Controversies big and small aside, Phineas Taylor Barnum was quite an interesting guy on a few fronts. “This way to the egress” made me laugh as a well-read kid in grade school who got that little joke and I think that I imagined an egress being some sort of catlike creature one could never quite get a good look at, but everyone would have a description of if asked. You know how that business tends to go, right? Someone asks if you saw the thing and without fail, a person will offer up a thin description that another person will agree with and add to until you have something that might look like a cat (maybe, sort of). No one can agree on the actual size, but sure, it looks like a cat.
Barnum was quite the con man with many successes and failures and even more awful when it came to animal care, but he sure could pack in the crowds for better or worse. The whole egress stuff came about when the folks who came to see his exhibits were sticking around a wee bit too long and he wanted to free up space fast. Granted, it’s entirely possible that a few smarter attendees to his museum knew what an egress was and maybe didn’t fall for the ruse. But I’d like to think that given the rather non-clever state of today’s rubes, people back then were about as smart as they are now. But today, they own assorted computing devices that actually make them less smart because they take too much information they see online as some sort of fact and don’t even consider filtering out the more bizarre things they read.
On another note, I was in the supermarket last week and picking up a box of unsalted tops, I spied a familiar, smaller row of red boxes on a higher shelf. Yes, there were a bunch of Barnum’s Animals staring back at me, now free-roaming without the familiar cage bars. I’ll note that I didn’t like the new artwork, but saw the need for the change. Growing up so long ago, circuses and zoos were part of the childhood routine. But the last time I was at a circus, there were no animals in that big top, and as for zoos, the one up here in the Bronx has gotten a few new attendance rules since the pandemic started. By the way, while I liked those animal crackers as a kid, my preference changed to the Stauffer brand a bit later. That hint of mace and nutmeg did it for me. if you must know.