The Lizard Negotiator
The large and strange word dangling above simply means “the fear of lizards.” As someone who believes language should adjust itself to the culture that uses it, I would personally prefer to see this word replaced by the much easier “lizardophobia.” It’s embarrassing enough to be afraid of lizards; not being able to pronounce the condition is like adding another layer of cruelty to those who cower in horror at the sight of a salamander or a chameleon.
Lizards, like everything else in the world, scare me. So it was not a pleasant moment when I returned to my cheap hotel room in Bangkok to find a small lizard scurrying across the floor. I jumped while the lizard slipped under a pile of clothes and out of sight. My initial thought was to go straight to management and demand that the lizard be removed. But then I started to instruct myself to toughen up. “You’re not in Manhattan,” I said to myself. “You’re in Bangkok. There are lizards. Don’t be such a wussy Westerner.”
My will was strong and I didn’t go to management, but seeing that there was a lizard loose in the room, I left. The presence of the lizard kept me away, and with nothing else to do I sat at a coffee shop and read. After my second or third cappuccino, I couldn’t let my lizard paranoia get the best of me anymore. Returning to the room, I threw the pile of the clothes into the air. No lizard. There was, I noticed, a long tail coming from under the mini-fridge. I was paralyzed with terror.
“Just leave it alone,” I thought. “Maybe it will go away.” For the rest of the night, I kept an eye on the tail. It wasn’t moving, but that didn’t mean that the lizard wasn’t a threat. If only I could communicate with it, I pondered, then the lizard and I could work something out. I wished that there was someone who could be a middle person – a lizard negotiator if you will – and help me understand just what the lizard wanted.
“What are the lizard’s intentions?” I’d ask.
“The lizard intends to crawl on your face,” the negotiator would likely answer.
“Will it bite me?”
“No. The lizard doesn’t get pleasure from causing pain…just unease.”
I would ask the lizard negotiator more.
“Will the lizard crawl on me in my sleep?”
“Of course it will.”
“Please inform the lizard that if I wake, I’ll probably panic and try to kill it.”
“The lizard understands the risks.”
Even after going out for a few beers, I couldn’t sleep in the room. Not with that tail there. Finally I decided I had to move the refrigerator and deal with the lizard. I put socks on my hands and pushed the mini-fridge, exposing more of the tail bit by bit. Then, with one last shove, I moved the mini-fridge quite a ways, only to discover that there was no lizard. There was only a tail. There it was, right there. All my fear, represented by a light green tail, sitting motionless on the floor, connected to nothing.