Things to Consider Before Waking a Sleeping Bear

by David HOLUB
 

Sometimes when people talk about “waking a sleeping bear” they’re not really talking about bears or even wildlife. They’re talking about China or Russia, but probably China. You think, “Man, how did China get roped into this?” which is a legitimate question that deserves an answer. What’s unfortunate is that we should be really good friends with China and we’re not. Probably because of the communism. Still, to “awaken” the most populated country in the world is rather dangerous. Do you know how many people they could get for an army?

This, however, is not about China or other metaphorical bears. It’s about real bears, sleeping and living uncomfortably close to your home, thanks to lost habitat and the relaxation of various social mores that once kept bears at arm’s length. These cultural shifts have turned the once-docile animal that inspired at least two lovable constellations into a volatile beast to be feared by men.

Considering that, here are the basics on bears:

The color of a bear’s fur is meaningless. Some brown bears are black and some black bears are brown. Some black bears (who are black) identify more with brown bears. Regardless, a bear will use its fur to trick you. And then maul you to death.

Bullet-proof vests are useless against bears. Bullet-proof vest when used in tandem with bulletproof jacket and slacks, maybe. Also, it’s a good idea to be as strong as the bear you ambush. Don’t just assume you are, especially if you’ve been drinking.

Sometimes the sleeping bear you come across is really a stuffed bear, perhaps a toy or training tool left mistakenly by a troop of Boy Scouts. But more than likely it is a trap set by a real bear, which is patiently waiting behind some bushes. Acting like you are riding the bear buckaroo style so that someone might take a “funny photo” will only serve to insult the real bear, which is in no mood for your shenanigans.

How much you can get away with when dealing with the bear is hard to say. Bears are unpredictable and known to fly off the handle. Ask any park ranger or documentary filmmaker. Bears can mess you up. But you could get lucky and once the bear has been jostled awake, she might offer you a bowl of cereal, sending a lesser forest animal for milk and a spoon. While you eat, it’s possible that the bear will perform a song she made up, sung to the tune of “Mr. Bojangles” but she’s substituted the lyrics for all this funny stuff about wildlife. And then the song takes a sad turn and all the once-funny stuff about animals is turned around into a poignant social commentary about disappearing wilderness. But none of this registers with you because you are too busy thinking how this bear’s home would be a great spot for your home.

“Are you even listening to me?” asks the bear, at which point you’re not even looking her direction anymore, a big mistake because the once jovial bear takes a violent swipe at the back of your head. And you say “Hey what was that all about?” and she says, “You could at least look at me when I sing to you.” And you say “I’m a dreamer, baby,” which sounds cool, but not to bears.

If you are thinking of awakening the bear by jumping from a tree in a surprise attack, consider that sometimes what looks like a sleeping bear is no bear at all, but something that can be even more frightening than a bear, like your wife. You wake her up like that and, man, have you ever seen her temper?

It’s probably just a good idea to leave the bear alone. Don’t tap on the glass (especially if you’re locked out); don’t talk back to the bear. Surprise the bear by picking up the dry cleaning; take out the bear’s trash without having to be asked. And don’t bring up the fact that because you cooked the meal, the bear should clean up afterward. That logic does not work with bears. Lastly, smile at the bear, unless the bear tells you to “wipe that smile off your face,” in which case I’d do as asked. And if that fails, play dead.

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