The Classic Pogo cartoon by: Walter Crawford Kelly, Jr.
The Classic Pogo cartoon by: Walter Crawford Kelly, Jr.

In my naïve younger years the goal or wish or dream of “coping a feel” was a form of desire shared in whispers and on occasion boasted of with chest thumping proud and loud enough to show the gorilla side of the young male making a display of his status. It is interesting how in so many ways our vaunted and elevated standing as thinking beings isn’t far removed at all from the acts and posturing of the lesser creatures in the animal world. I think it was in the days of POGO the quip was made that “We have met the enemy and they are us.” In this case I might put that sentiment as “We have seen the beast and it is we.” Now that you’re a bit comfortable with the notion and are perhaps cozying to the notion this is a male problem I will assure you there is a well-known female counterpart to butt sniffing. In my experience both sexes cop feels whether physical or visual. This behavior goes, more than less, with being alive inside our animal natures.

If you care to see another aspect of the animal nature at work and in public display try a jaunt on Highway 61 during the Season of the Tourist where you’ll see female and male drivers vie with horsepower and poor judgment to show their Alpha standing to all in sight. Massy trucks with tall weaving boat trailers joust with single-minded mini vans and compacts topped with plastic toys to see who is King, Queen, or Jester of the pack going from their adventure of sampling Kipper Ale (made with real kippers) on a veranda or going north to kill a fish and celebrate with brews on a pontoon. Our herd behavior makes the lowly wildebeest appear at least as well if not rather better organized than we. When you see one driver madly endanger ten in their dash to move forward more speedily you might think of the calculated reserve of the wildebeest to see one sacrificed to the alligator of speed for the sake of the hundreds of others making the same river crossing.

But anyway, this piece is not about the adventures of boisterous boys in their budding years of trying their bestest to cop feels. The behavior and attitudes involved in that go right along with us being human animals that do all sorts of animal things as part of being and staying alive. We root around for things to eat. Other things we kill for the same basic reason. We rest and relax from the toil of all that eating so we can then repeat the cycle with some copulation thrown in here there to break the monotony. If looked at from a view to seeing what any of us actually add to the welfare or growth of the species the view could grow depressing. I know I’ve not contributed much in terms of food, fuel, etc. It’s flattering to think of my consuming as a form of doing, but it is not so. I’ve not produced much at all. I can claim having built portions of several houses, but that does not include the contribution of those who cut the trees or sawed the lumber. Yes, I’ve mixed and poured concrete, but can I contribute much to the origins of cement other than it comes in heavy sacks?

At the age when coping a feel was in the winds and offing I was otherwise quite useless but could at least be at times decorative. Well that’s gone, long so, and maybe that’s why a phrase such as coping a feel reels me in like a hammer handle Northern Pike drawn to the spin flash of a genuine (the only kind to use) Daredevil lure. The understanding or connotation I grasped at the coping age was that “to cop” meant steal or in slang pinch. If you did quite well at vocabulary you’d add pilfer and purloin to the suggested meaning of “to cop.” Even the vaguest adolescent mind has to see the peculiar irony of Cop being the word used to denote the authority person meant to deter stealing, pinching, pilferage, and purloining. If (and I am not saying this actually happened and is only conjecture) you happened to be an outgunned adolescent put upon by a set of the better gunned you might be able to derail a trouncing by calling to the attention of those giving the unwanted attention an interesting vocabulary twist to chew upon. They won’t expect it, which is a very good defense while also being a form of counterattack. Starting in a clear and sure academic voice “Did you know” while being hoisted off your feet gives the hoister pause and allows time to let a lexicon devil loose to befuddle them. The devil in a good question has to go off with complete unconcern for the threatening fist and go in a direction unexpected enough to provoke curiosity.

Posing a question might defeat an attack. The boy who asked “Why are you bothering with me instead of chasing babes” spared himself some beating that way, though delivery helped as he smiled and added “let’s go” to his extrication plan. A question has power because except for zealots most of us are blessed not having iron bound “Because Allah Says” ready at hand to serve as ultimate authority while being (as is ALL appeal to authority for an answer) a dandy way to avoid having to think and reason. Sapiens may be the thinking animal, but that does not mean we like to think and are not very often more than comfortable going merrily along on rote. If (and I’m not claiming so) I happened to have at some time in history tried to cop my share of feels shows the press of biology along with that of following one’s peers as pack humans do as the happy animals we are. The good news; we are not bound to a behavior and are free to cop a cope as we are able.