Socially Correct Clues

[3 May 2007]

By tjmHolden

Somewhere inbetween the train and the plane, there was this: a display case at the airport with a critter labelled in two languages.

For those lacking short sight or else familiarity with the exotic, the words in English and Japanese spelled out “Armadillo”; but what the sign was really saying was: “Traveler beware: it’s illegal to buy stuff outfitted with the skin of this precious beast.”

Of course, given that the stuff on display was stuffed, it is hard to ignore the fact that this is one of those cases in which the message has been killed by the messenger.

Irony incarnate.

You know, when that happens there’s always a little egg to be toweled off of someone’s face, but on the other hand, whose? Whoever came up with this caveat is nowhere to be fingered and, their surrogate—the display case? Well, you are never really going to win an argument with a box of glass, are you?

So while I riff on the fantasy of marshalling all my logic, employing my considerable rhetorical skills, and arguing till I’m blue in my normally pinkish face, well . . . at the end of that tirade, this armadillo is still going to be stuffed and boxed and served up under glass.

Making matters infernally, consternatorily worse, lodged within this ironic display is our modern condition: society’s annoying penchant for failing to satisfy our sense of justice; its refusal to conform to most everyone’s inherent morality. Despite the fact that that is one of the functions it was designed to address.

Geez, ironies abound. Will they ever cease?

Imagine my disappointment at getting hipped to the true nature of life as I trudged from passport control, past duty free, and along the electronic conveyor toward the plane. But one takes life’s lessons where one can find them.

Well, the question of the more immediate moment is “on the way to where?” and that is where the stuffed armadillo comes in. Along with the snakeskin boots, the crocodile handbags, and the peacock plumage.

I’m less certain about the sea turtle, but that’s because I’m not much of a veteranarian.

What I


know is that basically the other three can be found in the place to which I have come. And not just behind glass or bars or at a safe remove separated by walls and moats and berms at the local zoo. No, these beasts are somehow indigenous to the place in which I have travelled.

So where might that be?

Well, to make things a bit clearer, you should know that the following items are not located locally . . .

That would be ivory from an elephant’s tusks. And the skin from a python’s carcass, adorning the bellows of a stringed instrument. So now we know two continents that can be scratched off the list. Yes, Africa and South America are now officially not where I am laying my head tonight.

Leaving us with five other possibilities. Of course, if you are inclined to say “four”—because of your geographic perspective then you are no longer able to play this game (because—ironically [or more accurately impossibly]—you have crossed the true prospect off the list).



hint, if you care to read the fine print . . .  and, if you are reading that print, then game, set and possibly match.

So,  let me ask you: are we there yet? Have you managed to pinpoint where these peripatetic feet of mine have come to rest?

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