Dope of the Day Awards: Nose to nose

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Hugh Paxton’s Blog hasn’t presented one of his prestigious “Dope of the Day Awards” for some time (check blog archives for a collection of previous winners – some beggar belief!). This lapse doesn’t mean that everybody has been acting sensibly. Dopes are still, and always have been, in ready supply. It’s this broken arm of mine that is to blame for the recent drought in Dope blog posts. It’s rather slowed down output. But the light is at the end of the tunnel, physio is almost over and in another ten days I fully anticipate a complete recovery. Now that I have rediscovered the use of my right limb the urge to write is upon me again! And what better way to start than with a Dope of the Day Award.

Scene: A snake product shop on Thailand’s Phuket ‘holiday paradise’ island.

Date: Last weekend.

Cast: Young, over-excited female Chinese tourist.

A Burmese python.

Regular readers of this Blog will remember that a python ate our cat by our outside washing machine just before midnigh last November. I originally identified it as a 4 meter Burmese. A second measurement and quick consultation with a reptile book established that it was in fact a 6 meter reticulated python, the longest snake in the world capable of achieving lengths at least twice that of our nocturnal guest cat gulping guest. Anacondas are the heaviest but in the length stakes the Reticulated is king. This, while impressive, is not my point. I didn’t particularly like my cat although it loved me dearly. We rescued ‘Treats’ from an animal shelter during the major Bangkok floods four years ago (or was it five?) as well as a semi-demented tabby called ‘Autumn Zoolander’ that had fallen (fall – Autumn) from a six story building and initially could only walk in circles (hence Zoolander after the movie character). Treats was part of a pair ‘Trick’ and ‘Treats“; both pure black with large golden eyes and Thai tail. Some people think Thais eat cat tails but if you see a cat here with just a small twisted stub or a tiny blunt nub it is not down to a sadistic chef with a meat cleaver, it is a genetic trait. Autumn was an anti-social basket case and was eaten, probably by a King cobra or more likely yet, a python. But yes, Treats doted on me. On my part I found its habit of torturing and killing small reptiles aggravating. A dead gecko means more uneaten hyper-reproductive mozzies hell bent on my blood and possibly laden with Dengue Fever virus. It was Treats’ aggressive behavior or perhaps just curiosity that killed this cat. My dog would have just run away or bayed from a distance. I have no doubt that Treats steamed in snarling. When I found the snake the Treat bulge was one meter behind the head. But, while obviously dead, its neck bell was still giving off muted tinkles. My wife, who loved Treats, started forwards impulsively calling “Treats! Treats!” as if this might encourage the cat to reappear unharmed. All snakes dislike noise and sudden movements. Most flee. Pythons mid-meal don’t. With lightning speed it pulled its head back and struck. The range thankfully was too great, or more likely it was a warning strike not intended to make contact. No harm done. Later I approached it slowly and noiselessly and closely examined its wonderful head and throat colouration without provoking a hostile reaction. Slow, calm, quiet – that is the way to approach a snake.

This brings us to today’s Award-winning Dope. Chinese tourists are visiting Thailand in ever-increasing numbers and have rapidly established a reputation for being culturally inept, herd inclined, disaster prone buffoons. They bring picnics to IKEA and then sleep it off on the display beds, they sit on Buddha heads in temples, all manner of malarkey. Basically most are nouveau riche peasants with suspicious squints at smiling Thais, a craving for designer goods, but above all an obsession with acquiring photos of themselves. Today’s Chinese Dope like many of her fellow countrymen made a beeline for one of the many quack Traditional Chinese Medicine shops that blight this country and prolong the trade in endangered, protected or even common wildlife species. The Phuket snake oil emporium was just that. It sold dubiously beneficial snake products. Its mascot was an un-pickled python and it not only featured on the brochure but was handed to thrilled, giggling, revolted customers who could have photos taken of them daringly touching it. As the late lamented David Bowie sang “You can be a hero…”. I’m all in favour of touching snakes in controlled conditions. It is an education, dispels stupid notions of sliminess, and instead rewards the toucher with a delicate skin texture of soft, dry, almost powdered silk.

The Dope on an adrenaline high and yakking and shuddering with delightful terror decided that the ultimate photo to take back to where-the-f***k Chengdu and impress her hobbled hoi neighbours would be her kissing the snake.

I explained her decision to my daughter.

“That’s disgusting, Daddy!”

“The snake’s thoughts exactly!” I responded. “I’d have felt exactly the same way.”

The python reared back and lunged. It missed the cherry red and lipstick slathered puckered lips and fastened on her nose. A battering ram with teeth. Severe bruising, screaming, soiled underwear and eight stitches later she left Thailand almost immediately. Her escapade was filmed as she had intended and one of the videos has gone viral. My guess is that all the peasants back home that she had hoped to shock and impress are enjoying repeats immensely! As is the rest of China.

BLOG ED NOTE: The python involved is a protected species and is in no danger. The shop owner paid the woman some money.

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