We’re all Ollie the Bobcat, aren’t we?
Busting out of that enclosure at the National Zoo, where Ollie played second-string cat next to those insufferable lions and tigers. We felt her pain, rooting her on during her ill-fated and all-too-brief escape.
She was every American worker, underappreciated, shunted to the side. She was forced to share real estate with a caracal lynx – a lynx! Have you seen the ears on that thing? As our new president might say: Sad!
The bobcat habitat wasn’t even on the zoo’s main circle around Big Cat mountain, just a little culvert, no more glamorous than the accounts payable or customer service department.
No one was putting Ollie in a corner. She saw her opening and busted loose.
She’s no fool. She knows what’s happening in this town.
First, the new administration targets the federal workers, next the immigrants, then the zookeepers. Ollie had a plan – to get out while she could. Off the grid. Canada!
She was a feline prepper. Sensing the constitutional apocalypse coming, she wanted to shake that dependence on the government kibble.
She’d seen others try, of course. Rusty the red panda went on the lam in 2013, then got captured in Washington’s Adams Morgan neighborhood. That same year, Natalie the flightless vulture used a gust of wind to hang glide out of her enclosure. She was flyyyyyyyiiiiiiing! Then she landed in the zoo’s parking lot. She was back behind bars in no time.
No, Ollie was going to do it better.
She had her own Twitter account with an inspiring bio: “Finally free and looking for some fun!” Ollie started posting foodie picks of tapas and craft cocktails. She tried steak. Slammed tequila. She slept in. Got VIP tickets to big games. Went to shows at the Black Cat. All the things we’d do if we busted out, “Office Space”-style.
Some in the city freaked out about Ollie. Schools shut down recess to protect the kids. The residents of neighboring Woodley Park were demanding a wall be built around the National Zoo. The lynx, they said, should pay for it.
Sweet, 25-pound Ollie, a 7-year-old from Texas, was labeled a menace.
She was okay with that: Ollie’s the name. Fear me. Know me. “This pussy grabs back!” Ollie hissed.
On the National Mall, folks were wary.
“If that animal comes in here, I’m running,” the security guard at the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History told me. She was checking bags by that giant whale, the elephant in the rotunda, the snarling, stuffed bears. There are live tarantulas upstairs. Surely, she has seen “Night at the Museum.”
No, none of that worried her. But Ollie. She feared Ollie.
Inside the museum was Ollie’s worst-case scenario. A taxidermied bobcat behind a glass case. “Lynx Rufus,” the placard reads, forever suspended in mid air, almost catching that startled pheasant, but not quite.
“I’ll take a picture so I can find her,” declared a 34-year-old visitor from Seattle who was eager to help catch the cat, whose fame had spread from coast to coast.
“Yeah, before she went missing, no one really bought the bobcat stuff,” a zoo gift shop employee said. “Now all of the bobcat toys are selling out.”
Sure enough, pandas galore. Elephants lining the shelves. Those lions forlorn. But only four Ollies left.
That’s right, suckas! Bei-Bei who?
“Actually, those stuffed animals are lynxes, but they kinda look alike,” the gift shop woman said.
That lynx again.
On Wednesday, the lynx in Ollie’s habitat was pacing.
“Her friend got out, but she didn’t,” explained a zoo worker doing repairs on the exhibit, which was surrounded by yellow crime-scene tape.
The lynx chased after a cable the workers dragged across the ground, kitten-and-yarn style.
Sad, sad lynx.
Then zoo officials announced that they had suspended the search for Ollie. She’d won. Freedom lovers everywhere rejoiced.
But the celebration was short-lived. Late Wednesday afternoon, just hours after she’d accepted a Twitter invite for a steak dinner at Bobby Van’s, Ollie was recaptured.
There she was, right on the zoo grounds. In a cage by a bush. The look on her face. She was Melania at the inauguration, Chris Christie on Super Tuesday, Silda Spitzer at her disgraced husband’s news conference.
No tapas. No Canada.
Stuck in Washington.
We are all Ollie.