Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Vomiting and Severed Limbs in the Workplace

Last month at my job, we got a new turkey vulture, an injured wild bird unable to fly. He was named "Ralph" because he was quick to employ the vulture defense of vomiting when threatened. It's a pretty good defense when you think about it; not only does the threatening animal (or Nature Geek) receive a smelly dose of partially digested dead animal delivered at their feet, but it also makes the vulture lighter, and able to take flight that much faster.

This kind of defense is completely normal among vultures. If one vulture saw another vomiting, it wouldn't think "eww, gross!" but instead "danger? where?" But what if we humans shared some of the same defenses as found in the rest of the animal kingdom? It got me to thinking of how the workplace might look quite differently.

Scenario 1: The Boss Confrontation
Boss: "Susan, I need you to step into my office right NOW."

Boss: "Ummm on second thought, why don't you just go back to your office. On third thought, you can stay in my office and I'll leave."

I imagine that even the most hardened of bosses would want to vent their office for a while after you vomited up your egg salad sandwich and coleslaw in their doorway.

Scenario 2: The Unwelcome Drop-In
<Joe, working diligently on a project at his desk, desperate to make that 3:00 deadline.>
Susan, appearing at door: "Hey Joe, do you mind if I--"
Susan: O.O
           *runs away with mad flailing of arms*

There's not too much that grosses me out in the natural world, but watching footage of a short-horned lizard squirt blood out of its eyes makes me wince every time. Probably because I just have a thing about my eyes, but I digress. (And now my eyes are watering just typing this. Great.) A few species of short-horned lizards, also nicknamed "horny toads," are able to change the pressure in their heads in order to rupture small blood vessels in the eyelids and can aim the resulting blood flow up 3-5 feet away. If that wasn't bad enough, the blood also contains a chemical compound that tastes bad to members of the canine family. This horror show defense mechanism is not effective against birds, however, who probably just think the horned lizard comes with its own flavor packets.

Scenario 3: The Unwanted Client Interaction
Susan: "Oh man Joe, here comes your client, Mr. Jenkins. That guy never stops talking!

Mr. Jenkins: "Joe? Susan have you seen Joe? I could have sworn he was just here a second ago."

The potoo has got to be one of the most spectacular examples of camouflage in the bird world. There are many birds with feathers colored to look like bark, but the potoo brings a stiff, angled body posture to its routine that sets it above the rest. Of course, when you look like this with your eyes open:
you are going to need to work harder than usual to disguise yourself in the tropical forests of Central and South America.

Scenario 4: The Staff Meeting
Susan: <thinking to self> Man, this meeting is so bor-ing. If I have to listen to the boss talk one more minute about bottom lines, I think I'm going to lose my sanity. I need a diversion.

Susan: "Run awayyyyyyy!"

Some species of lizards and salamanders have the ability to get out of a tricky spot by breaking off their tails, an ability called caudal autotomy, enabling them to escape the tight grip of a would-be predator. What's more, the severed tail segment can keep twitching for up to 20 minutes, keeping the predator distracted as the reptile or amphibian makes their escape. What about blood loss, you ask? These critters have it all under control! Muscles around the main artery to their tails pinch off at the moment of detachment, preventing any major loss of blood. 

Today with a bit of training, Ralph the turkey vulture doesn't live up to his name nearly as much. And although vomiting to get out of an uncomfortable situation may sound tempting on a bad day in the workplace, just keep in mind that vultures re-eat their vomit after the danger has passed. I don't think that egg salad sandwich is going to taste any better the second time around. 

1 comment:

  1. I find regurgitation an excellent way to get out of disastrous blind dates.
    Little did I know, the last date had a strong fetish for it, and She stalked me for months with "gifts" of Ipecac. Hurray.