Saturday, December 15, 2012

Monkey Madness

I remember hearing several years ago that a few drivers in Virginia reported their vehicles had been struck by crab apples thrown by a band of roaming monkeys.  It was either that, or it was a band of roaming crabs throwing apples at Virginia monkeys.  I’m almost certain there were monkeys involved, and Virginia.  Anticipating that some (myself included) would doubt my memory on this, I have taken the liberty of exhuming the story, as told by Virginia State Trooper Mike Scott to an AP reporter.  I shall quote the gist of it for your reading pleasure.  There is even a bonus banana in the story, to which I have not yet alluded, because I had no recollection of it. 
A gaggle of monkeys throwing apples at cars is hard enough to swallow---but bananas?  I was raised to believe that no self-respecting monkey would willingly part with one, even to throw at a car.  A banana peel is another matter.   

According to the account, the trooper was flagged down by a woman parked along the shoulder of Interstate 95.

“When I walked up to the car it looked like a banana had been smeared on the side,” Scott said. The woman told him a monkey had thrown a banana at her car about a mile back.  “I started laughing,” said Scott, who has heard it all patrolling the east coast’s north-south highway.  I know it sounds crazy,” the woman told Scott.  Scott drove back to the scene of the attack and found a van and a station wagon pulled off the highway.  A man said, “I know this sounds crazy, but a monkey threw an apple at our car,” Scott said.   At that moment a crab apple came out of nearby trees and hit the van.  “Lo and behold there were three brown monkeys in an oak tree throwing crab apples,” Scott said.

The report went on to say that the monkeys suddenly ran across the southbound lanes, crossed the median and the northbound lanes, and disappeared into the trees along the highway (presumably because they spotted the highway patrolman).   In case you’re wondering (and if you’re not, you should be), it was believed that the monkeys had escaped while being transported to either the Virginia State Fair in Richmond, or to a circus in North Carolina.  Having seen precious few monkeys at state fairs, my money’s on the circus.  No motive was suggested for the fruit-pelting.  We must assume they were teenage monkeys, and no motive was necessary.

I was reminded of that story just the other day when my car was hit with an avocado.  I pulled over and got out, as I normally do when my vehicle is struck by fruits or vegetables, to see if I could determine what species was doing the throwing.  I should note that most of the time, when I’m pelted with food, Tommy Humphrey has something to do with it.  But I happened to know that on this particular day he was in Virginia, hunting.  He claimed he was hunting deer, but now I suspect he was hunting monkey.  In any event, he wasn’t around, so when struck with an avocado, I was flummoxed.  Having been alerted by the aforementioned AP report, I expected to discover a few monkeys, chimps or an orangutan or two behind the attack.  But imagine my surprise to find, clinging to a large tree near the road, two Koala bears, with avocadoes clearly visible in their pouches.  I was shocked, because at the time, I wasn’t even aware that Koala bears had pouches.  Of course I confronted them with some indignation.
“What’s the big idea?”  
“I beg your pardon?” responded one of them in a thick Australian accent. 
“You just hit my car with an avocado.”
“We did no such thing.”
“There are avocadoes in your pouches.”
“We may have avos in our pouches, but that doesn’t mean we hit your car with one.”
“Right.  My car is suddenly and mysteriously struck with an avocado.  I investigate and find two Koala bears in a tree nearby with a supply of avocados in their pouches.  What am I supposed to think?   I know you Aussies, you’re always throwing things: boomerangs and shrimp on the barbie come to mind.”  (Yes, I thought it would be spelled barbe too, like a barbeque, instead of barbie, like a Barbie doll, but Australians are notoriously poor spellers.  When I said it, I was spelling it barbe, but the koalas didn’t pick up on it.)
“You don’t know as much as you think you know, bloke.  You called us bears.  We’re Marsupials.  Do you call roos bears?  Do you say, ‘Look Lois, it’s a kangaroo bear?’”
“I don’t say, ‘Look, Lois anything.’    
“That’s not the point, is it, Sport?  You see us in a tree, so you assume we’re bears.  We saw you in a car.  We didn’t assume you were a GPS.”
“But you look like bears.  Little bears.  Cute bears.”
“Oh I see. You Yanks call us bears because to you we look like bears.  Maybe we should call you dodos.”
“Let’s get back to the issue.  You hit my car with an avocado.”   
“Suppose we did.  Are you gonna yabber about it all the day?”
“You could have dented it.” 
“I’d say it’s already pretty banged up, mate. That’s a Capri, ain’t it?  About twenty years old now?”
“That’s right.  It’s a ’91.”
“Did you know your car was assembled down under?”
“Yes, I knew that---all the more reason for Aussies to show it some respect.”
“Alright, mate.  You seem like a nice enough sort.  We’re sorry if any avos we may have thrown happened to accidentally hit your old banged up car.  We promise to be more careful in the future.  But you’ve got to promise to stop calling us bears.  Koalas will do.”
“It’s a deal.”
“Say, you don’t happen to know where a bloke could get a beer and some Eucalyptus leaves around here, do you?”

I appreciated them using words like bloke, which, I thought at the time, made them sound Australian, but now that I think of it, maybe it made them sound more British, and maybe they should have stuck with mate, as in “G’day mate.” I suppose it’s possible that they had spent some time in England, and had picked up some of the slang.  In any event, whether they were authentic Aussie koalas or not, I strapped them into my guacamole-mobile and drove them to a nearby restaurant that serves beer, after they promised me they would drink in moderation. 

OK, some of the Koala incident may have been exaggerated a bit, but the account of the monkeys on I-95 is well-attested.  It should serve as a reminder that strange things really do happen.  I’m sure that none of the drivers headed south on I-95 that day imagined when they merged onto the highway that their vehicle might be pummeled by monkey-propelled fruit.  I don’t know that I’ve ever tried it, but my guess is, it’s not easy, while sitting in an oak tree, to time my throw so that my projectile hits a car traveling at interstate speeds---even on interstates like Virginia’s, where the speed limits are “enforced by aircraft.”  I think Tommy Humphrey could do it, but he’s had a lot of experience throwing shrimp on the barbie, as well as steaks, burgers, chickens, turkeys, lambs  and dodos. 

Strange things happen.  The old priest Zachariah, performing his duties in the Temple of Jerusalem a year or two before the birth of Jesus, never expected to be confronted by an angelic being (Luke 1).  He never imagined that his prayer for a son, a prayer which probably hadn’t been uttered for decades (as he and his wife were well beyond the normal child-bearing years) was about to be answered.  He never could have imagined that his son, the one he was told to name John, would be the forerunner of the promised Messiah, sent to “prepare the way of the Lord.”   It was all so incredible that at first he doubted the evidence of his own senses, and he said something that he would have the better part of a year to regret.  He said to the angelic being who had been sent to give him this news, “How shall I know this?  For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.”  He may have lacked faith, but in his favor, he knew enough not to call his wife old.  He said she was “well advanced in years.” 

“No, I didn’t tell him you were old, Honey, I said you were advanced.  That’s a good thing.  You are advanced, like advanced math, and advanced directives---well, not advanced directives---you’re advanced--- you’re modern, like those new broad-scoop stable shovels.  What’s that?  No, I’m not saying you’re broad.  Maybe I should just be quiet now.”    

Old Zachariah responded to the momentous news with skepticism; “How shall I know this?”  The angel was expecting a different reaction.  I picture him drawing himself up to his full height, and ramping up the rheostat to full power when he responded: 

“I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings.  But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.” (Luke 1:19-20) 

In other words, what you just said is so dumb, that you are going to be dumb until your child is born.  And Luke says that’s precisely what happened.  Zachariah left the holy place of the temple and had to motion to the people about what he had seen.  Any experience with Charades would have come in handy then.  The good news is he didn’t have to have that awkward conversation with Mrs. Zachariah about telling Gabriel she was “well advanced in years.”  He just went home and kept his mouth shut.  If he was a typical husband, it may have been several days before Elizabeth noticed that he was quieter than usual.  I suppose he was also acting frisky, and before long they were watching the sunset from parallel claw-foot tubs, where we leave them in peace---and for Elizabeth anyway, in quiet.

So the next time your car is struck by fruit hurled by monkeys or marsupials, let it remind you that “There are more things in heaven and earth…than are dreamt of in your philosophy,” whether you’re a bloke named Horatio or a mate named Zachariah.


  1. No monkeys were harmed in the writing of this article, unless it was by Tommy Humphrey throwing one on the Barbie.

  2. More monkey business! They were probably throwing the fruit to wake up drivers that were nodding off. You should keep a basket next to the pulpit.

    1. Ha ha Ha ha ha!!! So funny...and maybe quite a good idea too!!!
      Mickey Rivera

    2. I could use the same fruit that was thrown toward the pulpit the previous week.