I taught men in Industry for many years in Africa. I taught everything from Math to English, Geography, Sociology and History. One could say I was a jack of all trades and master of none. I only taught men, not by choice, but that was how it was. I really liked “my men” and I think they liked me. But one day I boobed. It was about the python.
I often introduced an English session, with an interesting story I’d found in the papers. And that day, I had found what I thought was a “funny” anecdote. It was about a man, having fallen asleep under a tree, had woken to find himself being squeezed by a very large python. In order to save his own life, he simply chewed his way through the snake, and escaped.
When I took the register, one of our group – Petrus – was “off sick” – sometimes ‘off sick” was common after the weekend. I thought no more of it.
So I launched into the talking point of the day – about the man who saved his life by chewing through the python. And I took it very lightheartedly – a fun thing – even something that could be laughed about.
We used to laugh a lot. But suddenly, a cold and dead atmosphere engulfed the room. My men were observing me with icy, hostile eyes.
I fell silent. They glared at me. “What have I done?” I asked.
“Petrus was the man who ate his way through the snake” one of the men said.
“And he is in Intensive Care at the hospital” said another.
“And chewing through a Python is a terrible. terrible experience” added another.
“And it’s nothing to laugh at!” was the opinion of them all.
After I was firmly put in my place, we had a wonderful English lesson. My men shared the horror of Petrus’s experience.
Absolutely bladdered on booze, on the previous Friday evening, he was on his way back to the men’s hostel, when he thought to take a short nap by sitting at the base of a tree and leaning back against the trunk. Well, I think he passed out.
But the suffering he endured when he collected his addled wits while being slowly squeezed and squeezed in the steel coils of the python, was truly unimaginable. Petrus was suffocating for breath, and biting into the snake produced fluid and blood that nearly drowned him. He was discovered by a passer-by half dead.
It wasn’t even vaguely amusing. It was horrible.