Most of my friends were baffled when I told them I intended to go to the Repticon reptile convention. One friend was repulsed and a couple more were terrified, as if by telepathic empathy they might encounter that same yellow rat snake I almost stepped on in the Ocala National Forest.
Once I started spotting snakes both in the wild and outside my back door, I decided that I needed to learn basic snake identification. This generally involved visually separating the venomous from the non-, and it isn’t always an easy task. Imitators abound, especially among water snakes. However, let’s play it smart: Living in Florida and enjoying Florida’s outdoors means that one needs to take some fundamental precautions and to educate oneself about some of the dangers, not all of which bite. Both rip currents and the sun are riskier than snakes on a day-to-day basis. Moreover, you stand a far higher chance of being bitten by fire ants or ticks than you do a snake. Both Mr. B. and I are nursing bad tick bites, both acquired in different places in the same week.
After two years in Florida, I have progressed to the point where I can gamely touch a non-venomous snake with one finger. Whether this is progress will be measured by the reader. The point is that I am doing things in Florida that I would never have considered in California, where I defined both expedition and adventure by trying new restaurants and beers.
A list of things that I did not do before but now do almost without thinking are:
1. Driving during tornado watches or driving when excessive lightning is present.
2. Using Port-a-Pots.
3. Going for two weeks without a manicure.
4. Going out of the house without makeup.
5. Wearing a bathing suit for the purpose of swimming.
6. Going to the beach and not being SoCal about cellulite.
7. Wearing hats, but especially wearing men’s fishing hats and an NRA cap (backwards).
8. Taking a bug bite like a man.
9. Entering any area that is known to contain snakes, which is pretty much all of Florida.
10. Driving by outlet malls without stopping.
Repticon is a popular showcase event for breeders and for the gawking general public, of which I myself am a member. Mr. B. is not, although he accompanied me to the Central Florida Fairgrounds and stood quietly by as I clicked away at the colorful array of snakes for sale and on display. I didn’t expect to see a Siberian lynx or eight-week-old macaws and I didn’t expect to touch an alligator. I understand that the lynx was a rescue animal, but I felt a pang of sympathy for the alligator, whose jaws were taped shut for the purposes of allowing the public to pose with it for photographs.
Since we attended on Sunday, we missed a lecture about reptile photography that I would have liked to attend. My photography skills are spotty, generally because I have not mastered anything other than automatic settings. This serves me well when I photograph a tree, but not when I am dealing with contorting snakes, fast-moving musicians, or other wild cats.