|Ticket to Success|
Issue #35 (July 1984)
The baboons knew they had finally made it as a species when each member of the troop had its very own scientist assigned to study it. They were proud of the little name tags that were clipped onto their ears. Former ways of identifying friends and [quoteright]distinguishing one from another seemed primitive by comparison - scent, air waves, feel of the body fur. Now parents would know immediately when some kid who did not belong showed up; mates could not make any embarrassing mistakes.
Whenever one baboon started grooming another, an anthropologist interested in sex relations frantically took notes. A behavioral scientist showed up whenever the harem scene became tense. Fathers tending infants captured the heart of the developmental studies specialist. A hand grabbing a snack attracted the nutritionist. The primatologist hung around waiting for reversions. The linguist anticipated words. The psychologist was administering IQ tests and looking for signs of neurosis or psychosis.
The baboons themselves were so wrapped up in their own private ego trips they did not even notice the ticks that had latched onto them and were mating deep inside their fur. A little pepper tick would be born, set out on his own, and eventually settle down with a good-looking tick on his favorite baboon without any of the baboons or the scientisis being the wiser.
The ticks had an easy life, of course, but they were bugged by all the inattention they were receiving. All they heard was the baboons this and the baboons that. What about the ticks? Tick power! So they all got together on one baboon and jumped up and down and screamed.
"I believe something is moving on my big baboon."
The microscopes zeroed in, the tape recorders spun, the cameras were focused. The tick became the most intensively studied insect in the world. Deep inside the baboons' fur, they sang, they danced, they told off-color jokes. They were it. Academic conferences were held to discuss their symbiotic relationship with baboons, mating procedures, infant care, feeding habits, provisions for aged ticks. Each wore a minuscule name tag which only other ticks could read.
But alas, a microbiologist gazing into his lens happened to espy an infinitesimally small bacteria-like organism riding on the back of one of the ticks and all eyes shifted its way.
Ah, but the triumphs of this world are so fleeting!
Susan Packie teaches anthropology at Malcolm-King College, which is located in America's premier anthroplogical site, New York City. She has had her work published in more than 80 magazines.