The Rattlesnake Paradox

Interesting factoid #1: Rattlesnakes are poisonous.

(Even more) Interesting factoid #2: Rattlesnakes will bite you.

(for all of you readers scratching your heads right now, no worries. All will be revealed.)

Once upon a time, I worked at a maximum security prison. Pretty boring, if you ask me. One day, issuing supplies to the inmates, I overheard one of them complaining about being locked up. He had some serious grievances about seeing razor wire everywhere he went. So I asked him what he was locked up for. His answer, delivered in a really aggressive tone, was that he’d gotten a speeding ticket. Now, I’m no legal expert, but I’m pretty sure that speeding isn’t going to land you in prison, not unless you’re approaching the speed of light in a school zone. So I called him on his line of bull. He lowered his eyes, lost the macho attitude, and muttered, “Well, I shot the cop that gave it to me.”

I was silent for a minute or two, looking at this inmate who was complaining about being incarcerated. Then I threw my hands up in the air and shouted, “AND JUST WHAT DID YOU THINK WAS GONNA HAPPEN?”

This is the Rattlesnake Paradox in a nutshell. Say you and your friend are out for a walk down some picturesque country lane. The leaves are turning, the woods are quite, and you both have had a nice, friendly chat. You see a rattlesnake sunning itself on a rock about twenty feet away, oblivious to the passing humans. You say to your friend, “Hey, there’s a rattlesnake.”. Your friend, to your surprise, says, “Wow, lemme go see” and off he or she trots. You hear the pained shout a moment later and your friend runs back. “It bit me!” you’re told. To which you reply, “WHAT DID YOU THINK WAS GONNA HAPPEN?”
(you can have your hands in the air when you shout this; I typically do)

This is the essence of the Rattlesnake Paradox. You point out the common sensical WHATEVER, but whomever you’re talking to ignores it and runs off to do their thing. Time passes, you have some tea and scones, and bazinga, they’re back, complaining that whatever you told them happened. Here’s the kicker: they’re generally mystified, emotionally hurt, sometimes physically hurt, and full of confusion. They don’t understand. And you’re standing there, thinking, “Dumbass. I TOLD YOU.”

Here’s another little interesting story. I pulled the night shift in the Army barracks one night, sitting at the desk, ready for any emergency. Well, I was reading a book. Anyway, this guy I knew walks down the hallway and sits down by my desk. We all knew that he’d been chasing after this crazy girl in a different platoon. This was the girl who had a tendency to light things on fire. She quite frequently would be found outside, stoned out of what little mind she possessed, talking to trees. Not quite a few of us had counseled this fellow to stay away from her. But he didn’t listen, and there he was, a few months later, telling me that she’d stolen his car keys and taken Daddy’s birthday present out to get Burger King. And driven it into the Burger King, apparently confused as to how, exactly, the drive-through worked. Thing is, Romeo wasn’t ten kinds of raging anger. He was sitting there, looking for comforting words, confused as to why he didn’t see this coming. Now, I’ve seen Oprah (though not by choice). I know you’re supposed to be supportive, empathetic, and nurturing when someone comes to you in this state. When it comes to the Rattlesnake Paradox, though…let’s just say I overuse the term “dumbass”. Which Romeo didn’t want to hear and quickly got me labeled as an insensitive jerk.

Well, fine, I can deal with that. What I couldn’t deal with is that Romeo took her back after the local cops got done with her and the Army kicked her out for illicit drug use. So here are a few examples of messing around with a rattlesnake:

Fighting with the cop after he pulls you over.
Thinking your cousin Bert probably DOES know something about international banking so you give him two hundred bucks to invest on your behalf.
Letting your diabetic friend drink a gallon of vodka.
Thinking the IRS doesn’t have time to mess with your return, so why file.
Actually keeping a rattlesnake in your house.

People looooooove their rattlesnakes. No matter how many times the little bastards bite them, our friends, family members, co-workers, and people on the news run right over there to see how those rattlesnakes are doing. I knew a girl once that had a thing for Puff the Magic Dragon (not explaining-if you’re reading this on the Interwebs, you have Google). Very smart, beautiful, and if she hadn’t been stoned for thirteen hours of the day, she probably would have been a great catch. But no, there she was, whining about how all the guys she ended up with wound up being the type that steals cash out of purses and sells your dog to the immigrants in the next apartment for drug money. Never once occurred to her to try hanging out with people THAT DON’T USE DRUGS.

Do I feel sorry for these people? No, not particularly. They prove to me time after time that they’re gonna run right over there and mess around with Mr. Rattlesnake, despite all of your well-intentioned pleas for them not to. In fact, the stronger your case, the more solid your logic, the faster they run over there. Consider the parents of the kids who slept over at Michael Jackson’s house. AFTER THE FIRST AQUITTAL. Let’s see if we can follow their thought process in this matter. “Honey, Michael Jackson wants our child to spend the night at his place.”. “Well, dear, wasn’t he put on trial for child molestation?”. “Yes, honey dearest, but he was aquitted.” “Oh well, that should be fine, then.”

ARE YOU SERIOUS?

I’m in no way saying that Michael Jackson was guilty or not, but it’s hard for me to see how any parent would let their kid go hang out with someone who was put on trial for child molestation. Next time little Bobby asks for a pet turtle, buy him a pet rattlesnake instead, you candidates for Parents of the Year.

Or rather let’s say your friend Cindy introduces you to her new boyfriend, Mike McWifebeater.

*disclaimer: beating your spouse isn’t funny and is not endorsed by the author of this blog. CREATIVE LICENSE, PEOPLE*

So Mr. McWifebeater stands there glaring at you and cracking his knuckles while Cindy’s telling you how happy she is with her new-found love. So you take a little stroll down Imagination Street and figure out what’s going to happen to Cindy the first time she burns the Mac and cheese. Even an insensitive jerk like me is going to try and talk some sense into her, and sure, it’s not her fault when (not if) he hits her, and she doesn’t in any way deserve getting hit. But all of you morons that told her you were happy for her need to seriously reevaluate your estimations of rattlesnakes, ’cause standing around being stupid and keeping your mouth shut, i.e. pretending that rattlesnakes aren’t dangerous, ended up causing someone to get bitten. And quit standing there with that stupid look of surprise on your faces. It’s like you’re not going to listen to anyone unless you’re paying them a hundred bucks an hour. Or they’re sitting next to Oprah.

I have to deal with this paradox on a daily basis, and trust me, if you know someone who is playing around with a rattlesnake, there ARE times when the best thing you can do is just shut up. They’re not gonna listen, and you can use that precious time to deal with your own rattlers. And when they run back, crying and wondering what happened, feign confusion right along with them. Or throw your hands up in the air and shout “DUMBASS!”. However you deal with the situation, just don’t let yourself get bogged down with sympathy. It’s not as if, on some level, your friend didn’t know what was going to happen. And honestly, the only reason they came to you in the first place was so that you would tell them it’s okay, it’s a really cool and laid back snake. NO WAY YOU’RE GONNA GET BITTEN, DUDE!

So I suggest letting them run over to the rattlesnake and see just what’s up. At least you get a few minutes of quiet time while they’re gone. Oh and FYI, don’t be one of those morons that tries to suck the poison out of the wound. Yech.

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Posted on October 30, 2011, in Thoughts. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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