How to catch a monkey

Do you know how to catch a monkey?

Putting aside the question of why you would want to catch a monkey – you may well have a very good reason for doing so – have you ever considered how to go about actually catching one? There are the obvious traps: a pit covered with leaves or a spring-loaded net, but there’s a much simpler way.

Find a hollow log with a knot hole, just big enough for a monkey to put his (for the sake of easy pronouns, we’re trying to catch a boy monkey). Put some food, like some nuts – not berries, it has to be something that the monkey can grip with his little hand without destroying it – just inside the knot hole.

And then wait.

At some point, assuming you have done this in a locale frequented by monkeys, one will come along and will find the food. If all goes well, he should put his hand into the hole and grab the food but, because the knot hole is just big enough for him to squeeze his hand into, making a fist creates a ball that is too big to pull out.

Assuming that the log is big enough that the monkey can’t simply walk away with it attached to the end of his arm, one simply walks up and grabs the monkey. He can’t run away because he can’t remove his hand and he won’t let go of the food because he wants it too much, even at the expense of his own freedom.

Does it work? Can one really catch a monkey this way? I have no idea. I have heard the story from, admittedly apocryphal sources, however, as you may have surmised, that is not the point. I suspect one shouldn’t be attempting to catch monkeys at all and, therefore, it would be unconscionable for me to advise you on how to go about doing it.

It is a metaphor, which leads to a useful adjective: monkey-fisted.

It may sound obscene but it isn’t – it means to behave in the same fashion as a trapped monkey and it is frighteningly common in its applicability. Here is a very simple example:

I recently attempted to make a purchase from an online store. I knew that the product was out of stock and was prepared for a wait time. After waiting the advertised time, I wondered how much longer and contacted their support staff. The response was tantamount to “whenever.” Having located the item elsewhere, I asked for the order to be cancelled.

Their response was that they could not (their words: would not is more accurate) offer a refund and could only offer store credit. That may sound reasonable except for two things: firstly, whenever is unreasonable in anyone’s language – that even includes the possibility of a date following my natural death – and, secondly, there was nothing else in their store that I wanted. I wanted this particular item, only.

Furthermore, often I make “test purchases,” where I will buy something small to see whether or not I would like to continue to buy from the store. Even with reviews, on the Internet no one knows you’re a dog, and good reviews are often the product of friends and relatives. Therefore, it pays to be cautious.

One can be assured that I will never again do business with this company, but that’s not the point of this story, either. Following the incident, and after a few other exchanges where I was made to feel that my continued business was not valued, I posted a scathing review on Yelp!

I had caught my monkey!

Given that there were already a significant enough number of negative reviews about the establishment, I was adding to an already significant pool. Furthermore, since mine is now (at the time of this writing) the most recent, and the previous most recent was also resoundingly negative, it’s likely that anyone looking for something on their backlog will go somewhere else.

Now think about this – there is a growing pool of negative reviews. While it’s all very well to say that there’s plenty of suckers out there, that well dries up quickly when everyone is saying stay away. Here comes Frank. He’s looking for something and he searches for reviews and he comes across mine.

“Oh my god!” he exclaims, and goes on to the next store, where he proceeds to spend two hundred dollars.

How much did they get from me? Fifty bucks. Already they have lost money – some $150. But they have my fifty bucks in hand and they want that. No refund. I have your fifty dollars.

But my review cost them far more. I don’t mind losing the fifty dollars (which I’m sure I have) because, not only have I now cost them more, but I also was given a poignant topic for the Church newsletter on a silver platter. When you have that many bad reviews, well that’s a lot of lost revenue, all for a few bucks in hand. They are monkey-fisted. They won’t let go of the fifty dollars, which they have in hand, to get the intangible freedom (or riches) that are available.

It’s just bad business.

The phenomenon isn’t limited to business, people can be monkey-fisted in other ways, too. Relationships are particularly susceptible to the monkey-fist syndrome. One may feel trapped by friendship or familial bonds. People are “trapped in a loveless marriage.” Such people are only trapped because they will not let go of the paltry grains that are the dross of the relationship. It is sad but, as my urologist says, divorce costs so much because it’s worth it.

What else are you monkey-fisted about? Is life really what you wanted it to be? Are you trapped in a doomed relationship? Are you trapped in a dead-end job?

Let go, and run free!


Published by The High Priest