure, these dogs can pick up the faintest scent. But is all the barking helpful? If you are chasing someone, do you want to keep announcing it? At some point wouldn’t you want your dogs to go into stealth mode? How are you ever going to sneak up on anybody if your dogs keep shouting that they are having the time of their lives?

Even with all of its pomp and circumstances, the English foxhunt is nothing more than a royal roustabout. At this event the men and dogs are on the same page: to run wild over the English countryside. The poor little fox has no other choice than to wonder why everybody is chasing it.

When the hunt is on and the dogs are in hot pursuit, the last thing they want to do is catch the fox. If they corner it, they know they have to go back to the kennel. So, during the hunt the predator also becomes the fox’s biggest fan. That’s why they bark and bark… and bark… The barking are updates to the fox.

 

DOGS: HEY FOX, KEEP MOVING! WE’RE ONLY FIVE MINUTES BEHIND.

DOGS: HEY FOX, WE’RE TAKING A TEN MINUTE WATER BREAK AT THE DEVONSHIRE ESTATE.

DOGS: HEY FOX, WE JUST LOST WINCHESTER. HE WENT AFTER A HEDGEHOG.

 

Dogs are like college students in Cabo, Mexico. They just want to run amok. The animals to worry about are the quiet ones who don’t seem to care, the ones who seem half-dead and uninterested that you are around. That’s their lure. For when you think everything is fine…

The cat purrs, the alligator drifts and the shark streams. They’ve been around for a long time and they know how it’s done. So, if you really want to get ahead in life, don’t worry about reviews, performances and bucking for a promotion. Take a page from the real survival manual. Lay low, play it cool, and the next time you spot your boss at the water cooler, quietly, with as much stealth, GET BACK TO WORK. My God, how are you going to get anywhere in life if you keep lounging in the break room? You need this job. Don’t screw it up. Do you really want to move back into your parent’s house and sleep on their davenport like some domesticated cat?

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