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Guest opinion: Attack of the garden hose

By Anneli Byrd - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Sep 11, 2023

Photo supplied

Anneli Byrd

Once I went to the zoo with my daughter and saw an exhibit on cockroaches that still gives me the shivers. The worst part was the hands-on element. "Touch a Live Hissing Cockroach!" the sign exclaimed, as though this were a desirable thing to do. Catherine -- I really wonder about her sometimes -- bounced right over.

"I did it, Mom!"

Shudder, "Great. Go wash your hands."

"You should touch one!"

"No."

"It's fun!"

"No way."

"Are you scaaaared?" she challenged.

"Yes. Let's move on."

"NO! You have to do it! You may never get another chance!"

"I truly hope not. Let's go."

But we didn't go. Instead, I let a 9-year-old child bully me into touching a live hissing cockroach. This will never be forgotten. Someday my will is going to read something like this:

"I bequeath all my worldly goods to my beloved daughter, Catherine. Except for the house. That's going to charity because of the cockroach incident. Ha Ha. Love, Mom."

Given how I feel about roaches, I couldn't be too smug when I learned that my stylist's mother is terrified of snakes. She limped in one day as I was getting my hair cut and told us that she had seen TWO giant snakes in her backyard. She told us how she screamed and ran into the house with heart palpitations. "I seriously thought I was going to stroke out!" Unfortunately for her, the backyard also had some nice plants in pots. For several days these went unwatered while she debated how much she really cared if everything in her yard died. Then, mustering all her courage, she carefully went outside and got the garden hose. The watering was going well until she turned and got a glimpse of a long green snake out of the corner of her eye. She shrieked and tried to run away but tripped, twisting her leg. Still screaming, she frantically tried to get away until she realized that the big snake was her own garden hose. "I'm getting a different colored hose! A black one!" she exclaimed. I belatedly remembered that snakes also come in black. Hopefully, she remembers this too, so a repeat performance won't be in her future.

Her experience reminded me of my own snake story. As it happens, I don't mind snakes. Or so I thought. When I worked at a library in Houston, we invited the "Reptile Lady," to come as part of the summer reading program. She brought in a variety of animals, including a big boa constrictor named Samson. I petted him happily as he lay lazily draped around her. Then she realized she'd left something important at home. "Would you mind staying in the room with Samson?" she asked. "He just ate. But he's not supposed to be left alone in public places." "Sure, no problem," I said, meaning it. Samson was beautiful. "Great, I'll be back in 15 minutes."

As soon as she left, he seemed to perk up, and I noticed just how big he really was. I'd never spent time alone with a snake before. Suddenly, I felt vulnerable. "Hi," I said. Samson stared straight at me and kept staring as he flicked his tongue, and I wondered if I smelled like the snake version of bacon. How fast could boas move anyway? He seemed even bigger somehow. Was he big enough to tackle an adult human? He was growing larger by the minute, and he kept eyeing me as though it had been a while since he'd had a really satisfying meal. It was a very long and creepy 15 minutes (hours actually, I think). By the time the reptile lady came back Samson was at least twice my size. Of course, he played innocent and instantly shrank back to his regular semi-harmless self. But I knew better.

I think my stylist's mom has a point. There is something unnerving about snakes.

Anneli Byrd is an academic adviser in Weber State University's Student Success Center.

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