So I was walking my pet whale in Manhattan recently when something strange happened.
Suddenly, we were confronted by two police officers.
“What’s that you’ve got there?” one of them asked, presumably of me. “It looks like a member of the Cetacea family, which includes whales and dolphins.”
“You are correct, sir,” I replied. “How observant of you.”
“Are you aware that it is illegal to own a pet whale in New York City?” said the second policeman.
Of course I was aware. I’d been hiding Wally for years. It was why he was currently disguised as an extremely large St. Bernard with no legs. “No, sir, I wasn’t,” I answered, stepping protectively in front of Wally’s cart. “Wouldn’t that be a silly thing to ban? I mean, who in their right mind would own a pet whale in the Big Apple?”
“Nevertheless,” said officer number one, “we’re going to have to confiscate your humpback.”
Unable to fit Wally into their patrol car, the officers commandeered a horse-drawn Hansom cab and took Wally away, leaving me heartbroken and whaleless on 57th Street.
I know, I know. You’re probably saying to yourself, “That story can’t be true. Mark hasn’t lived in Manhattan for 28 years.”
You’re right, of course. Except for the part of my story that is absolutely true:
It really is illegal to own a pet whale in New York City. Seriously. It’s an actual law. It’s a good thing, too, because how’d you like to live in the apartment below the guy who owns a beluga? All that singing would be annoying, and then when you went upstairs and said, “If your whale if going to keep me up all night, the least you could do is supply me with fresh caviar,” the guy would look down his nose at you and reply, “That’s beluga sturgeon, you moron,” and you’d have to skulk off down the hallway and hope the bastard wouldn’t repeat what you’d said in front of the co-op board.
Where was I?
Oh, right. NYC’s Ahabian law came to light this week because new mayor Bill de Blasio remarked that he’d consider repealing a similar law that bans pet ferrets. Ferrets, evidently, were outlawed two mayors ago because Rudy Guiliani thought they posed a terrorist threat. Or something.
The city was surprised to learn of de Blasio’s pro-ferret stance, since it hadn’t come up in any of the mayoral debates. Voters knew he was progressive, but not that progressive.
On the other hand, nobody seemed to have a huge problem with the prospect of weasel-wielding New Yorkers.
Until, that is, Thursday’s New York Post (motto: “We’re just trying to stir things up”). On the day after Maya Angelou’s death, amid the continuing VA scandal, even in the aftermath of a red carpet attack on Brad Pitt, the front page of the Post was devoted to the horse vs. ferret debate that the paper was trying to manufacture.
You see, one of de Blasio’s actual campaign promises was to rid New York City of horse-drawn carriages of the type that carted off my pal Wally in the work of fiction that opened this post.
Now, when I was learning journalism (yes, I did), we were taught to always start our news coverage with the “5 W’s”: Who is it about? What happened? Where did it take place? When did it take place? Why did it happen?
The Post, that bastion of journalistic excellence, began its article about the ferret ban as follows:
Stuff the ferrets, Mr. Mayor — and save the horses.
That’s the loud-and-clear message from the city’s horse-carriage drivers, who couldn’t understand Wednesday how the de Blasio administration could consider lifting the city’s ban on ferrets while still vowing to run the iconic steeds out of Manhattan.
The paper followed up this lead with a quote from “a fuming” Ian McKeever, spokesman for the Horse and Carriage Association:
“Maybe we should get ferrets to pull the tourists around in carriages. I’m glad (de Blasio) is feeling kindly toward small, furry animals, but why isn’t he feeling kindly toward the big, furry animals?”
Okay, a couple of things here. First, is McKeever referring to some kind of prehistoric horse, the equine equivalent of a woolly mammoth? Because I’ve seen many Hansom cabs in my life, but never one being pulling by an animal I would describe as “furry.” “Stinky?” Sure. “Snorty?” Yup. “Furry?” Not so much.
Second, what the hell does one thing have to do with the other? McKeever’s horses are forced to tow carriages around New York City’s paved streets in the dead of winter and the stifling heat of summer, while ferrets are small house pets that, according to one owner, “giggle when they’re happy.” Also, while I can’t say I have first-hand knowledge of ferret defecation, I’ll go out on a limb and assume that we’re talking about much less prodigious poop piles.
The folks who run the carriages would take great offense at any accusation of animal mistreatment and claim that they are great lovers of all the world’s creatures, as demonstrated by the opinion of one driver (identified in the article as “Sal”) that “Ferrets can go to hell.” (Sal’s name was in quotes, likely because it’s an alias to stop him from becoming a target of the Ferret Anti-Defamation League. Or maybe the reporter made him up, because, really, what sort of idiot would say something like that? I could understand a frustrated carriage driver saying, “de Blasio can go to hell,” but it’s not like the ferrets are trying to ban the buggies. The ferrets are too busy fighting discrimination at dog parks.)
The Post article even tries to drum up future controversy by conjecturing that the next pets to be legalized might be hedgehogs, although I’m not sure who they’d be able to find that would have a problem with that. Marsupial* advocates, maybe. (I’m thinking the front page could be: “WHAT’S THE POINT, BILL? Aussies say deBlas will ‘roo’ the day he lifted the ban on prickly pets.”)
In any case, hedgehogs can go to hell. They need to free Wally!
See you soon.
*Also illegal in New York City, as are potbelly pigs, iguanas and aardvarks.