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A Hyena Ate My Dingo Baby!

Ah, the nature documentary.  Ever since I was a kid, I've loved them.  The subject rarely matters; they could be about lions or elephants or fish or birds or snails or bacteria.  Whatever, they're cool and interesting, and they're always narrated by someone whose voice manages to be soothing and reassuring, even as he describes a) something's belly being torn out by something else, b) a fish swimming up the anus of a sea cucumber, or c) regurgitation.

My favorite types of documentaries are those about baby animals, who are followed around by camera crews until they either reach adulthood (the animals, not the crew) or are eaten by hyenas (the animals and/or the crew).  We are warned early on in the show that many of the young animals will not survive the difficult winter/summer/migration/layoffs ahead, and that sucks, because the little animals are extremely cute, and we love them.

And, hey, what's the deal with those hyenas, anyway?  They're such dicks.  No matter what documentary you're watching, the hyenas will show up and try to kill the subjects, particularly the extremely young and vulnerable subjects.  Lion cubs, tiger cubs, antelope, uh... cubs.  Alligator cubs, bird cubs, bacteria cubs, whatever, the hyena will show up about halfway through and try to eat them.  I recently watched a show about dolphin cubs, and right in the midst of some playful underwater frolicking, a hyena shows up in full scuba gear, paddling over to threaten the safety of the young.  I'm starting to think that the camera crews just bring a hyena with them, in a sack, and when it looks like things could use some jazzing up, they release it.  

I haven't seen a documentary about hyena cubs yet, but I bet some hyena tries to eat them, too.  If there is such a documentary, it should be called "Hyenas - The Assholes of the Wild."

Anyway, as the animals progress from extremely cute babies to unlawfully cute young adults, there's always a period where they are shown wrestling and playing and grappling with each other.  We learn that it's more than just cute behavior, though, for at this point, the narrator will unerringly say something like "But this playing serves more of a purpose than it may seem.  The cubs are learning valuable skills they will need later as adults."

It's true, too.  Playful wrestling as cubs translates into ripping the belly out of something as adults, which we see near the end of the show, right before the narrator blames me for the shrinking habitat of the lion/bear/dolphin/mitochondria.  But he blames me in a soothing voice, so I don't mind.

Still, when I hear about this play-as-survival theory, I always think about my childhood, and try to determine if I learned anything during playtime that has helped me later in life.  After some calculating, I have broken down my past playtime activities into categories, and the percentage of time I engaged in each of them:

Running Around Pretending I Could Fly And Project Power Beams From My Hands Like A Superhero:  64%

Getting My Ass Kicked By Bigger Kids:  30%

Blowing Bubbles In Milk:  4%

Smashing Matchbox Cars With A Hammer:  2%

Hm.  Well, I don't see any of these activities being beneficial to my adult life, except perhaps getting my ass kicked, which has prepared me for the psychological and spiritual pantsing I get on a daily basis at work.  Still, it might not qualify as play, because in no way did I, nor do I yet, enjoy it, so I may have to rethink its inclusion here.

In retrospect, my childhood should have been spent like this:

Pretending to Fix Copier Jams:  59%

Waiting for A Make-Believe Bus:  28%

Explaining to My Imaginary Co-Workers How To Save Something To Their [A:] Drive, For The Fiftieth Fucking Time:  10%

Learning to Smile Politely:  2%

Running From Hyenas:  1%