So why did I find myself backing away from a snake charmer who was walking towards me with a fully loaded Cobra held out in front of him?
More to the point, why did I let him put it around my neck in the first place?
Most would say that this definitely falls under the category of unacceptable risk. Some might say it was the adventures of youth. I would simply call it stupid.
February 1993 - my first day in New Delhi, India for a 2-week trade show. On the ride in from the airport in the middle of the night, I had passed a man riding an elephant down the street. An amazing country. I was solo for the first two days before the rest of the team showed up, and I was looking for something to do after I had checked out the booth at the fairgrounds. We had organized for cars with drivers, because it takes a whole different set of skills to drive there.
My driver had pulled over to the side of the road so that I could experience some of the local culture and tourist attractions, which apparently involved getting your photo taken with a poisonous snake draped over your shoulders.
It must have been the smog affecting my brain, because I agreed to do it.
As you might expect, I was a bit nervous so I asked the charmer if it was safe - if the snake had been de-venomed. He nodded. So we proceeded, and the driver snapped a couple pictures of me with the charmer holding the snake across my shoulders.
It was only after he had removed the snake and I paid him that I realized my mistake. The charmer decided he wanted more money as I was walking back towards the car. So he started to follow me. I turned to see the charmer pointing the "apparently de-venomed" Cobra directly at me like a weapon. Oops.
The driver stood between me and the charmer and signalled me to hand him some money. I did, and he passed it to the charmer, who seemed satisfied, un-cocked his Cobra and walked back to the basket.
I afterward learned that nodding meant "No" and wobbling your head side to side meant "Yes".
I guess I should have read up on the cultural signals before I left on the trip.
Do you know an unacceptable risk when you see it? Or does it literally have to (almost) bite you before you know it is "unacceptable"?
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