Island Packet — Well, everything seems to be under control around here. Swine flu is getting good and vaccinated, at least among you chirpy, vivacious Younger People. Windows 7 is out, giving us Mac people another great many reasons to direct smug, self-important smirks at each other (try it, it’s fun). The Balloon Boy’s weird parents will soon be given over to torture, as they should be. Yep, everything would be pretty much as solid as could be expected, were it not for the small flotilla of behemoth Burmese pythons slithering their way from Florida to the Lowcountry to devour us all.
Now, unless you are aficionado of Celtic music or belts, there’s really no upside to learning that many thousands of snakes are en route to your town, and yet this may be the case, according to a story last week that has inexplicably not caused residents to scamper chaotically into the streets with curlers in their hair, slippers on their feet and mad rictus grins of horror frozen on their faces. Because, and I want to be absolutely clear on this, SNAKES ARE COMING TO KILL US ALL. You guys have your little slap-fights on the blogs about health care or whatever, I’ll be moving all my essential documents, potable water and slow, chewy smaller dogs to the top floor.
Lest you think I am being needlessly alarmist — LEST YOU — I refer you to the a recent study by the U.S. Geological Survey. Oh sure, it may sound wacky, but it’s actually a very serious organization, one that is apparently funded by “the federal government” with whatever money has not been allocated to blowing giant holes in our innocent moon.
Survey says two things:
- No, I am not above pointless game-show references, and
- The snakes in question are non-native giant constrictors owned by people in south Florida who purchased them as pets and/or conversation pieces, because people in south Florida are incredibly, boundlessly, forehead-slappingly stupid. The non-native snakes, the study continues, are either freed or escape and begin breeding like people in the waiting room at TLC’s offices. And at this point they do what most creatures do when they realize they’re in south Florida: attempt to flee as quickly as possible, in this case by heading straight up the East Coast.
One of the study’s authors, a man named Gordon Rhodda who has no concept of the damage he is doing to my sleep patterns, says he’s heard “guess-timates” or 30,000 to 150,000 of the goliath monsters already are slithering about the Everglades. And when I say “slithering,” I mean “meandering with a sound like a heavy leather jacket being dragged over a tile floor,” because these things can clock in at a length of 20 feet and a weight of 200 pounds. And yes, they are known to be aggressive to humans, like some alligators and Glenn Beck.
“We know alligators eat them, and we know they eat alligators,” Rhodda said. (This is true: I worked for a newspaper in Florida that once ran an amazing front-page photo of a massive snake that had attempted to devour a whole gator, which successfully escaped becoming a snack treat by bursting, with some apparent haste, out of the snake’s side. I don’t remember what happened to the story, but I do know this: I did not polish off my scrambled eggs that morning.)
But this issue affects me directly. A few weeks back I broke my three-year streak of going running around the Lowcountry without encountering a giant snake; this one wasn’t of the 20-foot-long variety, but he was big enough to make me say, and I’m quoting here, “Whorpph!” and spot-freeze in place abruptly enough that my iPod actually went on for about 20 or so steps before it realized I was well behind it, crying . In a situation like this, of course, there’s only one thing you can really do: remain absolutely motionless until the problem solves itself. And this snake was only six feet long! If it was any bigger I’d have probably tried to float away in a balloon.