Robocamel rides again

Published 7:07 am Wednesday, April 13, 2005

By By Lee Weyhrich
Science fiction has brought us some crazy ideas, everything from Mars invasions to Robocop, but one thing no one's ever written a book about is a robotic camel jockey.
When the United Arab Emirates decided they needed to change a few of their child labor laws they looked to one of the countries favorite pastimes, camel racing.
This year the country is replacing jockeys under the age of 16 with small portable robots that can be controlled by remote.
According to an Arab newspaper, "The mechanical jockey is light in weight and receives orders from the instructor via a remote control system fixed on the back of the camel."
According to the paper the prototype was tested last weekend and the first robojockeys would go into service in August.
According to international human rights groups, children as young as four are currently working as jockeys and many of them have been sold by their families into service as virtual slaves.
The hope is that the robots will eliminate the slavery process.
Who knows what would happen if People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) got a hold of this information. Within a week the robot jockeys would be riding robot camels because the camels, too, are slaves.
Who wouldn't pay to see that?
Within a week the camels would be given American citizenship and plopped into some kind of retirement village with hot tubs and saunas where a trained staff of PETA crazies would wait on them hand and foot.
The thought of a resort village could have been what prompted a baggage handler at the Sydney airport to steal a camel costume from a passenger and drive down the runway in a little baggage car doing his best impression of Camelus Camelidae.
David Cox, a passenger on Qantas airlines in Australia, complained after he saw a baggage handler driving around Sydney airport wearing a camel suit that had been packed into his baggage.
A marketing manager, Cox was taking a crocodile costume and the camel costume from Sydney to Melbourne in a large bag marked "animal costumes." Somehow the crocodile costume and the camel costume were to be some sort of marketing campaign, but anyone that's watched Discovery Channel or Animal Planet knows that the two animals aren't exactly on the same end of the food chain. But that's not the point.
The point is some baggage attendant rummaged through this guy's suitcase, found a camel costume, stole it and wore it as he zipped down the tarmac.
Airport security said this case puts into question the overall airport security. More likely it puts into question the sanity of the guy that stole the costume knowing that it could affect his job.
Question: Would you wear a camel costume without knowing where it has been?
Answer: Only if I get a cool robot.
Lee Weyhrich is the Managing Editor of the Atmore Advance. His column appears weekly.

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