Off to See the Lizards


Let me tell you a story about a girl from Ohio who was afraid of bugs. She hated small bugs, large bugs, and was more afraid of encountering a spider than a grizzly bear. She lived all over and eventually settled in Florida and one day a lizard crawled out from under her computer keyboard while she was typing and she nearly had a stroke.

When you’re moving to Florida people will tell you about the size of the cockroaches, the Palmetto bugs (which I suspect is just a cute, tropical name for a very large cockroach), the snakes, and the slim chance that you may see a wild alligator. But they don’t tell you that all other bugs will be suspiciously absent. Why? Because they’re all being eaten by the lizards that live inside your house.

I told my college friend and former campus newspaper editor Mike that I’d be moving to his former home state. He emailed me a negative vibe going on and on about all the things he hated about Florida. 

“If you can stand the 350 percent humidity, then the bugs’ll kill you,” he said. “Oh, and watch out for the fatally poisonous snakes.  Remember this rhyme: ‘Red and yellow kills a fellow. Red and black is safe for Jack.’”

OK, but what about my other kids? And what about me? What’s safe for me? I’ll tell you what’s safe for me - having all the snakes, bugs and reptiles removed from the state and relocated to Cuba or Alcatraz so that the mainland - all of it, even the parts that stick way out - is safe for human inhabitation.

I have no problem with wearing socks and shoes outside, steel-toed boots for that matter. I’ve become accustomed to glancing around in front of me when I walk on the sidewalk, always on the look out for flashes of red and yellow. I even give the newspaper a little shake before I take it inside, lest some little bugger has sought the comfort of the Palm Beach Post in the wee hours of the morning.

But there’s something wrong, very wrong, about shooing away an anole lizard so that you can get into the shower that you own, that you paid for, that’s part of the house that you bought, as a living human on the tip-top of the food chain. 

“You have the whole world out there,” I’ve shouted at them. “The Everglades! Ever heard of it?! Why do you have to come inside this house? It’s small and it’s too cold in here.”

Sure, they’re cute. They have a bright orange neck gobbler, paper thin, that comes popping out when they are in good moods and come in peace. Or when they’re ready to spit venom on you, I’m not sure. The baby ones are only about an inch-and-a-half long and look like something you’d find in the bottom of a Cracker Jack box. Adorable. But not when you’re at the kitchen counter eating a sandwich.

When I complained about the anole lizards to someone down here, he said, “Oh, that’s nothing. As close as Coral Gables you can find iguanas walking around.” Thinking he meant a zoo or petting farm, I said, “You mean in the wild?”  

“No! In the suburbs!” he said.

Great. So if they’re moving north, I’ve got that to look forward to. My only consolation is that they can’t fit inside the Palm Beach Post bag. I hope I’ll be able to see them coming.