I was driving around by myself in South Africa’s Kruger park, taking photographs of the wildlife when I came across two lions. I rolled down my window and started taking photos with my SLR. Since an SLR requires you to hold the camera to your eye and look through the viewfinder, I couldn’t see the lions directly, only through the lens. The lions were about 300 feet away from me when I first saw them, so I zoomed in to the max to get a good closeup. I began tracking one of them as he moved, and I’d zoom out as he got a bit closer. After a few minutes, I realized I was zooming out a lot and the lion must be quite close to me. I pulled the camera away from my face and found myself about 10 feet away from the lion, including the space taken up by my passenger seat. My passenger window was rolled down, so there was nothing between me and the lion except air. “Did I look like lion food?”, I wondered. I knew that if the lion was planning to attack me, he could jump ten feet much quicker than the speed at which I’d be able to reach across to my passenger seat and roll up my window. There was nothing to keep me from being lion food, other than the lion’s lack of hunger or disinterest. I decided that panic would do nothing for me, so I might as well keep taking great closeups even if I was about to die.
The lion got closer and closer, and then the most marvelous thing happened. He came inches away from my passenger door, and then suddenly plopped himself on the grass and proceeded to take a nap! He lay there purring like a kitten and he looked so sweet that I was tempted to reach my arm out and pet him. I’ve touched lions before, in wildlife sanctuaries. Those lions are still wild, but they’re well fed and not likely to attack you if you don’t upset them, but this lion was the king of his jungle and I was just potential lion food. But there he was, so calm, and I really wanted to touch him. He wasn’t even hungry!
I was prevented from following my desire by a little factoid in the back of my head. “Lions are cats.” Maybe he wouldn’t eat me, but if I dangled my skinny arm like a piece of string in front of the giant sleeping kitty, and he happened to wake up, he’d probably swat at the string the way kittens swat at yarn. So though it would be awesome, having the big cat swat at me out of curiosity might mean the loss of my arm, which I need for driving, holding a spoon, and stuff like that. So I watched him a good while, and decided to keep my arm for another day. Not to mention the rest of me, which I’m quite fond of. But next time I get a chance, I’m going to pet another lion. They feel just like stiff carpets! And if I’m lucky, I won’t get eaten then either.