After I made my coffee and sat down at my computer, I noticed movement behind a pile of books in the corner, a glimpse of black darting into the pile and out of sight.
Since the South seems to be Mecca for every species of roach that has been or will ever be, I went through the procedure of grabbing the nearest heavy, expendable object – thank you, User and Task Analysis for Interface Design – and inched toward the pile, waiting for the next sign of movement.
As I got closer, well, I saw some movement all right: not antennae and exoskeleton, but a forked tongue, followed by a black snout, followed by a Jesus Christ on a pogo stick that’s a goddamn snake and it’s in this room in this house that I live in ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod.
Some background on me: I’m not a snake enthusiast. I cringe along with Indy when he falls into the Well of Souls; I root for G.I. Joe. But neither am I terrified of snakes. I don’t recall ever having nightmares that involved death by constriction or frantic searches for anti-venom. A decade ago, my brother owned an albino python that spent so much of his life trying to escape his aquarium that I could feel only pity.
Some background on the snake: I think it got into my house by cimbing up a pipe in the laundry room. It was an Eastern kingsnake, a species that according to this site is not poisonous and actually can eat other poisonous snakes. Bad. Ass. At worst, it defends itself by biting and releasing a musky smell, which sounds more like a frat boy with rabies than, say, a black mamba.
Given that, you would think I reacted with some measure of calm; however at the time I knew nothing about this snake other than it was in this room right now holy crap.
So, like the man that I really am, I screamed like a toddler on baby’s first international red-eye and retreated behind my office chair.
Here’s a sign that perhaps I need to spend more time in monster truck rallys and shooting ranges and fight clubs and less time on the internet: faced with a snake in the same room as myself, I Googled. After I determined that this particular snake probably wasn’t poisonous (Did you know there’s a North Carolina online snake identification site?) I calmed down a little bit, but the snake still had to go.
While I was Googling, the snake started moving out from under the pile of books towards my spare bathroom. Until now, I had only seen the head and maybe six inches of the body. There was — more. Objectively, there was probably six or seven feet of snake; subjectively, it looked about as big as a Buick. I may have gulped when I saw how big it was.
So between the size of the Godzilla monster slinking into my bathroom and my total lack of faith in my own ability to accurately identify anything – in a particularly senseless moment in my food service days, I mistook a teenage girl for a teenage boy and, worse, argued with his/her father about it (they didn’t tip) – including whether or not this snake was poisonous, I decided to call pest control.
To limit the snake’s potential fallout area, after its last miserable scale fully entered the bathroom, I slammed the door behind it. Problem contained. [Dusts off hands]
Feeling a little calmer since the danger was out-of-sight-out-of-mind, I dialed up pest control.
“How can we help you?” said a cheerful voice with a Southern drawl (she drew out the “yoooooou”).
“Yeah, so there’s a snake in my house.”
“Ohmygodohmygod are you ok?” she said, agitated. She had now damaged my calm. “I wouldn’t be able to stand having a snake in my house.”
I had no idea how to respond to that. “It’s not pleasant,” was the best I could muster.
After answering some questions about the pest – size (“Monstrous”), coloring (“Evil-looking”), mannerisms (“Well, he came uninvited so he’s very rude”), she said, “I can have a guy out there in 10 minutes. But there’s a catch.”
“A worse catch than waking up to a snake in your house?”
“Our guy can catch it quickly, you have to keep an eye on it. Can’t let it out of your sight.”
“I can do that,” I said, envisioning tracking the snake from space with Google Earth. Or at most at a distance of several hundred meters with a sniper rifle.
“And you need to keep it in the same place. To do that, you need to stand kind of close to it and get its attention. It’ll get all defensive and stare at you and stop moving.”
“I don’t like the direction this conversation has taken.”
“I wouldn’t want to be you. But it’s only 10 minutes until my guy is there.”
I decided against listing all the things I was imagining could go wrong in ten minutes and hung up.
I moved back towards the bathroom. Since I assumed the snake was waiting for the door to open to exact its revenge, I inched it open.
A few degrees. Still alive. No snake in sight.
A few more, still no snake.
This dance continued until the door was fully open and the snake was, to my horror, not there.
Until I looked up.
The snake had somehow managed to climb up and along the wall and tangled itself in the miniblinds on the far window, a horrific weave of snake monster and cheap plastic.
I hadn’t signed up to face down a flying snake. To limit how close I actually had to get to this freak of nature, I grabbed a broom and stuck it in the snake’s face. Sure enough, it coiled up as much as it could while tangled in the blinds, hissed, and started shaking its tail. There was no rattle, but it made an awful annoying racket shaking the blinds. This was going to be a long 10 minutes.
The standoff continued: the snake hissing and shaking the blinds while I shove the business end of a broom in the snake’s general vicinity. The only way I could have looked less manly is if I was wearing a pink apron and standing on a stool.
Sure enough, after 10 minutes, “my guy” showed up. “My guy” was a lanky fella who marched right up to Godzilla and just snatched him up out of the blinds.
“Oh, this one’s kind of ornery,” he said as the snake coiled itself around his arm and repeatedly bit his forearm and wrist.
I followed him back outside to his truck, mind reeling (‘Ornery’ is all you have to say about it?!) as he peeled the snake off and tossed it in a cage.
I asked, “that doesn’t hurt?”
“Nah, that was nothing,” he said as he showed me his other arm, covered in puncture wounds of various sizes.
So, hey, if you ever want to be thoroughly emasculated, deal with a guy that deals with snakes for a day job.
As he started up the truck, he continued “If this happens again, you can probably just grab 'er or pick 'er up with a stick or something.”