I wouldn’t call myself a coward, necessarily. Let’s just say I’m careful. For example, as I’ve acknowledged publicly, even though I’ve spent a good portion of my life in Florida, I’ve never been scuba-diving, because I have O-positive blood; I’m a universal donor. This means, as I understand it, I can be eaten by a shark of any blood type.
The same goes for bears, so I see no reason to needlessly attract them, which is why I’d rather not live in a house with a den, and I refuse to grill salmon outside. Why live dangerously?
Unfortunately, these precautions have not succeeded in keeping our home entirely bear-free. Trying to do our part for the planet, when we needed a new kitchen floor, we chose bamboo, because it grows so fast. It was fast growing alright; within a week it had spread into our dining room. Worse, I came into the kitchen one morning to find a panda gnawing on my floor (at that moment I regretted not reading the small print that came with the bamboo).
My first instinct was to try to chase it away with loud noises---banging pans, for instance. Unfortunately, all the pans were in the kitchen, with the panda. Then it occurred to me that chasing it away might be a bad idea. I had a vague recollection that the Chinese claim ownership of all pandas, and I didn’t want to cause an international incident, and single-handedly bring on (or should I say, accelerate) the collapse of the US economy, so I called the Chinese embassy in Washington.
“One of your pandas is in our kitchen.”
“The kitchen off the dining room. Why do you ask?”
“No, no. Which Panda?”
“How should I know? He’s black and white.”
“All pandas are black and white.”
“That’s my point.”
“Does he respond to Tsing Tsing or Ling Ling?”
“He responds to bamboo. He’s eating my floor.”
“You are not supposed to feed him.”
“I am not intentionally feeding him.”
“Can you put him on the phone?”
“How would I go about doing that? He doesn’t seem inclined to talk. He’s eating.”
“Just let me talk to him.”
I brought the phone close enough to the panda for him to hear, and I put it on speaker. As I recall, the conversation went something like this:
Embassy: Unintelligible, animated Chinese.
Embassy: Unintelligible animated Chinese.
I perceived this was going nowhere (not unlike this story). So I got back on the phone.
“Can you just send someone to pick up your bear please? I’ve got to get him out of my story and try to draw some spiritual lesson from all this. You’re not giving me much to work on.”
“Why don’t you write about your inordinate fear of sharks and bears, and your fear that a wolf sits at your bed and watches you while you’re sleeping?”
“How in the world do you know about that?
“If we can monitor a billion Chinese, you don’t think we know what goes on in a few hundred million US homes, many of them in foreclosure? We know more about you than Google does. You can write about your fears, and then quote a Bible verse like Philippians 4:6-7: