This past weekend I went to a BBQ, and upon walking into this family’s yard my first thought was not, “Wow, what a gorgeous house.” Or even, “cool, a pool.” It was, “Holy mother of God that’s a tiger!!!” Now mind you, there was not actually a tiger. There was however, an almost life-sized stuffed animal of a tiger that one of the kids had left on a lounge chair. Now notice, I said almost life-sized, therefore not actually big enough to be a real tiger, and I don’t know that anyone else would have mistaken it for the genuine article. Especially since who in their right mind would have a pet tiger and let it roam around free during a BBQ without warning your guests of its presence! This did not matter. My brain saw it, refused to acknowledge the absurdity of it being real and immediately began to freak the fuck out. I’m actually amazed that I didn’t run over my host trying to get out of the yard. Instead I completely missed the names of everyone that I was being introduced to while trying to stave off a panic attack, and wondering why everyone was so calm with a mother fucking tiger in the yard! Eventually, probably a span of ten seconds but it felt like half an hour, my brain calmed down enough for me to register that it was indeed a stuffed animal, not a real tiger, at which point I blurted out, “Oh my god, I thought that was a real tiger.” Which I’m sure helped to explain the absolutely terror-stricken look on my face, but did nothing to calm the look of “We’re in the presence of a crazy person” that was on everyone else’s face. What can I say, I make quite the first impression.
And quite frankly, I blame this entire reaction on my childhood which has instilled in me an irrational fear of large cats. I know what you’re thinking, there’s nothing irrational about being afraid of lions and tigers, which is true. But the irrationality of my fear comes from the fact that I’m afraid of them to the point that I expect to see them in completely nonsensical locations … like poolside at a family friendly BBQ. This is because I grew up a couple of miles from the western entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, which is an absolutely gorgeous tiny little spot, that also happens to have the highest population of mountain lions per square mile in the entire Rocky Mountain region. That means that if you look all the way from Canada through the US and down into Mexico, the frickin mountain lions find Grand Lake, CO the most hospitable spot.
Therefore, when city kids were learning about stranger-danger we were learning about what to do should you encounter a mountain lion in the wild. Which if you spent anytime outside the odds were pretty good that you might, whether you knew it or not. Needless to say, this made quite the impression on me, and formed a very healthy respect/fear of the creatures. Because of this, at night when I had to get up to go to the bathroom, it wasn’t the boogie man, or monsters that I feared, okay I was afraid of them too, but mostly, it was the mountain lion that slept at the end of the hall at night. So whenever I had to go to the bathroom, I had a set procedure.
Step 1 – Jump off the bed landing far enough away that the monsters underneath couldn’t swipe my ankles.
Step 2 – Open the door then run as quickly as humanly possible across the hall to the bathroom.
Step 2.5 – Glance quickly down the hall while crossing to ensure that the mountain lion isn’t there yet.
Step 3 – Slam the bathroom door shut, while simultaneously flipping on the bathroom light, making sure that the light turns on before the door is fully closed or the boogie man will jump out of the mirror and get me.
Step 4 – Go pee.
Step 5 – Repeat process, but in reverse, to get back into bed.
To be honest, I’m amazed that I didn’t just wet the bed to avoid the hassle. But I didn’t, and as long as I followed my procedure all was well. Until one night, when I did the mountain lion check and saw a sleeping mountain lion curled up at the end of the hall. Okay, it wasn’t actually a mountain lion, but we had just gotten a new dog, and it is amazing how similar a golden retriever/golden lab mix resembles the coloring and size of a mountain lion in the dark. I, however, was unable to make this distinction, racing across the hall in the middle of the night, checking to make sure that the coast was clear. As the coast was most definitely NOT clear, I lost my shit, and ran down the hall screaming into the living room. Of course, hearing one of her people screaming, the dog jumped up and chased after me. Now I was being chased by the mountain lion at the end of the hall and once in the living room, still screaming, I started to climb up on and across all of the furniture. Apparently in my addle-pated state, playing lava seemed like the thing to do.
By now the dog was thoroughly concerned and had followed me up onto the furniture and was trying her dead level best to catch up to me so that she could protect me. My poor father, hearing the ruckus and probably assuming that his daughter was being axe murdered, arrived in the living room to find a berserk child practically climbing the walls to get away from a very concerned and worried dog. After that, I don’t really remember what happened, although if I had to guess, I probably didn’t sleep for a week. Needless to say, I had a bit of an over-active imagination as a child, and apparently that hasn’t changed much. Hence, my belief that there could be a tiger at a BBQ. Good grief!