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81st Street Subway station

New York, New York

Everyone’s favorite conman, Whit “Pop” Haydn, is fond of the tale of “The Scorpion and  The Tortoise.” As time goes on, I have become more and more appreciative of this little instructive fable. It goes like this…

A scorpion asks a tortoise if he could take a ride on the tortoise’s back in order to cross the deep waters of the local river. The tortoise replies that he’s no fool—the scorpion will just sting him as they go across the river. But the scorpion answers, “No, no worries, you’re protected; for if I went and stung you, you’d die, and then I’d drown in the middle of the river. It’s simple logic, you’ve got a fail-safe situation here.”

The tortoise thinks it over for a few minutes and then agrees. The scorpion hops on the tortoise’s back and off they go. In the exact center of the river, however, at its deepest part, sure enough, the scorpion stings the tortoise. The tortoise, in agonized death throes, sputters out, “What in God’s name have you done? We’re both going to die now! How could you?”

And the scorpion, now about to be enveloped in the deadly deep water, just manages to eke out, “I’m a scorpion. It’s my nature.”