Do you have any idea how hard it is to get a decent picture of a swimming otter?  I’m about at a level where I can get a nice shot of a tree, so trying to capture the otter as it glided through water was just about impossible.  I tried a number of settings and I tried the high-speed burst, and I came up with one so-so photo. I was also hampered by reflection.

Watching the otters swim made me envious for something otters can do and humans cannot:  Otters can dive inverted.  We humans tend to envy birds and have adopted the metaphor of flight into our language (“flying high,” “on the wing”), but flight is just one thing beyond our ability.  Humans are, comparatively, all brain and little physical ability.  We are, and let’s be honest here, sluggish, and given the chance we will increase that sluggishness by avoiding most physical activity harder than walking to the refrigerator for a beer.  Very few of us are sleek machines and many of us resemble the tapir in the photo below.

At some point in your professional career, you may have run into an interviewer with challenged insight, who has had to fall back on that most annoying of interview questions:  If you were an animal, which animal would you be?  This is the professional equivalent of the old Internet ice-breaker What are you wearing? and, sexual subtext aside, both are designed to excite or to dull the interrogator.

I’ve always felt that the answer to both is, You’ve got to be joking, but this answer will get you neither a job nor a date.  These questions are asked in all seriousness (just look at the interviewer’s expression), so let’s view it from the interviewer’s perspective:

At the most basic level, animals are either run with the pack or are solitary.  Gee whiz, just like humans! So let’s weed out those independent thinkers who answer eagles, leopards, and polar bears (who hook up only for sex).

Pack animals are either leaders or followers.  Pack animals have complex relationships within the pack by which they create social order.  This is a societal/behavioral factor that has no relationship to the artificial ranking imposed by a job title.  If you’ve chosen a pack animal to represent you, you are basically accepting the risk of being beaten back or otherwise held down by an aggressively competitive co-worker or bullying management.  This is why it is never a good idea to select a sheep as your stand-in.

There is something wrong with any answer you can give:  Show-off lions are never good and a porcupine strikes pre-emptively.  Don’t even try to get clever here.  The faddish “animal” question is designed to ferret out (more metaphor!) your personality and there is no escaping that some of us are odd-toed ungulates.  You will be found out eventually, if not through the animal question than though more intensive psychoanalysis.  Watch out for question #18.  They ask it three times. What happened to the days when you could just walk into the filling station and get a job pumping gas?

Unless you work in the arts or are a certain kind of  lawyer (birds:  peacock and vulture), you are a dog.  Not a dawg.  A dog.  Loyal, dependable, familiar, friendly, known to exhibit leadership qualities upon command and to sit up and beg for a treat.

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