Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Snakes on a Brain

While walking through the American Museum of Natural History in New York last week I learned two things:

1) The docents and security guards will make references to the movie Night at the Museum until you wish you could go back in time and destroy not only the script, but Ben Stiller's career and the special effect know-how which made the movie possible in the first place.

2) If put into nature (or even a museum diorama of nature), I would inevitably die of a snake bite or fatal reptilian "hug."

At every display in the mammal hall I would coo to my friend, "Oh, would you just look at that bear." And she would weakly mutter the word, "Snake." To which I would respond, "Where?" Substitute the name of various mammals but keep the legless vertebrate in place, and this exchange happened at least ten times. Big or small, I never spotted a single one. My friend however, is petrified of snakes. To her, all the lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!) disappeared. It was just a great big hall of serpents.

Truthfully, I don't understand people who fear snakes. First off, the average person in the average city sees very few snakes, let alone poisonous ones. Secondly, they have no ears, no legs, their eyes are bad, and they smell with their tongue. In terms of design, they got a pretty weak deal. (I have a theory that snakes are descendants of dragons which devolved when nature could not properly handle their awesomeness... this is entirely scientific theory, I assure you). Those are some big odds to overcome and still be an effective predator. Give 'em some credit for that at least.

Sure, snakes don't seem very cuddly, so I'd probably not choose one as a pet. Nor would I get too friendly with an asp (please turn your history books to August 12, 30 BCE to find someone who did not get to join this club). But in terms of scary animals, I would rate them pretty low (more than hamsters, less than angler fish). Of course, this is all said from the safety of my office where I can be pretty well assured there is not a rattlesnake hiding behind my trashcan or an anaconda wrapped around the ceiling beam. But then again, considering my keen observation skills demonstrated in paragraph #4, you never know.
posted by jw