Tuesday, March 06, 2007
The story of the squirrel ($8 worth of terror)
Along the stretch of highway south of Monterey, California known as "17-Mile Drive" one of the spots of interest is the lone cypress.
During our trip down the California coast last September my girlfriend and I spent the $8 (yes--eight fraking dollars) to drive along that stretch of private road. While it was technically lovely, it became clear that the only way to make it seem worth the that entry fee was to hit the highlights, and so we made several stops, including the spot mentioned above.
We parked in a marked stall in a lot off from the road. There weren't many cars, being a Thursday morning. We walked along the edge of the cliff next to the parking area to where a set of stairs allowed us to walk down to a platform with a closer view of the famous tree.
After snapping a few photos there the novelty had worn off and we ascended back to the parking area. As we approached our car we noticed a squirrel near the driver's door. Being a wooded area, it wasn't surprising to see such a creature. However, what did prove unexpected was how he didn't scurry away as we got close.
Okay. It stood to reason that the animals had grown accustomed to the tourists and weren't afraid of people. Still, I figured he would move eventually; being by the driver's door, I needed to go where he was.
When I was a couple steps from him, he did move. He charged me.
That's right: He didn't flee. He came at me.
I had what was the obvious reaction to being challenged by an animal five-feet shorter than me (when standing up on its hind legs): I jumped back and ran several steps away. I retained some dignity by virtue of not shrieking as I did this. (Not much dignity, admittedly.) He didn't pursue me once I retreated.
Some other people came back to their car nearby at this point. Rather than laughing at our predicament, they noted the squirrel had been similarly aggressive toward them when they got out of their car. They then quickly got into their car while snickering and drove away.
During that moment of our distraction, he scurried under our car. From where we stood we couldn't see whether he was still under there or had gone out the other side. We approached with trepidation, leaning down to try to see under the car. We didn't see him.
Then he emerged out from under the front of the car, and again we fled.
I tried stamping my foot, to see if the noise would frighten him away, at least long enough to allow us entry to the car. He was unfazed by the gesture.
At the point we exerted our superior intellect with this clever ploy: standing at a safe distance, doing nothing.
Eventually, I think he grew bored with us and went off to torment some other tourists. Still, we hurriedly got in the car and locked the doors right away, as though the squirrel could pull on the handle and get in. Even as we drove away we laughed nervously, convinced he would suddenly jump on the hood or spring up from the back seat.
We made no further stops along the route, and sped through Carmel in order to get back on Highway 1 as soon as possible.
It was quite the red-letter day for humanity, formerly the dominant species on the planet.
Facts you don't need to know but are nonetheless true: We took as many pictures of the incident with the squirrel as we did of the tree.