you be good

So this week I had a pretty legitimate epiphany, which is that: I kind of like my job.

Despite the fact that I come home every day covered in paper shreds from cutting open 10,000 pieces of mail in the morning, and despite the fact that my oddball supervisor with the Hawaiian shirts and the Lady Gaga ringtone likes to give me a hard time just to get a rise out of me (a la Deitz and Brad, or Colin and Drew), and despite the fact that we now have a “casual professional” dress code and my feet always hurt because girls dress shoes are never comfortable, I have kind of grown a little fond of my job. I’m sure it’s largely that I’m just ecstatic about watching my bank account steadily grow when I get paid for forty hours every week, and the fact that even though the dress code may be “casual professional,” the atmosphere is pretty dang casual, as demonstrated by the bullshit things that my supervisor says to me just to annoy me, or the slander he has been spreading to others in the mailroom about me and my “liberal propaganda.” Today he told me I should join the “crazy libs” in Green Peace that throw bombs at whaling ships because I made the innocent remark that tuna are going to be extinct in the next five years. Mind you, I made this remark in response to his recommendation that Jess and I should “eat more tuna” after Jess called him out for getting tuna sub grease from his Subway sandwich on the scanning machine. First of all, tuna sub grease is fucking disgusting, I don’t care how you look at it, and second of all, I will PASS on fish in a can, thanks, and third of all, how he even construed the factoid that the days of tunafish are numbered to be liberal propaganda, I have no idea, and PLUS if anyone was trying to force their views on someone else in that conversation it was obviously him since he was insisting that I eat tuna salad while I was only remarking that in a few years, tuna salad will no longer exist so I won’t have to worry about explaining why I don’t like a mystery salad whose main ingredients are mayonnaise and fish that comes out of a can and looks and smells like CAT FOOD.

So, my supervisor has learned pretty quickly how to push my buttons and to get a rise out of me about stupid shit that doesn’t matter – case in point, I suppose. The bantering back and forth doesn’t bother me, but I was just a little perturbed when, before he left the office today, he called to me, “Have a nice weekend, tell Green Peace I said hi!” provoking my other supervisor to question me about my affiliation with Green Peace. For the record, I’m not affiliated with Green Peace, I don’t watch Whale Wars, and I try not to talk about my liberal viewpoints in “casual professional” situations because I usually just end up making an ass out of myself since I really have no idea what I’m talking about and am admittedly sometimes easily persuaded by liberal propaganda. But seriously though, tuna fish are going to be extinct soon.

Anyway, I worked an 11 hour shift today and left feeling pretty good, because even though that is a long shift, basically everything about my job is ridiculously easy. A gorilla could do the job, for Christ’s sake. Well, not really – unless it was like a neat freak gorilla with a really strong attention to detail and who knew how to use a staple remover. Speaking of smart gorillas though, I’ve been thinking about this fascinating article I read in Time magazine the other week about animal intelligence that really blew my mind. It talked about this bonobo named Kanzi who lives in a research facility in Iowa and who knows 384 words and uses laminated sheets with symbols representing the words to communicate with humans. Kanzi points to the laminated sheets to invite the author of the article to have coffee with him, and to ask the author to find his toy ball so that they can play. And the creepiest part is that the Time article had a full-page picture of this bonobo where he is seriously SMILING – it is fucking bizarre. If you didn’t know, bonobos are the closest genetic relatives to humans, and I also learned in one of the classes I took in Amsterdam that most people think the chimpanzee is our closest relative because bonobos are extremely sexually promiscious and are constantly masturbating and getting it on with other bonobos, and I guess humans don’t want to admit that we are closely genetically related to a species that has no sexual morals.

They also did this study in 2008 at a primate research facility in Atlanta where they gave capuchin monkeys the choice between two tokens: one that would buy two apple slices they could keep for themselves, and one that would buy one apple slice for themselves and another to give away to a friend. They always chose to give one of their slices away, as long as the recipient was a friend or relative and not just some random monkey on the street. Or in the jungle. Or the research facility, or wherever the fuck monkeys are hanging out buying apple slices with tokens. Anyway, the point is that the study demonstrates that animals other than humans can express GENEROSITY – or, that’s a possible conclusion that can be drawn from the study, anyway, which I just think is really cool and totally mind boggling. The story of Kanzi also reminded me of my favorite smart animal, Alex the parrot, who knew 150 words, 7 colors, 5 shapes, and understood the concept of zero. How insane is that? And the night before he died, his last words to his caretaker were: “You be good. I love you.” I want an African Grey Parrot so I can teach it shapes and colors and stuff. So freaking cool. The studies about Alex and Kanzi also said that their learning capabilities suggest that animals can also “use language creatively,” which makes me jump to the conclusion that maybe someday parrots and bonobos will be able to write poetry and stuff, which just BLOWS MY FREAKIN MIND.

The other thing the Time article talked about was how animals can be deeply influenced by their surroundings, as in the case of pigs who, when raised in a healthy non-threatening environment, respond to a strange noise with curiosity rather than with the fear that pigs raised in slaughterhouses adopt. Call me liberal, call me crazy, but sometimes I get overwhelmingly anxious thinking about things like that – like the fact that we abuse and torture pigs in slaughterhouses and even ignore the imminent extinction of tuna fish just because buying cheap food at Wal-mart is easier for us than caring about things like the psychological welfare of other sentient creatures. Not that I care about tuna fish and their feelings, because I don’t, but pigs are another story. And don’t get me wrong, I friggin love bacon as much as the next person, but there are a lot of things that can be done to make the slaughtering process a little less horrific, which was another thing the Time article noted.  BUT, at the risk of going on a liberal propaganda-fueled rant, I will instead end by also mentioning that the article talked about how elephants have been observed doing what appears to be mourning their dead, and how they examine the bones of other dead elephants “respectfully” by paying close attention to the skull and tusks, and how they are self-aware enough to recognize their own reflection in a mirror, enough that if a researcher puts a spot of paint on their forehead, they will reach up and touch their head with their trunk rather than touching their reflection on the mirror. That, I think, is just awesome, and speaking of elephants and paint, THIS is also fucking AWESOME (thanks to Amy for that one.) Elephants can paint pictures and parrots can understand mathematical concepts and monkeys can enjoy the pleasure of sharing with friends and family (and having sex a lot). Amazing stuff.

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