A Llama Drama

A low-speed camelid chase proves to be a better and more wholesome Internet distraction than a high-speed car chase.

KJRH/The Atlantic

A brief, tense llama chase around Phoenix is, it turns out, the perfect escapist antidote to the late-winter, late-week, late-afternoon blues.

As a pair of llamas (or possibly alpacas) ran around the Arizona city Thursday afternoon, the Internet's drones were briefly transfixed. The llamas were ideal heroes for the urban worker—renegades against civilization, trampling on lanes and across medians, resisting the police, and running free. Seeing these animals—theoretically domesticated and yet uncontrollable, refusing to yield to any of dozens of huge black SUVs filled with sheriff's deputies—seemed like a perfect symbol of nature revolting against the strictures of suburban life. The manicured, desolate sprawl of the desert 'burb created the ideal stage for such an absurd disruption of the most quotidian day.

The obvious analogue here is the high-speed car chase. Yet the low-speed llama chase is by any standard better. The protagonists are entirely sympathetic, not even suspected of car theft or drug use or violent crime. The stakes are low: You knew no one would flip a car or die or crash. Bystanders were in no serious danger at any point. The desk-shackled officeworker could admire these llamas without reservation.

And for a few brief moments, it seemed like the llamas might make it, despite the swarm of police and lariat-wielding ranchers surrounding them. Time and again they slipped out a tight spot, sneaking between two cars or around a reaching officer. Perhaps they'd make it out alive, slipping away in a real-life version of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. For a time, the two were separated, confounding helicopter pilots and scaring viewers; then, improbably, the duo was reunited.

It was not to be—first, the smaller black llama was subdued, then the larger white one was lassoed and captured. The poor animals were herded into a waiting trailer, and officeworkers returned to their drudgery. But their flight was not in vain. Sometimes it takes a couple of camelids to remind us of our essential humanity, and Thursday, they gave us that.