Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Real Magic Kingdom

Two years ago our friends Stan and Lana moved their family to Florida and I figured that was the last we would see of them. It wasn't that I thought we would lose touch, I just assumed that they would all be eaten by alligators. As everyone knows, gators are everywhere in Florida, and they are sneaky killing machines. I always figured the only reason there are any people in Florida is because occasionally alligators get full. There are few things that scare me, but gators and Ann Coulter top the list. The possibly they could breed (both are cold blooded reptiles) keeps me up at night, but I digress. A few months ago Ryan talked me into planning a trip to Orlando to see Stan and Lana, using the rationalization that they had lived there quite a while and they, their kids, and their pets are all still alive, and have lost nary a finger or toe. I said yes, but on the condition that we go to one place: Gatorland. I knew it was time to face my fear. And this weekend, I did.

Gatorland is a classic theme park in every sense of the word. Visitors are greeted by a large gator sign, and walk past a concrete gator mouth to get to the ticket booths. You can buy gator t-shirts, gator hats, and gator glasses. Gator bites, gator ribs, and Gatorade are all sold at the snack bars. And, since they are the namesake, there are gators of every shape and size almost everywhere you look. For the most part they are in enclosures, safely kept behind fences, and moats, and glass. That wasn't good enough for me though, and the entire time we were at the park I had the chills. It didn't help matters that all of the warning signs features attempts at humor like "those who throw litter into the animal enclosures will be asked to retrieve it." Yeah, great, make it look like the alligators have a sense of humor. After all, prey is easier to attack when it's doubled over with laughter.
Ryan, thinking he was being a good guy, decided to buy me the "junior wrangler" package at the park, which featured a pack of hot dogs to feed to the gators, a ride on the train, and a chance to have my picture taken on the back of a gator. When he told me that I thought for sure he had to be kidding. Had someone at this park lost their mind? And why the hot dogs? Weren't the tourists doing their "rides" enough for the gators to eat? Stan and Lana's kids thought this was hilarious. Yes, they were laughing at my probable death. "That's something for the little kids to do," Cody cackled. Well, I guess kids would be the logical food choice, since they have smaller bones. Josie assured me that it was safe, that they taped the mouth of the gators, and that she had done it before -- when she was nine. I still was not convinced.

For the next few hours we wandered around the park, and I gave myself a mental pep talk. I knew that alligators have no mouth strength once their jaws are closed. Tape would keep the mouth shut. Of course, if it didn't then the gator would just be really pissed because it's mouth had been taped shut, and would probably want to take it out on the person next to him. And that would be me. I worried about the headlines, and how everything else I had ever done would be forgotten, as the only thing that anyone would remember was that I was eaten by an alligator. I wondered if Alanis Morisette would write a song about me misusing a common vocabulary word. And then it was
time to face the gator. I wish I could tell you what was going through my head, but I don't remember anything but panic. Lucky for you, and less so for me, Ryan had the video camera.



Well, at least the people watching me seemed to enjoy themselves. Oh, wait, it gets better though. There was a photographer taking pictures that were (of course) for sale. Oh, and you could get the picture printed onto a t-shirt! I think you see where this is going...

Ryan calls it the most awesome t-shirt ever. I call it exhibit A in our divorce proceedings. At least now I am not afraid of alligators any more. Not because I touched one though, but because now I have a bigger fear: Ryan wearing that shirt in public. Oh, or Ryan wearing tat t-shirt in public and then running into Ann Coulter... Now I'm scared.

14 comments:

Sarah said...

Wearing Crocs to ride an alligator? You so did that to be funny, right?

Cate said...

That is the most awesome t-shirt ever. I am sad that Ryan didn't get them for the whole family.

Oh, and Lib, everything you say can be considered an euphemism.

DC Diva said...

What a great picture. I want that t-shirt.

Logical Libby said...

Okay, first of all I would like to say I was beign funny with the Crocs, but I am just that unfashionable.

Second, I have found the way to make a million dollars. Who wants a Libby at Gatorland t-shirt?

Ellen said...

aw, i got beaten to the croc comment.

but really, that is the most awesome t-shirt ever.

Tara said...

Why are you fucking with that innocent gator? You know I'm half Floridian, right?
Remind me to tell you about the time I went fishing with my dad and grandaddy in the Okefenokee Swamp and they let me drink all the soda I wanted until we were far from shore...

Amanda said...

With your track record of being bitten by every species of critter on the planet, I can see why you have that fear. However that video is classic - and the gator picture just saves Sally from more hat wearing embarrassment this Christmas.
As for the t-shirt - I have a whole new respect for Ryan.

Emily-Ione said...

That t-shirt is freaking brilliant!

Sprite's Keeper said...

I think I'd have to say that the little guy hamming it up is actually a croc, (it's the eyes, they're EVIL!) but gators aren't that bad, right? Also, if you cover their eyes, it calms them down. And if you turn them over and rub their bellies, they fall asleep. (Actually, their brain is very small and floats, so they actually lose consciousness which is against the law in Florida, so not only would you go to jail, PETA would be after your ass. And PETA is worse than jail, according to some celebrities.) Looks like a good time to this FLoridian! You're linked and welcome to the Spin Cycle!

Joanie M said...

What a great spin!!! Love the shirt! And I so am afraid of crocigators too! You are a braver woman than I am!

Camille said...

That is very very VERY funny. Thanks for spinning!

Rachel said...

I enjoyed that video a lot! I probably would have reacted the exact same way, but it was much more fun watching you! :)

sandiesimplysays said...

I wandered over from Jen's spin cycle. The look on your face in that picture is priceless! And if it was me, that shirt would probably mysteriously disappear. :)

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

Came from the spin cycle and aren't you funny? Great spin. And I feel the same way about gators. Been worried about my sis and her family ever since they moved to Florida.