I found myself driving alone on the Palisades Parkway. Starting to come down from a coffee high, I needed to get home before I crashed. Driving at reasonable speeds, some approaching the sound barrier, I suddenly had a dance partner riding in the lane next to me.
I slowed down. So did he. The interior light of his car turned on. The light was bright enough to illuminate the officer’s scowling face and the Palisades Parkway Police logo just under his window. The officer shook his head disapprovingly.
I hit the speed of an elderly driver, one that doesn’t live in South Florida. The officer pulled away. I thought for sure he was coming back and I’d find myself in jail, but there was nothing. Just a sense of relief, the kind you feel when the doctor admits he confused your test results with a strangers.
Admiring the scenery and wondering if this is what it’s like to ride a rickshaw, I saw something rustle in the bushes ahead.
I’ve watched enough Friday The 13th films to know, nothing good emerges from the bushes at 4am. I slowed to a crawl and put on my emergency lights, hoping whatever it was would jump out. This speed should give me time to avoid an animal, and enough space to rev up and flatten Jason Voorhees.
In what can only be described as a moment of both terror and hilarity, a mountain lion emerged from the bushes. Now, I know my local fauna and flora, that’s not supposed to happen in New Jersey.
I hit my breaks. The lion stood alert, contemplating whether or not it too wanted to become the center of an annoying riddle like the chicken.
I locked eyes with the mighty beast. It, a terrifying version of a domestic house cat. Me, a chew toy. As a driver, you’re prepared for deer. But I ask you, my curious rubberneckers, what the hell do you do with a mountain lion?
Part of me didn’t want to blow by and accidently kill nature’s stealth assassin. How would I explain that to Dad, the owner of my current chariot? "I killed a mountain lion, and not in a manly sort of way".
The other part of me thought, ”Great. Not only did I get rejected by this gorgeous blond tonight, God sent a mountain lion to finish the job time and gravity started."
Looking to avoid becoming an infamous New York Post headline, I put my plan into action.
I once read somewhere that you’re supposed to act bigger and louder than you really are to chase a mountain lion away. I don’t know, I’m not a zoologist. But I did know I wanted Simba to wander safely into the woods and back into the Disney film he came from.
I rolled down the window.
The stare down continued.
I took a deep breath, paused, and shouted the first thing that came to mind:
“Your Mom lives in the jungle!”
That’s right. I went there.
I then punched the horn as I revved my engine. It worked! Simba, unimpressed, turned to rejoin his father, just in time to watch Jeremy Irons push him off a cliff.
Ferocious Furry Death Machine: 0
Now, I know, I could have done better than a “your mom” joke, but I was not prepared to appropriately zing the lion.
The next day I filed the story into my "Why Does This Stuff Keep Happening To Me?" notebook, with a note that read: "Sometimes life gives you mountain lions. Be prepared for anything."