“…And Not in my Neighbor’s Backyard Either.”
(A Thurberesque Reflection on Nuclear Power)
My neighbor wants to buy a tiger and keep it in his backyard.
He showed me a picture. His name is Peaches. (The tiger, not the neighbor; the neighbor’s name is Cox.)
Peaches is an four-hundred-pound Bengal tiger with a mouth like a coal shuttle, only filled with four-inch fangs. He’s strong enough, I’m told by experts on all-things-tiger, to pick up a sixteen-pound bowling ball and carry it around for hours, although nobody can tell me why he would want to do this.
I don’t recall seeing Cox around the neighborhood prior to this tiger business. I don’t remember him from a single PTA meeting or library bake sale until he suddenly began making the rounds of civic groups, touting the benefits of having a tiger in the neighborhood.
In a presentation at the local grammar school, Cox had charts and graphs to demonstrate how other neighborhoods had benefitted from hosting a tiger. He said the project would generate forty-five to fifty permanent, good-paying jobs in fields ranging from veterinary dentistry to prosthetic limb sales.
“And that doesn’t count another 125 jobs during construction of the tiger compound!” Cox enthused. “You know how they say good fences make good neighbors? Well, we’re going to have great fences, and expect to be great neighbors.”
Some of my neighbors put up a half-hearted fight. One of them asked about the time twenty-odd years ago when the Russian had some escaped-tiger unpleasantness.
Cox expressed some pro forma sadness and sympathy for the Russians who children were eaten, but stressed that the Russian tiger enclosure was built with antiquated technology, was poorly-maintained, and was manned by temps who didn’t know which was the business end of a tiger.
“We’re not sure all of the deaths in that unfortunate incident were directly attributable to tiger-inflicted injuries,” Cox explained. “We think that some of the temps, for example, may have died of fright.”
“We’ve learned from every tiger-mauling, and responded by making our industry as safe as humanly possible,” Cox said, his eyes shining with sincerity.
“Can we guarantee that a tiger will never jump the fence?” he continued. “No, of course not. But we can say that the odds of a tiger accident are less likely than being hit by a bus.”
“Never heard of a bus breaking out of its cage and leaping over a concrete wall,” one of my neighbors grumbled. “And buses almost never try to eat you if they haven’t been properly fed.”
Cox promised that the facility would have an inner cage with specially manufactured tiger-gauge wire, around-the-clock monitoring and a concrete outer fence designed to be one-and-one-half times the height any tiger has ever been reliably verified to jump.
My neighbors had a number of safety features they wanted to see implemented. Someone suggested a moat. Jennings from the end of the block insisted that Cox should take out an insurance policy that would provide for triple indemnity in the case of a tiger mauling. Cox’s wife dutifully wrote down all the suggestions in a leather-bound memo book, but I didn’t see her carrying it when she left the meeting.
Most of my neighbors were mollified, but as I walked home, I remained unconvinced. The night air cleared my head, and I realized that one of the things I liked most about our little neighborhood was how tiger-free it was.
I don’t care if Cox agrees to higher fences, armed guards and an Escaped Tiger Alert System: I don’t want to live next door to a tiger.