Who Says An Old Dog Can’t Learn New Tricks?

Taking chances, putting yourself “out there”, so to speak, isn’t easy at any age. I would contend that it’s more difficult as we get older. At least for me it is. I’m kind of set in my ways. I found out recently though, that even this old dog can learn new tricks.

No, I haven’t run off and joined the circus, even I’m not THAT crazy. Nothing in this life can ever entirely be ruled out, of course, but it’s a pretty safe bet that I’ll never do anything that requires me to walk on a wire that’s suspended more than an inch off the ground — and even that may be too high — hang out with clowns, or travel with lions. The lion thing, that’s reason enough for me not to ATTEND a circus, let alone WORK for one. My fear of heights has nothing on my lion phobia. (I’m not a big fan of tigers or bears, either).

You’d be more likely to find me walking a tightrope under the big top than choosing to be in close proximity to any sort of wild animal, though. At least tightrope walkers get to wear sparkly costumes. If I fell from a great height and was lying dead, no doubt in a heap on a floor strewn with elephant urine-encrusted straw, there is some comfort in knowing that I would look fabulous doing so. I daresay that there’s even a good chance that my lip gloss would still be intact.

I wouldn’t even want to know what a person who meets their demise by being mauled by a lion looks like. I’m guessing not pretty. Undoubtedly, the first thing my mauler would do would probably involve licking off my lip gloss on his way to eating my face off. If I had to choose a method of “death by circus”, I think I’d rather be crushed by a rampaging elephant. I’m sure I wouldn’t look my best then either, but at least it would be quick. Cats, on the other hand, like to play with their food.

I have a friend who travels to Africa every year. He goes there for humanitarian purposes, but always manages to fit in a safari. He is forever encouraging me to join him on one of his adventures. He uses the safari as a “selling point”. I don’t have the heart to tell him that I’d rather stay behind and dig some more latrines at the school he built than to sleep out on the savannah with just a piece of canvas and a fire for protection from whatever herds of giant, hungry animals are roaming around on the African plains — looking, I’m sure, for their next meal.

I’ll bet it wouldn’t even take something as ferocious as a lion to kill you on safari. I’m thinking that even an animal with a reputation for grace and reticence, like a gazelle, for example, could do some real damage to the average human. I wouldn’t rule out an attack by a couple of hungry prairie dogs, either. I won’t even get into the venomous snakes who make their home there, too.

No, thanks. Let me just write you a check. Buy some books for your school. Or some toilet paper. I don’t care.

What I’d really like is for him to PLEASE stop asking me to get into a big hunk of tin and fly halfway around the world to be killed by African fauna. And, that’s assuming I would survive the plane trip, which is never a certainty. I’ve told him time and time again that if he has some overwhelming desire to scare the pants off of me, all he has to do is sneak up behind me. I’m an easy target, what with the fact that I never pay a stick of attention and all.

If he wants to bear witness to my death, he could just watch me cross the street up on the main drag here in town. I’ve been known to jaywalk and try to dodge the cars, in Frogger-like fashion, during the morning rush hour. All he has to do is walk out of his office on the right morning. Death by sleepy Honda driver is likely how I’ll go. This is a far more efficient and cost-effective plan, if his plan is to watch me die, than having to haul me to another continent. Different method, same result.

I’ll bet that if one were to perish on an international journey, their return ticket wouldn’t cover the expenses associated with transporting their dead body. I’m sure live bodies cost less to handle than dead ones. I wonder if my husband would pony up the additional monies that the airline would require to return my mauled body here to the States? Or, would he, in a final cost-saving effort, just leave my detritus out on the veldt? Ashes to ashes, dust to dust and all that. Fang can be very biblical.

As if the thought of actually being killed — in any manner — out on the savannah isn’t bad enough, the idea of decomposing there, of being left there for all eternity? That’s even worse. And, let’s face it, Fang can be tight with a buck.

Every year when this trip is in its planning stages, my friend asks me to come along. He talks about the progress they’ve made at the school and the impact it’s had on the community. He tells me how much I would enjoy the people — getting to know them and learning about their culture. He tells me how much “fun” I’d have if I were to join him and his gaggle of do-gooders on their yearly excursion.

Some people have an altogether different definition of “fun” than I do. That’s for damn sure! My idea of “fun” is a good book and a nap.

I don’t doubt for a moment that I would thoroughly enjoy the social aspects of such a journey, from an anthropological and a historical perspective, especially. I do like that sort of thing — and he knows it. I remind him, though, that we now have the NatGeo channel.

I tell him that I have a television in my bedroom, so that I can watch OTHER people interact with various cultures. NatGeo cuts out the boring bits, too — like the zillion hours it took them to get there. I can learn about far away lands — their customs, their language, their social hierarchies — while I’m wrapped in my Snuggie, eating peanut butter cookies in bed (don’t tell Fang!), rather than being draped in a harsh, woolen Daftiki as I’m inevitably served roasted goat by the kind and welcoming tribeswomen. I explain to him that, you know, I’m good with that. I remind him that nothing had to be ritually sacrificed for the Nutter Butter — or the Snuggie. (Acrylic being something that, as far as I know, doesn’t occur in nature.) While I like to wear things made from goats (cashmere, my friends, cashmere), I don’t imagine I’d enjoy eating goat.

Old friends, even those who encourage you to do crazy things, even those who seem to think that you’d enjoy tooling around with them and their happy band of jetsetting philanthropists, even those who give you pause to wonder whether they actually know you at all (he’s always surprised at my “hell, no” response to his requests that I sign on to be part of his “team”), even those who think that digging into an undercooked goat while wearing a Daftiki and scanning the landscape for deranged beavers, is an experience that you need to have, are a treasure. I wouldn’t trade them for the world. Even if I could, who would I trade them FOR? New friends? Where do you find those at my age?

Well, if you’re open to it, if you put yourself “out there”, opportunities to make new friends do, indeed, exist. I learned recently that even an old curmudgeon such as myself can recognize a kindred spirit, meet her for breakfast, and come away from the experience intact and secure in the knowledge that new adventures don’t always require globe trotting.

Sometimes, the local pancake house is as far as you have to travel to enjoy some delightful conversation and begin, unless I severely overestimated our connection, what will be a long friendship. As a bonus, there was no goat on the menu nor were there any lions in sight!