An Unwanted Visitor

I’m sitting in my office today, feeling a bit paranoid. I can’t quit checking the floors, looking to see if anything’s creeping around in the corners or behind the shelves… because, when I went out into the common area of our offices today, I found a little strand of slither laying beneath a chair – Pituophis catenifer sayi. If that’s too cryptic, I’ll translate: I found a freaking bullsnake in the office!

This really presents a problem for me, because I absolutely hate snakes. I have long subscribed to the ‘only good snake is a dead snake’ school of thought, but our facilities manager sort of likes them. He’s a retired Naval officer, so I really don’t want to get on his bad side by bludgeoning something with which he has some bizarre emotional bond. He’s also one of our elders here and I don’t really want to get flagged for ‘conduct unbecoming’ or ‘incorrect handling of the snake’ or something like that. Plus I don’t want to look like a total pansy, freaking out over a 9 inch snake. (Or was it 19, it seems to be growing as I write.) It actually was one of this year’s brood (they typically hatch in late summer) so it wasn’t very big, but that fact offers little comfort to my mind as I think of the myriad of spaces where these little ones can get to.

I realize the complete lack of rational thought that is implicit in my fear of snakes. If I were a Vulcan, that may do me some good, but as a verifiably flesh and blood member of humanity… they creep me out and no amount of rationality has been able to change that. All the ‘baby steps to conquer your fears’ stuff? Worthless. I’ve looked at pictures of snakes, watched videos of people playing with snakes, stared at snakes through glass, laughed at the zoologist lady who wanted me to touch the snake (and shunned my kids who actually did touch said snake)… but I’m still not a snake guy. My dreams tonight will most likely include me getting bit by a random snake – probably right after a pegasus ride or that floating thing we all do…

My brother kept a python in his foot locker in the Marine barracks for a while, and he’s picked up snakes that kill people… seemingly no fear there. My dad stepped on a coiled rattler in cut-offs and deck shoes once and stood there while someone not named me brought him a shovel. (Just to be clear, the rattle snake wasn’t wearing cut-offs – that would be my white legged father. By the way, dad, those cut-offs were cut way too off.) I stepped on a little garter snake once and almost wet myself, while my wife looked on and laughed (though she did try to stop me first).

With the scales and the slithering and the flicking of the tongue… I mean, seriously, if you’re going to sense me, just look or even listen. If you’re a dog, maybe even smell me, but to sense me with your ribbony tongue? It’s just creepy.

We’ve been here for 5 years now, and had 3 snakes found in the building that I know of – all within the last 10 days. Now, I’m not brushing up my resume just yet, but if we turn into that kind of church, I may have to head for Ireland (big fan of St. Patrick’s snake handling approach there).

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