I like snakes as much as any woman my age, which is to say, I’d rather find a member of the Taliban in my house. That’s what happened last Saturday night when I saw an electric cord on my dining room floor. And it started to move!
I watched in horror as the three-foot reptile slithered under the door of the closet where I keep my household cleaning products. How can this be? I don’t live in the Amazon. I live in one of Philly’s nicest zip codes. I stuffed a towel under the closet door and called my boyfriend.
“Barry, there’s a snake in my house!” I said.
“Gee, I don’t know what to say,” replied my soon to be ex-boyfriend.
Next, I called Philadelphia Animal Control.
“There’s a snake in my house!”
A laconic customer service rep named Bethany said, “We don’t do snakes.”
Being of sound, but quickly unraveling, mind, I called 911.
“There’s a snake in my house!”
A police operator who sounded as if I was distracting her from purchasing a magnificent fake diamond ring on QVS informed me that “someone” was on their way. Two hours later, I was still waiting, splitting my attention between the closet and SNL. Even though Lady Gaga was hosting, the closet was more compelling.
A little after midnight, a police woman the size of Bubba Smith filled the doorway. Ordinarily, I’d be terrified to let her into my house. But I was immeasurably grateful. My serpentine houseguest would soon be history. Or so I thought.
“Where’s the snake, ma’am?” she asked.
I pointed at the closet.
“I need to see it,” she said, “Open the door.”
Me? Common sense should’ve told me this was a bad move. But I tend to be obsequious in the presence of law enforcement. If she had demanded to see my driver’s license or dental records, I would’ve shown them to her without hesitation. Trembling, I removed the towel and opened the door. The officer and I stared into a closet that revealed my lack of housekeeping skills. Decades of electrical cords, dust cloths, brooms, mops, gift-wrapping paper, shopping bags, Hanukkah candles and X-rays from when I fell off a motorcycle in my twenties. (I’m sentimental about concussions.) No snake.
“I can’t report it if I don’t see it,” said Queen Kong. “Pull that stuff out of the closet.”
Huh? Recent events have implied that disobeying law enforcement orders can lead to deadly consequences. I grabbed a broom and started poking around the closet, pulling out rags and air-conditioner covers, one by one. Holding my breath.
“There it is!” I said, pointing at a serpentine shape on the beige carpet.
Suddenly, the officer was halfway out the door.
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“I’m afraid of snakes,” she squealed, moving at a speed that would make her a top NFL pick. “Animal control is on its way.”
I looked again at the snake. It was gone! Now, I no longer had a snake in my closet. I had a snake LOOSE in my home! I decided that the best place to wait for Animal Control was in bed with a towel stuffed under the door. At 1 a.m., the doorbell rang. I didn’t bother to look through the keyhole. I’d welcome a serial killer, as long as he (or she) had murderous intent when it came to snakes. I threw open the door and saw a tattooed man the size of a seven-year-old with a badge, a long pole and a hook.
It occurred to me that this entire event might be a ’60s flashback. First a serpent. Then a giant policewoman. Now a Lilliputian. God knows, I’d done my share of hallucinogenics.
“I was told you guys don’t do snakes,” I said.
“Who told you that?” he said.
He then informed me what I already knew: The policewoman should never have asked me to release the snake from the closet.
“It’s probably behind your refrigerator,” he said, before wishing me a good night.
Sleep was out of the question. I did what most people do at two o’clock in the morning. I went online to explore my worst fears. I determined that my snake, who I now thought of as Melvin (as opposed to Jaws) was probably not poisonous. The key word was “probably.” I ordered snake traps, big yellow plastic boxes that attract snakes but don’t kill them. According to the directions, when a snake crawls inside, it can’t crawl back out because it is glued in place like a homemade Valentine. You’re supposed to take the trap outside and set the snake free by spraying the poor thing with olive oil.
I think I’ll save that special task for Barry. He’s earned it!