Besides pets, there is another group of animals where it is unavoidable that they learn how to talk: in zoos, reservates or captivity.
A visit to the famous tiger reservate is very different now. This is one of the few places where you are actually allowed to converse with animals directly, albeit at a safe distance. Since this is a place where you can ‘feed’ the animals by choosing to purchase a certain type of prey, this requires a negotiation with the tigers.
At the entrance, the sign with disclaimers is updated to contain a few new things:
We try to have a wide variety of tigers with different preferences available. Guests are still allowed to feed the tigers, but it is impossible to guarantee that you can purchase the prey of your choice.
We advise our guests to wear the provided noise-cancellation earphones to put all focus on the tigers. We provide noise-proof facilities wherever reasonably possible since we are unable to control everything the tigers say. Anything you hear because of not wearing earphones is your own responsibility.
It is explicitly forbidden to communicate with the tigers in any way possible. Any written signs or smartphones will be collected at the entrance. Speech or text on clothing needs to be covered.
Our employees communicate with tigers for general or research purposes. We welcome any suitable questions from the public which you can provide in written form to our staff.
Getting into the car, you wonder what kind of questions have been asked before. An employee gives you a little brochure with more information. Inside, the contents mention a few interesting questions:
Q: How do tigers use speech when hunting? A: According to our observations and research, most tigers use it to intimidate their prey. They seem to understand that whispering and shouting has different effects. Since the prey cannot talk, it is a one-sided conversation.
Q: Do tigers tend to pronounce words that contain an ‘r’ better? A: We hear that our tigers indeed tend to emphasize the ‘r’ within a word. However, if a word contains more than 1 ‘r’, they will only focus on one of them.
Q: Which type of prey do tigers prefer? A: Among the choices that we provide (rooster, sheep, cow) we do see most tigers preferring the larger prey. However, some tigers told us they like to eat roosters because of their feathers’ texture and the fact that the little bones are easier to crack and provide a crunchier texture.
So before moving onto the long road, let us take a look at what kind of people are most often encountered on the Chinese roads. A comparison with the jungle is not strange, you have for example the predators:
The king of the jungle: Trucks, buses and any other vehicles which are heavy, large and intimidating. They cruise along, sometimes with people furiously shouting and/or honking but almost never stopping. They can suddenly lash out with their legs and doors, just to spite you. You know you should not challenge them too much. They have teeth and they bite. Although eating and hitting innocent people is still illegal of course…
Cheetahs: Very fast, lean and mean cars. Except, they belong on the Savannah or the open road. Not the clogged streets of Beijing. They roar loudly to let you know that they are dangerous, but barking dogs do not bite. Unless of course they suddenly have a precious piece of open road in front of them. Oh and you should not touch them. One scratch and you are gone.
Hyena’s: They are lagging behind, dealing with the leftovers. They are in great, huge numbers. Diverse, irritating and only slightly frightening. They are the ones tuktuks, scooters, bikers and even pedestrians dare to defy. When they hit, of course they hit hard. But as long as you stay out of reach…
So what about the prey?
Birds: You can go very fast, if you want to. You can almost manage to squeeze in between everything and anything. But just like some birds cannot fly, these birds often choose not to fly. Just carry on their daily business as they go excruciatingly slow and even slalom along the road while doing their best not to die multitasking. They do make a lot of noise however, whether they are moving or not. Would be nice if the sounds were as nice as birds’ twitter or songs.
Rabbits: They are quite harmless and with a growing number. They are usually a group of cyclists, some really put their foot down making noise, others are less brave and just sway from side to side. When they want to, speed is made and a lot of road covered. However, they are also quite single-minded. Just getting ahead already costs a lot of effort, so often following the rules or watching out are optional tasks.
Mice: When they are in a group, they have a lot of power. They can basically cross roads whenever they want, however they want. But if they move by themselves, they are the lowest on the foodchain. Literally everyone speeds past them and they are the first ones to take a hit. It also helps that they do not make it easy for themselves by being easily distracted by either eating, looking on their phone or checking their hair in the mirror.
In other words, the road to work is long, hard and dangerous. How to manage?