8:31am

Sat April 2, 2011
Simon Says

The Cobra That Boggled New York's State Of Mind

The Bronx Zoo cobra is back in the house.

The 2-foot-long Egyptian cobra that disappeared from its cage in the reptile house of the Bronx Zoo last week was discovered on Thursday coiled in a cool, dark corner.

Zoo officials said she is in good condition and had "no obvious bulges." So despite all the comic fancies many of us had of the uncaged young cobra snacking on big salted pretzels and cheese blintzes, the snake apparently ate nothing for days. Snakes do that.

It never left the reptile house, much less the Bronx.

But for a few days, in a busy world, it was fun to imagine where a footloose young cobra might have slithered all over New York.

Some currently unknown wit established a Twitter account, BronxZoosCobra, that quickly attracted more than 200,000 followers, with tweets like:

"Leaving Wall Street. These guys make my skin crawl." And, "Holding very still in the snake exhibit at the Museum of Natural History. This is gonna be hilarious!" And: "On top of the Empire State Building! All the people look like little mice down there. Delicious little mice."

Social networks have empowered people to make revolutions. But those networks are built by the spectacular technology that enables us to send jokes — including naughty jokes — around the world in nanoseconds.

I think there's another reason why the story of an escaped snake fires so many minds. It's beguiling to imagine what it would be like to be able to slip through the streets of New York, seeing and hearing all without being seen. No matter how much we cherish our jobs, children and family, it's alluring to imagine what it might be like to just slither through a few days: no bleeping phones, traffic jams, jam-packed subways, red lights, squalling children or priggish big-wigs to contend with. No spurious fees, gas surcharges or staying on hold with Customer Satisfaction until the calendar flips.

To be able to swallow a bagel with an extra schmear and not have it go straight to your hips. To be able to roam, linger, watch, listen and just let New York — let life — happen all around you. To hear children laugh as they whirl in circles, look up into skyscrapers and feed pigeons. To feel, if just for a flicker, like Emily Webb in Our Town when she says, "I can't look at everything hard enough ... Oh earth, you're too wonderful for anyone to realize you."

If you had the chance to slip invisibly through life for just a little while, where would you go? What would you see? Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, host:

The Bronx Zoo Cobra is back in the house. The two-foot-long Egyptian Cobra that disappeared from its cage in the Reptile House of the Bronx Zoo last week was discovered on Thursday coiled in a cool, dark corner. Zoo officials said she's in good condition and had no obvious bulges.

So, despite all the comic fancies many of us had of the uncaged young cobra snacking on big salted pretzels and cheese blintzes, the snake apparently ate nothing for days. Snakes do that. It never left the Reptile House, much less the Bronx.

But for a few days in a busy world, it was fun to imagine where a footloose young cobra might have slithered all over New York.

Some currently unknown wit established a Twitter account, BronxZoosCobra, that quickly attracted more than 200,000 followers with tweets like: Leaving Wall Street. These guys make my skin crawl; and: Holding very still in the snake exhibit at the Museum of Natural History. This is gonna be hilarious; and: On top of Empire State Building. All the people look like little mice down there. Delicious little mice.

Social networks have empowered people to make revolutions. But those networks are built by the spectacular technology that enables us to send jokes, including naughty jokes, around the world in nanoseconds.

I think there's another reason why the story of an escaped snake fires so many minds. It's beguiling to imagine what it would be like to be able to slip through the streets of New York seeing and hearing all without being seen. No matter how much we cherish our jobs, children, and family, it's alluring to imagine what it might be like to just slither through a few days.

No bleeping phones, traffic jams, jam-packed subways, red lights, squalling children or priggish big-wigs to contend with. No spurious fees, gas surcharges, or staying on hold with customer satisfaction until the calendar flips. To be able to swallow a bagel with an extra schmear, and not have it go straight to your hips. To be able to roam, linger, watch, listen and just let New York - let life - happen all around you. To hear children laugh as they whirl in circles, look up into skyscrapers and feed pigeons.

To feel, if just for a flicker, like Emily Webb in Our Town when she says, I can't look at everything hard enough. Oh earth, you're too wonderful for anyone to realize you.

If you had the chance to slip invisibly through life for just a little while, where would you go? What would you see?

(Soundbite of song, "New York, New York")

Unidentified Man: (Singing) New York, New York, a hell of a town. The Bronx is up and the Battery's down. The people ride in a hole in the ground. New York, New York, it's a hell of a town...

SIMON: And this is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.