First, I have to thank fellow blogger, Sam, Living!, for inspiring this post with his own post featuring a venomous snake warning sign and the teaser, “Would you?” I guess when you are located in Australia like he is, this is something you have to consider with slightly more regularity than I do, and for that I am immensely grateful.
Second, I need to tell you that I have a very stereotypical, not remotely empowered, scaredy-cat reaction to mice and snakes. Any notions I have about being a strong, fearless woman fly out the window in the face of slithering serpents and zippy, disease-ridden mice (and turbulent airplane rides, but that’s a story for a different day).
Third, I know some of these tales will pale in comparison to other people’s experiences. Just moments ago, in fact, my brother’s friend regaled us with tales of his myriad snake encounters, and they pretty much make mine look like bedtime stories for young children, but these are my stories dammit, and I’m putting them out there.
Finally, a warning: If creatures that are creepy, crawly, slippery, or slithery turn you into a fainthearted wimp like they do me, you might experience the heebie-jeebies while reading this post. If you’ve had traumatic snake and/or mice encounters of your own, and are prone to flashbacks, proceed with caution.
Part 1: MICE
Shortly before closing on our current home, we found out from our soon-to-be new neighbors that the house’s security system had been tripped the night before, necessitating a visit from the police. Since the house had been empty for a year while the sellers prepped it for sale, and because my mind tends toward alarmist conclusions, I worried that rowdy, drunken teens had broken into the basement to party. I called my realtor, who called the sellers’ realtor, to find out what had happened. Long story short, nobody knew for sure. The police didn’t find anything suspicious. They said it was probably just a mouse that had tripped the alarm system. My reaction? I would much, MUCH rather it had been drunken teens.
Not long after moving into the house, I walked into the unfinished part of our basement, turned left toward a storage area, and saw a dead mouse on the concrete floor. Naturally, the husband had, just moments earlier, left for a cross-country coaching banquet that would take all afternoon. Feeling my heart start to race and my skin start to crawl, I made the only reasonable choice I could. I sprinted upstairs, putting as much distance between me and the Hantavirus-laden (surely) creature as possible, banged out a panicked text to the husband, knowing that there was absolutely nothing he could do about it for several hours, and tried to distract myself from the sickening rodent decomposing on the floor below by weighing the pros and cons of hiring an exterminator given all our recent moving expenses and hoping desperately that the dearly deceased was a one-and-done fluke.
Early one morning a short time later, I was about to head to the basement to exercise. I opened the basement door and nearly deafened myself with my own shriek. A mouse was about two steps away from me, on his way up to the main floor of our house. I’m pretty sure I freaked the mouse out, because before you could say bubonic plague, it was making acrobatic leaps, four steps at a time, back down the stairs. (Nothing like a screaming human to inspire your highest, longest – and possibly world-record-breaking – leaps ever.) Meanwhile, the husband came running. I screamed that I saw it run into the laundry room. The fearless husband (my hero xoxoxo) then spent several minutes prone on the floor – buck naked, mind you – simultaneously trying to capture the thing and prevent it from scurrying out of the laundry room. I stood by, jumping up and down and murmuring omigod omigod omigod omigod. Finally, the husband prevailed. Somehow, he got the revolting varmint into a bucket. Not a totally heartless wench, I didn’t want to kill it. (Helpless at the bottom of a deep bucket, it didn’t look quite so deadly.) We drove several miles away and let it out into the woods. And without further discussion, an exterminator was summoned.
Part 2: SNAKES
Lake Como, Italy: The husband and I were taking a dip in the lake at the bottom of a beautiful sloping garden between our hotel and the waterline. He was still splashing about, beating himself up for not packing his swimming goggles, while I drip-dried on the steps that led down to the water, underneath a narrow arbor intertwined with leafy vines. Out of the corner of my eye, I spied movement. A snake was slithering its way down the side of the arbor an arm’s length to my right. Cue the screaming, the jumping up, and the sprinting in the opposite direction. Back at the hotel we recounted the life-threatening encounter to the desk clerks. In order to determine the species and whether it was actually worth the dramatics, they asked me what colors it had on its disgustingly sheddable skin. Uhh, how the heck should I know?! It was a fight-or-flight, flee-or-be-killed situation. I didn’t have time to document the myriad hues on its long creepy back. Let’s just assume it was the most horrifyingly deadly species that Como has to offer. Otherwise I’ll end up looking like a real ass.
Colorado City, Colorado: The husband and I were taking a run on a dirt road in the wilderness near our campground. As we approached a bridge that crossed the highway, I saw a stick on the ground. No biggie. It’s a stick. I barely registered it. That is, until I was practically upon it. That’s when I realized with horror that the stick was not a stick. It was a snake sunning itself in the dirt. I was left with no choice. I was forced to leap the thing like a hurdle at a high school track meet. When my feet touched the ground 8 seconds later (nothing like a snake to inspire your highest, longest – and possibly world-record-breaking – leap ever), I kept sprinting. When I had put a good half-bridge distance between me and the offending animal, I stopped to catch my breath and check to see if I had wet myself. The husband, who had been several paces ahead of me, had turned around at the sound of the blood-curdling scream just in time to see my death-defying leap and subsequent hot-footed dash. Going into coach mode, he praised my high knees and fast pace and encouraged me to keep up with this new, excellent running form. With great difficulty, I refrained from kicking him in the shins.
Cochise’s Stronghold, Arizona: In my early twenties, I took part in a Colorado Outward Bound semester course. One day during the rock climbing section, we made our way to the base of our morning climb. Before harnessing up, I excused myself to use the facilities (in this case, facilities meant a cactus big enough to hide my naked butt, but not too spiky in case I lost my balance). As I made my way along a rough, thorny-plant-strewn path, I was suddenly stopped in my tracks by a chilling sound. It was a diamondback rattlesnake hissing at me to f&#! off or else. I had one leg bent, dangling mid-air, about to lean into my next step, but there it was, right where my foot wanted to land. Thankfully, I was a spry, sure-footed twenty-something. I swiveled around on one leg and hightailed it out of there. Back at the base of the climb, the instructor reminded me that I needed to come down from my wide-eyed, hyperventilating state in order to climb and belay safely. That I did, but from then on, I wisely took my morning constitutional back at camp.
Tucson, Arizona: A few years ago, when the husband and I faced yet another school calendar with misaligned spring breaks, I embarked on a solo trip to Tucson to escape the late-winter drear and hike in the Santa Catalina mountains. I found that native Arizonans, once they get a whiff of your deeply entrenched snake fear, take sick delight in telling you all about the close encounters, near misses, and outright attacks they or their associates have experienced. Based on the horror stories I heard, these people shouldn’t dare open up their garage doors for any reason ever, much less relax in their backyards, for fear of being jumped by a massive rattler or disturbing a nest of hissing, twisting babies. (Note to self: never move to Tucson.) I’m no dummy, though. I came to Arizona prepared. During all my hikes, but especially ones that were rather deserted, I jangled my keys, clapped my hands, talked loudly to myself, cleared my throat – anything to frighten off the deadly critters. And it worked – I didn’t see a single snake! When I got home and told the husband all about my exploits, he guffawed uproariously, reminding me that snakes don’t have ears and can’t hear. If anything, he said while dabbing the tears of laughter from his eyes, the vibrations from my footfalls kept them in their dens and out of my hyper-vigilant way. Like I said, I’m no dummy.
Post-script: In case you are wondering, we have not had any mice since the exterminator worked his rodent-busting magic (knock on wood), and that was several years ago. If you want his name and number, contact me.
If you have any Close Encounters of the Creepy Kind, I’d (kind of) like to hear about them.