I don’t want to sound too overly dramatic, but for me, this was traumatic. One of my biggest fears (other than needles, sharks and birds – I’ll tell you the story behind these some other time) is ALLIGATORS. Yes, scaly, disgusting, waddle when they walk, sharp tooth, strong jawed, beady-eyed, deformed feet, angry alligators. So you can imagine what it’s like for me to see one.
Yes, I will start the story with I was driving. Don’t let that fool you. It doesn’t matter. Alligators are fast vicious animals. Would you raise an alligator as a pet? The answer is no. Would you willingly go into a lake knowing that these beasts are circling around and underneath you? NO!!!
I was driving down the Florida Turnpike from Cocoa Beach back to Orlando. Life if grand; it’s sunny, the trees are green, one of my favorite songs is playing on the radio, I’m on top of the world with not a care in the world.
Then I see something in the middle of the road. I think to myself, “Gosh, that’s a big raccoon and/or possum”. I get closer, I then think “oh that poor deer, can you imagine being cute Bambi and then wham, headlights?” I get closer. HOLY MOTHER OF GOD. Alligator! I had a mild panic attack.
Okay, so you’re thinking, the alligator was dead Terah, relax. I WILL NOT RELAX. I know there are alligators in Florida, I’m not an idiot. I know that they can end up in the family pool or eating the neighbor’s yappy dog. But I wasn’t having a panic attack about it being dead in the middle of the road. I was having a panic attack thinking about how today and for the rest of the week I will be working and then laying out at my hotel’s pool/lounge area. I was thinking about maybe taking a stroll around the neighborhood. Now all I can think about is sitting at the pool or walking around the neighborhood and this miniature dinosaur walks over, bites me with its bone-crushing mouth, drags me into the pool and/or swamp, then doing that spin thing until it eats me for lunch (yes, I have a fantastical mind). Then I start thinking about waking up and going out to my car at 5:30am and seeing one of these assholes next to my rental car. I slowly started hyperventilating.
My fear of alligators came about when I was younger. I grew up on a nice piece of land with a pond. Tons of animals live in my neck of the woods, even scary ones like wolves and snakes. My father was always afraid that my brother or I would go down to said pond, trip, fall and drown (a completely rational fear as a parent). So, the way he kept us away from the pond was by telling us an alligator lived in it. I lived in fear for years (actually up until he filled the pond in when I was about 18-years-old, pathetic, I know. An 18-year-old believing that an alligator could handle Upstate New York winters is ridiculous. I can barely handle the winters!). So throughout my childhood into my late teens I lived in fear about an alligator living on our land. When we would open our pool and the water would be foggy or would have a chemical reaction, I wouldn’t go in it. Why? Because I was afraid that the alligator was hiding at the bottom (still to this day, I feel weird if I see the pool has an unfavorable tint to it).
I finally confronted my father about this when he closed up the pond. I asked him: “Dad, what about the alligator?” He didn’t answer me; he simply rolled his eyes and walked away from me. I never got a definitive answer, but being 18, I figured out I had been lied to the majority of my life.
Another issue I have with alligators that plays into my fear is the fact that I’m that person at 2am, when nothing else is on TV, I watch The Discovery Channel. The Discovery Channel is always playing a documentary about alligators or sharks; you can bet on it. I’ll watch the show into all hours of the morning and when I fall asleep, I have a nightmare. Since I watch The Discovery Channel all the time, I know too much about alligators, and how nasty they are. The shows Swamp People on the History Channel and Billy the Exterminator on A&E, in my opinion, are two of those shows on cable that you can’t help but watch (for me it’s just as entertaining as Glee), not only because of the alligators, but because the alligator hunters from Louisiana that don’t speak clear English and are insane for getting so close to those beasts and because of the crazy hair Billy rocks and his excitement while exterminating. Alligators have become entertainment in America and because of this, it can be misleading for kids.
What’s the moral of the story? Don’t lie to your children about these things! I lived in fear. I was never afraid of my parents, just the imaginary blood-thirsty reptile that lived in our pond. Telling your kids lies like this can affect them for life!
With all this said, I hope to God I don’t see another alligator anytime soon. I can’t handle the panic attack. And let me tell you, if I ever see an alligator, you better believe I’m going to high-tail zigzag my ass as far away as possible from the monster.
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