ISSUE 111

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 What do you do when you see a mountain lion? How do you avoid cowering or being terrified or dying like the sad, sad human you are? Ideally, could you come to a point where you could carry on a pleasant conversation, as in, “Hello Mr. Cougar. Good to see you this morning. I see you have ambushed our neighbor Susan. Very good choice.”? 
 The first thing to know is cougars are more afraid of you than you are of them, except when they get out of bed, do some morning stretches, and think, Fuck it. I’m going to eat a human today. Then, you’re more afraid.
Now, you can tell if a cougar is going to eat you and you can escape—except if it really wants to, then you can’t.   This means many of the following tips are not applicable in a life-or-death situation, but they will make you feel better. It’s like knowing your airplane seat cushion floats or that the guy in the seat next to you isn’t the best swimmer, so the sharks will probably get him first.
 First off, as anyone in marriage counseling will tell you, verbal communication is key, as well as being able to back up those words with the cold-hearted, crushing will of a boa constrictor. Begin with a “here kitty, kitty, kitty…” and see how the lion responds. If you find yourself on the ground without a spinal column, then you have misjudged this cougar, just like you misjudged Jessica or Dylan.  
 Sometimes a cougar won’t want to talk to you, and that’s fine. Maybe it had a bad day and needs to relax. Maybe it’s sick of people throwing chip bags and soda cans all over its environment. Maybe it got some food poisoning from the Chinese people it ate last night. This is a space to practice empathetic listening, a skill often confused with “zoning out” or “filling the mind with pleasant fantasies while someone’s mouth motors on like a driverless car drifting into a lane of traffic.”  
 The next step—when words and a compassionate ear have failed you—is to gaze into the lion’s eyes. If words like “sympathetic” or “thoughtful” come to mind, then you’re probably okay. However, if they seem “pitiless” or “bloodthirsty,” it’s not looking good—though you did an outstanding job describing the cougar’s facial features, so you can be proud of that.  
 At times, the gap between man and beast can be bridged with polite small talk. Go ahead and ask the lion whether it enjoys a good game of Scrabble. If its reaction is ambivalent or negative, inquire instead about WWE wrestling matches, recreational drugs, or wedding showers. These repeated stabs at a lion’s likes and dislikes may give you a hint how to proceed. The most telling is to offer the cougar a choice to watch a documentary or a movie starring Nicholas Cage. If it chooses the latter, you have a serious problem.    
 Mountain lions are known for stalking their prey, meaning that even if one seems to have left you alone, it probably hasn’t. Return to your verbal communication skills and address it in a voice that doesn’t sound like someone about to die. Mindset is key. Think of the cougar like a child that wants to eat you or a housecat that has gained 130 pounds and ambushed the FedEx guy.
 A park ranger will tell you to raise your arms, throw rocks and sticks, and make noise. These will hopefully scare the cougar away, as will playing modern rap music or showing it a photo of Justin Bieber. Notice how this might work in other interactions, say with your loan servicer, a neighbor, or a Baptist.
 Do not try to run. Running is an invitation to chase, and Homo sapiens only survived in evolution by hiding and coming up with ways they could avoid running, like bows, traps, and the GMC Yukon. If Olympic sprints involved wild animals and humans, humans would lose to rabbits, which is embarrassing.   
 Really, the primary thing when faced with a cougar is to remain confident by believing the lies you tell yourself. You are powerful. You are in control. You can run fast. As in life, sometimes this works… and sometimes you die.
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