hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA


February 29, 2012

Poor Tom's Almanac

Let's get one thing straight. Reptiles freak me out.

The sight of an alligator or crocodile ready to snap its jaws gives me the shivers. Quite frankly, I wouldn't be able to tell the difference if either of them encountered me in a swamp.

It's not the same with a dog or cat. I'm more for God's more docile types, though if I saw a pit bull ready to plunge, I'd pray for salvation.

And so it was during a recent trip to Florida. Life's always a bonus when you have relatives living in the Sunshine State across from the ocean. Far cheaper, too.

Not that I got to swim in the warm Atlantic. The sharks and other ocean beasts were competing for notoriety, and the best place to avoid them is from the shore. Not the same with gators.

My brother-in-law has a nice place on Ocean Drive which he enjoys sharing with special kinfolk. So each year, we make our trek south to enjoy his hospitality. This time, he gutted out a warning as we arrived.

"There's a reptile loose in this complex," he warned. "We caught a passing glimpse of him as we entered, and left the door open. He should be gone. But then again ..."

I buckled at the knees. My wife was ready to collapse. Should we move our bags to a nearby hotel or gut it out? At the prices they get for a hotel room, perhaps we should just stay calm and take our chances.

"They won't hurt you unless they're agitated," my brother-in-law deduced. "Same with a bear or any other vicious animal."

What's this guy telling me? That a Great White will smile at you within an arm's length? I've seen the movies like "Lake Placid," which remind us to know alligators are meant to be taken seriously. If you're into Disney, just look what happened to Captain Hook.

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