Monday, October 02, 2006

Of Playboys and Snakes

I was going to do a post about Yahoo, but then Miss Snark ran a quiz on her blog. One of the answers reminded me of an incident from my youth. I decided to tell that story instead.

Although I was born in New York and lived in New Jersey as a child, we moved to Florida when I was about eleven. My mother, a city girl, was not happy about the move. She once killed a green garden hose with a rake, convinced it was a snake about to eat my youngest brother. She was so steadfast in her belief that Florida was swarming with poisonous vermin that she instilled in me an unhealthy fear of reptiles.

The family that lived next door had a college professor father, a RN mother and three small children. They also owned a six- or seven-foot boa constrictor. I don't remember the snake's name, but in our family lore, it became Snake with a capital "S".

Snake went missing one spring. They looked in all the usual places (behind the refrigerator, under the dryer and in and around the hot water pipes). No boa. After a couple of months, everyone assumed that the reptile had managed to escape into the great Florida swamplands.

The family periodically asked me to babysit. They didn't pay very well, but the father had a subscription to Playboy that more than made up for the low wages. By the time I was fourteen, I had even begun to understand the cartoons.

One Friday night, about twelve weeks after the snake had gone missing, I was babysitting next door. The kids were all in bed, and I had just settled down in the den for a couple of hours of quality time with Mr. Hefner. I was curled up on one end of the sofa with a stack of magazines when Snake came up from under a cushion at the opposite end of the couch.

I don't even remember leaving the house. I didn't give a thought to the three tots asleep in their little beds. I didn't stop running (or screaming) until I threw myself into my father's arms in my own house.

Daddy led me back next door where he ascertained that Snake was still (mostly) in the sofa. He didn't mention the Playboy magazines scattered all over the sofa and floor. He closed off the den and told me to stay in the kitchen until the family returned home. I didn't want to stay, but he reminded me I had accepted the job and had a responsibility.

I spent the next three hours sitting next to the phone, waiting for the parents to return so I could go home to be grounded for reading Playboy.

Daddy never mentioned the magazines.

I don't think I ever babysat for that family again either.

After I responded to Miss Snark's quiz tonight, she commented on one of my answers (It is appropriate to scream when a client is getting ready to sit upon a chair occupied by a reptile). I told her the tale of Snake. Her reply included this: "Have you seen Snakes on a Plane? I'm guessing not. (snicker!)"

The funny thing is that I couldn't wait to go see Snakes on a Plane. The afternoon it opened, I dragged a friend to see it. Even did a review on this blog (see August 19th). I suspect that staying in that house guarding those children that awful night helped me to gain a sense of mastery over my fear. At any rate, I haven't killed any garden hoses since then.

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