This week, we are delighted to welcome back Jules Older, a travel writer and videographer who hangs out at http://julesolder.com. He opines about San Francisco restaurants and New Zealand life on the apps, San Francisco Restaurants and Auckland Insider. He films the world, in brief snatches at www.YouTube.com/julesolder. And he’s published his first ebook: SKIING THE EDGE: Humor, Humiliation, Holiness and Heart. What Big Teeth You Have! is a chapter in Jules Older’s new ebook, DEATH BY TARTAR SAUCE: A Brave Travel Writer Encounters Gargantuan Gators, Irksome Offspring, Murderous Mayonnaise & True Love. It’s available on all ebook platforms and at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What Big Teeth You Have!
by Jules Older
“Timing is everything,” I muttered, as I tried and failed to hide the Miami Herald from my wife’s sharp eyes.
“What does it say?” Effin asked, peering over my shoulder. “And what’s up with that gigantic alligator?” She shuddered.
“It’s not an alligator, it’s a crocodile. They're, uh, making a comeback.”
“Where in Florida?” She gave her loving husband a look of deep distrust. “Not by chance in the Florida Everglades?”
But the Everglades is just where the crocs were coming back. The Everglades also happened to be exactly where we were headed the next morning. At my insistence. Against her better judgment.
Timing is everything.
We drove in silence toward the Everglades. The road was straight; the surrounding foliage, wet and wild. I kept my eyes on the road; Effin scanned the swamp beside the road like an O’Hare air controller. “Relax, honey,” I said. “No sense worrying about crocs and gators before we even get to the Everglades.”
Never taking her eyes off the swamp, she answered, “I suppose that’s why they call this road Alligator Alley, Mr. Smart Guy.”
“You're overdoing this, Effin. The article in the Herald said they pose no threat to people as long as nobody pesters them.”
“Oh? Then tell me, Dr. Large Reptile Maven, just exactly what constitutes pestering to a 15-foot-long crocodile with a brain the size of a walnut? Tell me that, and I'll stop worrying.”
“In my opinion —”
“Yes, and I'd like your opinion on why these crocodiles pose no threat when crocodiles in Australia are EATING PEOPLE!”
Some husbands take their wives to Disneyworld, some to Gay Paree. In retrospect, it may have been insensitive, even unfeeling, to take mine to a mega-swamp infested with jumbo-sized, snaggle-toothed, carnivorous crocs.
Still, when we reached the Everglades, the first thing I did was march up to the park naturalist and demand, “What threat do these creatures pose to my wife and, incidentally, just in passing, to moi?”
He looked me right in the eye. “None at all, sir; none at all. They’re shy creatures, reclusive reptiles who want to be left alone. They never bother tourists.”
From behind me, Effin muttered, “Uh huh. And what about Australian tourists?”
The ranger smiled, as one might smile at a visitor from a distant planet who was confusing, say, Scandinavian women and Florida manatees. In a soothing voice, he answered, “You must be talking about the Indo-Pacific crocodile. They grow up to 25 feet long and apparently do take their fair share of human lunches. But the American crocodile is smaller and much less of a threat. We’ve never had a problem with crocodiles or alligators here in the Everglades.”
Well, that seemed to cheer her up. And sure enough, the next day, she unbolted the motel’s door and, clutching my arm like a python squeezing the life out of a piglet, allowed me to walk her down to the canal.
“I've got a great surprise for you, honey,” I said. “I've rented a canoe. Now you can photograph all those big tropical birds, up close and personal. Isn't that wonderful?”
OK, maybe I should have thought this out. Maybe I should have considered what else besides big tropical birds she might photograph up close and personal. But she was game — when I climbed into the stern of the aluminum canoe, Effin climbed into the bow. We both started paddling.
Barely half a mile later, she leaned as far back in her seat as the laws of physics would allow, and whispered, “Get me out of here!”
“What’s the matter?”
“It’s a g-giant alligator, and it’s swimming r-right across the r-river!”
Her voice rose to an octave that was only fully audible to bats. “R-r-right in front of me!”
Sure enough, a dozen feet of black, glistening gator was swimming in deadly silence a dozen feet from the canoe. “Honey, remember what the ranger said. I don’t think it will hurt—”
“Get me out of here!”
While my bride sat rigid as a hayfork, I began to back-paddle with a vigor I didn’t know I possessed.
As I churned up vast quantities of canal water, I thought, What if the ranger’s wrong?
What if, to a gator, the very sight of us constitutes pestering?
Or worse, what if, to that walnut brain of his, people in a canoe look like a Mars Bar — crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside?
I kept right on paddling.