Sunday, May 25, 2008

Now You See It...

It is really hard to remain hidden in today's technological world.

I would call it accidental ego-Googling. When I used that Internet search engine to look for the phrase "stephen wright spider in shower" the fourth entry in my results list was

"It's like the old Stephen Wright comedy routine [about] taking a shower and seeing a spider scurrying across the white tiled wall. The spider stops and seems to crouch down thinking 'Yeah. I'll just stay still and press my little black body down against this shiny all white surface. Nah! He'll never see me.'"

I was trying to find the quote because of a picture that I took recently at one of our bird-feeding stations. It made me wonder - "does he really think that no one can see him?"

It seems that he does. Feigned invisibility is actually one of the squirrels' principal forms of self-defense against predators - "The coloring of the squirrel serves as a camouflage, especially when on the trunk of a tree."

Some of their other tactics are:

"The squirrel will also quickly move to the opposite side of the trunk, so the predator does not knew it has moved up to a different location."
[Also known as "fleeing the scene" - changing places is hardly unique to tree rodents. Its success does depend however upon having a predator who is easily convinced that "out of sight, gone for good" - like a dog who is totally mystified by the apparent disappearance of a fake-thrown ball.]

"Squirrels have the ability to turn their feet one hundred and eighty degrees, which allows it to quickly scurry up the nearest tree to escape."
[This one took me a while to conceptualize - and I'm still not certain that I understand it. This sounds too much like a scene from a Road Runner cartoon with the squirrel's body rising up on ankle-springs. How does having your feet facing in the opposite direction from your body make it possible to move any faster? And when you go forward are your really going backward?]

"A squirrel will flick its tail from side to side to distract a predator. When caught by a predator, the tail will actually break off, allowing the squirrel a chance to escape. This defense mechanism is also seen in lizards."
[Apparently the sight of a swishing bushy tail is quite mesmerizing to some of those who would prey on squirrels. Like the immediately above escape tactic I have never witnessed any voluntary (or involuntary) squirrel tail severing - nor have I found any evidence of it in my yard. I am assuming of course that the duped predator would be too embarrassed to keep their culinarily useless trophy and would just leave it behind.]

All of these squirrel stratagems however pale in comparison to the gift of self-invisibility. It's an ability that a lot of us would like to have - at least once in a while. For a while I thought that I did. After all I can still ego-Google my name and come up empty. But there is apparently a backdoor method of tracking me down.

I probably should begin some twisting exercises to make my ankles more flexible. You never know when I might need to be able to literally spin on my heels and move rapidly to another out-of-sight location.

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