trapped on a plane with 431 reptiles


Interesting story in the news today.

Thai customs authorities say 431 turtles and other rare reptiles were stuffed into four suitcases and smuggled into an airport.

Thai customs officials seized Indian crocodiles and hundreds of live turtles that were packed in the airline luggage of an airline passenger.

AP adds the confiscated reptiles included “Gharials — a type of crocodile native to India — and Indian star and roofed tortoises … .” (all are endangered species if you care at this point).


And the passenger fled the airport before collecting his luggage (go figure).

This story leads me to another story from february 2004 where tourists in the everglades (not near a plane nor any snakeskin luggage) encountered a battle between two giant reptiles. A Burmese python and American alligator were locked in a struggle with each other. The python (a large constrictor snake) coiled itself around the alligator in an attempt to overpower and asphyxiate the huge alligator. However, the alligator escaped the serpent’s grasp by rolling swiftly (a well known maneuver among crocodilians, and WWF wrestlers, named the “death roll”). Free from the python’s coils, the alligator quickly seized the snake and delivered a fatal strike with its powerful jaws.

Well. There you go. Back to the plane with 431 reptiles in the luggage compartment.

I say all that in preparation for talking about “so what the hell do you do if you are on a plane and 430 (at least 1 would be napping on a long flight) reptiles entered the cabin looking for a better meal than what the airline offers” (admittedly they may like the meal as much as anything else but they don’t have pockets so no cash to buy the meal).

What is our most likely response? Freeze.


Are you fucking kidding me?

Well no (or, yes, we would freeze).

Yup. We would most likely freeze first.

Scientifically proven.

In my quest to figure out what to do (should I find myself in this situation) I sought expertise pertaining to panic attacks and stress and anxiety. I found through some quick research something called Somatic Encountering (SE) from Peter A. Levine, Ph.D. It appears SE is a key contributor to panic and anxiousness.

(gosh, I know all readers are thinking, I hope to discover the useful details which I hope will help if I encounter the 420 reptiles on the plane. Oh.  Now only 420 because you are most likely in a window seat at the exit row and by this time 10 or so are already busy with another passenger).

SE was uncovered when Dr. Levine observed that though wild animals of prey are under constant risk and siege, they’re seldom traumatized. Well, I never ever actually gave that much thought and, frankly, I have never discussed this with a wild animal but I suppose it is correct.

So. How the hell do they pull that off? Generally speaking they have an innate regulating mechanism that very effectively manages and discharges the power that accumulates in their bodies as a outcome of self-preservation behaviors. Levine observed that when an animal of prey survives a probably deadly chase, it truly takes time to physically shake-off unused energy prior to shifting on with the herd.

(“shaking off” is a key thought here … will come back to it)

Well, the PhD guy posits we humans are outfitted with primarily the exact same mechanism.

However (here comes the “uh oh”). Ours is significantly inhibited by our more superior cognitive abilities (shit!). So. In other words. Because of our superiority we frickin’ freeze.

Yet, we humans do have the innate potential to manage and discharge unused survival energy but you have to look at the construction in the midbrain recognized as the periaqueductal gray (PG) to better understand what happens. The PG is believed to be involved with physically defensive reactions such as freezing, jumping, operating, quick heartbeat, blood pressure fluctuation, and raise in muscle tone. It is thought that when sufficiently stimulated, the amygdala, the human alarm control panel, sends a strong signal to the PG and the physical phenomena just described appears.


Curiously enough, the PG is also responsible for something known as quiescence, a state of getting at ease and immobile, yet very alert (this is the positive side of ‘freezing’ by the way … you are aware & alert to the fact you are about to frickin’ die).

Many experts think this is a natural recovery response following a confrontation with a genuine or perceived threat.

Ok. Go ahead and think about this.  Yeah. Think about facing 430 reptiles.

Have you at any time really feel like you ended up frozen or immobile throughout a time of extreme fear or nervousness? Of course you have. In humans, certainly all mammals and reptiles, freezing usually happens proper before the real or perceived attack.


Inevitably it is this human inability to “shake-off” that brings about big difficulties.  Because it prohibits a complete purging of all this excess survival electricity.

And this, in flip, impedes the nervous system’s efforts to regain a sense of internal balance or homeostasis.

And that projects itself into trauma due to the fact the body now has to attempt to accommodate an extra of unused survival vitality.

And this mass of electricity stays bound in our bodies in which it rips us up mentally, emotionally, and physically.

And this, my friends, is “freezing.”

In other words … you are fucked if 415 (5 more busy by now) reptiles are trapped with you on a plane.

The good news?

We humans have the capability to shake-off this toxic mess in the end (or, maybe better said, after some time). We usually uncover a way to feel our way out of it (battle or flight if you want the technical jargon).

So by this time maybe you are ‘unfrozen’ and you can grab someone’s i-pad and start smacking the shit out of the closest reptile.

There you go.

Just trying to help if you have some random reptiles with you on your next vacation flight.

Or at least explain why you have ‘frozen’ as that alligator wanders down the center aisle licking his chops.

Written by Bruce