True Confessions of a Floridian

True confession time: I have been obsessing over the weather. I can’t get over the atypical May we are having down here in Orlando, and I can’t stop commenting on it. I feel like I’m in a Seinfeld episode – you know, the show about nothing. Only I’m not Jerry or George, I’m one of their parents, or worse yet Uncle Leo.

Let me explain (sans Seinfeldian references). You know that old saying – it’s not the heat; it’s the humidity. That usually refers to the fact that it’s the humidity that is making the day miserable, not the heat itself. But recently it’s been the humidity, or lack thereof, that has made the days downright tolerable, if you’re in the shade and it’s morning or evening, if you’re wearing lightweight clothing, and if you’re not exerting yourself. It’s been wonderful.

We have not experienced this kind of low humidity for a sustained period of time during the month of May or June since way back in 1998. The downside is that Florida is on fire and we have a drought that is coaxing snakes, alligators and bears out of their natural habitat into our yards, but isn’t it nice out!

All of this humidity talk is driving Bob crazy, but only a little. He’s figured out a way to either help pay for our vacation or silence me by putting a jar on the kitchen table and every time I mention the “H” word, I have to drop a dollar in. Looks like we’re going to have a great vacation! I’ve added $5 to the jar just with this post, plus I sneaked the cash out of Bob’s wallet so it’s a win/win for me.

Chopped (not the cooking show)

So, I killed a snake. All by myself. I’m brave like that.

A couple of weeks ago we spotted a small snake on our pool deck. Our son said it was either a baby rat snake or a baby water moccasin. It was small enough that it slithered down into the drain holes around the deck perimeter when we tried to get it. Sigh.

Fortunately for us (not him), the next day it was back. My son took care of it. (Thanks, Joe!)  Since his identity was uncertain and we have children around, not to mention I’m around, it seemed best to do him in.

A few days later, one of the grandchildren saw another snake of similar size on the deck. I ran to the garage and got my machete. (That’s right. I have a machete. We do live in Florida, after all.)

The key for me at this point is to be aggressive and not think too much about what I’m doing. So I moved in fast and chopped him in half. Shudder! It took a few chops, which is disgusting. (I think I need to sharpen the old machete.) So I was chopping and gagging like I was going to lose my lunch, but I didn’t!

I sent pictures out (of both halves) to my snake experts and got no response. I felt awful thinking that I may have chopped a perfectly “beneficial” snake in half. Not!

I maintain that if I come upon a snake and it surprises me, that snake is not a beneficial snake. People die of heart attacks or trip and fall while running for their machetes every day. I don’t want to be a statistic.

As a matter of fact, the next day another snake that could have been a twin to the chopped one showed up on my pool deck. I chopped away at him but that little thing coiled up and struck back at the machete. Wait a minute, that’s not how we play this game. I chop. It dies. I’m disgusted. End of story. That’s how it’s supposed to go down; but this time all 12 inches of him proved too fierce for me and my machete, and then for me and my broom, and finally for me and my hose. He got away.

I had to know what kind of snake had slithered onto my pool deck? What in the world was going on here? We had a tree taken down recently, and I assumed some stupid snake environment was disrupted; and they were coming my way in protest. So I broke down and did the research myself. The results: I killed a baby pygmy rattle snake. On my screened-in pool deck. I’m awesome.

The coast has been clear for a couple of weeks now, so I guess the word is out to any neighboring snakes that I have a rusty machete, and I sort of know how to use it. So for now we’re back to idyllic Florida life. It’s great, especially when you consider pretty much the entire state is built over a swamp. We Floridians come to expect interaction with the occasional snake, spider, scorpion, alligator, disease-infested mosquito, or time-share salesman. It’s part of life down here. I’d tell you more, but we’re preparing for a hurricane, so I better sign off.

Another reason to like birds - they're great at catching snakes

Another reason to like birds – they’re great at catching snakes

 

Wearing Clean Underwear is a Good Start

file4281249501933 (1)I pulled up to a red light the other day and waited about four cars back. When the light turned green, Car #2 in line hit the gas. Car #1 did not. Both drivers emerged from their cars. I assume that the driver in Car #1 was in a rush that morning, because my keen observation skills coupled with my new glasses revealed that she forgot to put her pants on. She had on a shirt and pantyhose and shoes. That’s it. She was so close to being ready for her day, but she missed it by that much!

There she was standing in the road in all (or half) her glory. I don’t like to admit thinking like this, but it seemed fitting that she got rear-ended – like she was practically asking for it. It’s like my mom always told me, “Put on clean underwear in case you get in an accident and end up in the hospital.” (Side thought – do hospitals refuse to help people unless they have on clean underwear? Is there a person in charge of underwear inspections?)

Anyway, I guess her mom should have been more explicit and follow that up with “then put on pants or a skirt.”

If you’re a parent you know the loophole I’m talking about – “Mom, I am wearing clean underwear. You didn’t say to put on pants.”  Or, “Mom, I did stop hitting my brother. Then I started again. I didn’t know you meant stop hitting him forever.”

We need to be prepared for whatever might happen as best we can, clean underwear covered by pants included; but let’s not get carried away. The last few days down here in Florida we have been watching Tropical Storm Colin. By “we” I mean every local news station. All we heard about was T.S. Colin and how we should not take it lightly. To be fair, it did rain a lot; but that’s what it does down here in the summertime.

Two weeks ago T.S. Bonnie went through, and it was barely mentioned. The inconsistency is upsetting if, like me, your name is Bonnie and you may have to wait another six years to have a storm named after you again. Adding to my sadness was the fact that the storm was coming through on my birthday. Not just any birthday either – my 60th birthday. I suppose it was a fitting storm for my birthday weekend. It started as a “low.” Then it became a disturbance, and finally a tropical storm. By the end of my birthday, it had lost most of its energy and was merely a depression. Just like me.

Don’t feel sorry for me though. Loss of energy is nothing new to me. It has been part of my life ever since I had children.

With God’s help, I have decided to embrace 60. They say that it’s the new 70, which to me is definitely an oxymoron. Putting the word “new” in front of 70 isn’t fooling anybody. I am 60 and fine with it (on most days). The fact that a few days after celebrating my new decade I was down and out with vertigo doesn’t mean I’m old. It only means I was dizzy, but I’m looking at the vertigo as a blessing. It gave the opportunity to take that three-day nap I had been longing for. Happy Birthday to Me!

The take-away from all this is always look for the silver lining (just not too closely at the silver roots).

Florida is Being Invaded – The Squeeze is On!

In case you’ve been wondering if there is anything exciting and/or controversial going on in Florida that might also be worthy of being made fun of, wonder no more.  On Saturday, January 12, Florida kicked off a real nail-biter of a challenge.  It is being covered by the news, but not nearly enough for me; so I thought I’d better make sure that you aren’t missing out on this huge story.

You may or may not know that Florida has a problem with many invasive, non-native species.  Lionfish, Muscovy ducks, Cuban tree frogs, and Hulk Hogan are a few of our more popular ones.  But none, not even Hulk Hogan, can cause the stir that the Burmese Pythons are creating in the Everglades right now.  In layman’s terms, the snakes are eating everything in sight.  They are putting the squeeze on our native mammals, birds and reptiles.  They are wreaking havoc on our ecosystem.

Therefore, in the true, Florida spirit that spits in the eye of every pesky mosquito and reptile around, 2013 Python Challenge is under way.  The competition will conclude on February 10 at 11:59 PM.  The idea is to eliminate (kill) as many pythons as possible.  (This is the controversial part.  PETA is up in arms about this.  Oops, maybe my wording should be changed because I don’t know if PETA actually gets up in arms, but you get the picture.)

Anyway, there is a prize for the highest number harvested (killed) and a prize for the largest one harvested (killed), too.  Anyone 18 or over that has an extra $25 can enter.  And 16 and 17 year-olds are welcome when accompanied by a registered parent.  So, what are you waiting for?  Head on down to The Everglades; grab your machete, guns and Off! and come on.

Yes, for a mere $25 you can have the time of your life, assuming you don’t:

  1. Get strangled by a python
  2. Have an alligator attack you
  3. Get bitten by a water moccasin or any of the other venomous snakes that inhabit the area
  4. Become overwhelmed with a heat stroke
  5. Contract any of the following mosquito borne diseases:
    1.  West Nile Virus
    2.  Malaria
    3. Dengue Fever
    4. Encephalitis

We really have it all down here.  And, talk about a deal – that price is approximately the same as two days of parking at any of the major theme parks.  You are probably starting to plan your trip right now and no doubt asking yourself, what can I use to harvest (kill) those big boys?

Here is where the real bang for your buck kicks in, you can use a gun.  Warning, they insist there is an ethical obligation to kill these snakes in a humane manner.  So, play nice.  Nice means shooting the snake in the head is fine.  Specifically that means you must be careful “to use a safe but effective caliber and making sure that you destroy the snake’s brain.”  (This is quoted from http://www.pythonchallenge.org/toolkit/euthanasia.aspx where you can get all the info you need for your outing.)

The trickiest part of shooting the snake is finding the correct spot to target.  They instruct the hunter to make an imaginary line from the rear of the head on the left side to the right eye and then do the same on the opposite side of the head.  The point of intersection is the target.  I can only imagine myself finding a snake and trying to draw those lines in my head before I blow the thing to smithereens.  I guess it’s a good thing I’m not out there.  Figuring out how to follow the hunt on twitter was challenge enough for me.

They are also on board with using a machete to decapitate the snake, though you can tell they aren’t quite as happy about that, what with the chance that a clean cut may not be made and the ravenous, invading snake that has so compromised our state’s ecosystem might not be killed with one fell swoop.  Not to mention the fact that if you chop the snake up into more than two pieces, it will not be eligible for the longest snake award.  I’m not making that up; it’s in the official rules.

Your next question is likely, who came up with this plan to send seasoned hunters and novices alike into the wild to grub for twelve-foot reptiles?  It’s the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and its partners.  These guys love an opportunity to have dozens of armed people descend on the Everglades for an old-fashioned snake hunt.  I think it’s a great idea, too, though I will not participate due to the fact that I am really pretty wimpy and don’t like to sweat, be strangled by snakes, or attacked by alligators.  If I want to be bitten by a mosquito, I don’t have to go all the way down there for that.

I was wondering who can afford to take an entire month off of work to play hide and seek with pythons with only an off-chance that they may win a whopping $1500 prize.  But I discovered that many of those registered are not out there every day; and hey, unemployment is still pretty rough down here, so if time is not a problem, why not go for it.  (See my list of five good reasons above.)

And if you’re thinking about stacking the deck by planting a python or two for you to “harvest,” think again.  That’s a no-no.  According to the official rules, harvesting a python that was formerly a pet gets you disqualified.  That rule is a bit ambiguous to me because the python problem is largely a result of people letting their pet pythons go in the wild when they became too much for them to handle.  Yes, all kittens, puppies and baby snakes are adorable (not!), but they do grow up.  Think, people, before you purchase that exotic animal!  Talk about buyer’s remorse!

As of this writing the count of pythons stands at eleven, but it’s early.  Every Friday and Tuesday the official website will be updated.  You can click  http://pythonchallenge.org/ to keep up with it.