All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
August 26, 2009
As summer starts its fade, I feel immense comfort in knowing that the local snake population will soon be sound asleep in their comfy dens.
For most people, nothing generates more heebie-geebies than snakes. Even though I've held one and wrapped it around my neck, I still don't want to come across any type of snake at any time. I know many folks say that snakes are just as scared of us as we are of them and that a lot of snakes take care of other critters and even deadlier snakes, but just as many folks also say that a good snake is a dead snake.
Look -- snakes are just flat-out creepy. Plus they have sharp fangs that can sink into my skin.
I don't like fangs.
That said, I still like to hear a good snake story.
Take, for instance, my good buddy Patrick Savalas and his recent snake tale.
(Patrick's name has been changed to protect his sense of manliness, and no pun was intended with the term "snake tale.")
Patrick and his girlfriend love to take trips to the scenic Buffalo River. They've spent many summer weekends this year pitching their tent on the banks of the Buffalo, taking in fishing, hiking and the occasional canoe float down the river.
The other weekend began like all the others. They set up their tent and unloaded all their food and supplies. Patrick put their food inside the tent and zipped it up to ensure the goodies would not attract flies.
Having set up camp, Patrick and his friend decided to go on a hike for about 90 minutes. Upon their return, hunger had set in, and Patrick unzipped the tent to get some food. He stepped inside and zipped the tent back up behind him. Bending down to look for a snack, Patrick saw something move out of the corner of his eye. He looked over and, there, in the corner of the tent was a big thick rattlesnake.
How Patrick controlled his bladder at that particular instant will always be an amazing and mysterious feat to me, but still, adrenaline and fear shot through our hero when he recognized the unwelcome visitor to his tent.
Patrick fell back in a jerk and fumbled with the zipper for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, he pulled up the zipper, tripped through the opening to the outside, and zipped the tent back up, leaving the snake inside.
Shaking and stumbling on the bank, he saw a canoe with three guys coming down the river. Patrick frantically waved his hands, and the floating trip pulled up to the campsite.
"I'll give you guys twenty bucks if you kill a rattlesnake I found in my tent," he said.
"How big of a snake is it?" one of the guys asked.
"Big enough," Patrick said.
Our story ends with the guys taking their canoe oars into the tent, coaxing the snake outside, and killing it with the oars.
I think it's safe to say you'll never find me camping on the Buffalo.
Another story is somewhat second-hand, but the guy who told it to me swears it's true.
A local farmer found a long copperhead on a dirt road. As he got out of his truck with an axe to kill the snake, another truck pulled up behind him.
"What are you doing?" the driver asked the farmer.
"Gonna kill this copperhead right here," the farmer replied.
The driver jumped out of his truck. "No! Don't kill it! Hold on," he said.
The driver walked over to the snake, carefully put his boot sole on the snake's head, and then reached down to pick up the copperhead by the neck and tail. He then took the wriggling snake to the big metal toolbox in his truck's bed, opened the box, quickly dropped the copperhead inside, and then slammed the toolbox shut.
Perplexed, the farmer asked: "Why in the world did you do that?"
The driver of the truck smiled.
"For the past few days, some jerk has been stealing my tools, one by one," he said with a smile. "Now...he's gonna have a nice surprise waiting on him."
All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
August 19, 2009
So, I'm checking into a hotel a few days ago.
The woman at the front desk looked to be around 60, maybe older.
She took my information and credit card, and then asked: "Do you have any kind of AARP discount?"
She looked up from the monitor as if I was ready to tell her my AARP membership number -- something I won't officially have for another eight years. (Well, actually seven years and some change, but who's counting?)
"What did you say?" I asked.
"Do you have any type of AARP discount you would like to use?" she asked again, now with a condescending smile that seemed to say: Oh, poor thing. He's already having some hearing loss.
"I heard you the first time," I quickly replied -- and not without noticeable irritation. "Just because I refuse to use Just for Men hair coloring doesn't mean I'm a member of AARP."
Her condescending smile froze for a second, and then she looked back down to her computer monitor. "Well...," she huffed. "I guess that would be a 'No' for me."
A shot of adrenaline suddenly made its way to my nerves. My arm flew across the counter, and my hand snatched a healthy mass of her hair. I jerked her head down to the edge of the counter and didn't stop. Her left temple smashed against the marble before she knew what was even happening.
Finally, the first scream of pure terror erupted from her. In the corner of my eye, I could see a bellman running my way. I moved back from the front desk, still clutching the woman's hair. Her body lumbered over the counter and to the floor. By then, the bellman had arrived, and I had pulled my Pilot disposable fountain pen from my shirt pocket with my other hand. Flicking off the top with my thumb, I reached back and plunged the metal tip into the bellman's eye. His screams of pain instantly drowned out the screams from the front desk witch. Pulling out the pen, I heard a sucking pop and noticed his eye was now impaled on the pen's tip. He fell to his knees in agony, smothering his now empty eye socket with both hands.
I tossed the pen to the floor, then turned and pulled up the woman to my face.
"Now," I said. "Do you think a man 50 years or older could offer such deadly moves like I have in the past 10 seconds?"
Trembling and sobbing, her formerly snooty demeanor now crumbled in humbling heaps, she shook her head.
"No," she said.
I jerked her head back.
"No, what?!?" I snarled.
"No, sir," she said in a broken whisper.
Slowly, my grip loosened, and her crumpled hair fell from my hands. She moved back in hesitant steps, smoothed down her blouse and walked back behind the counter to take her place at the computer.
Then, I felt a hand around my ankle. The bellman.
"No, Scotty!" She screamed. "He's too deadly."
With the quickness of a cobra, I spun my ankle around in his hand, and pulled off the best roundhouse kick I've ever unleashed in my life. As my boot heel connected with Scotty the Bellman's face, five to six teeth suddenly exploded out of his mouth. His unconscious head hit the floor with a heavy thud as his teeth scattered and bounced off the carpet.
Picture that in slow motion, and you'll truly come to experiencing my raw power as closely as possible.
I slowly turned again to the shaken front desk attendant.
"Now," I slowly said. "Let's start over. Shall we?"
The above incident was a dramatization. Although Mr. Grace was recently asked if he was a member of AARP at a hotel check-in, he did not react in such an extremely violent manner at the mistake.
(We added the roundhouse kick and its deadly effect for dramatic purposes. Insurance has supplied Scotty with a new glass eye, so everything's fine.)
The recounting of this incident serves as a warning to all front desk attendants: never ask a faintly young-looking individual who refuses to use Just for Men hair coloring for AARP identification. Only wait for the customer to offer membership benefits.
To do different could have tragic consequences.
Not only for you, but for bellmen foolish enough to confront men as powerful and lethal as Rob Grace.
Thank you for your time.
This column sponsored by the National Association of Hotel Front Desk Attendants and Pilot pens, maker of the new Pilot disposable fountain pens. Gentle enough for fine calligraphy, yet strong enough to impale and remove human eyeballs.
All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
August 12, 2009
Rob will be out this week. Check back next week for more from him.
All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
August 5, 2009
I took the kids to the Independence County Fair and Livestock Show the other night, and for the first time, they didn't want to have dear old Dad following them around.
At 11 and 13 respectively, the son and daughter refused my offer to walk with them and their friends.
"Come on," I pleaded. "I can win a giant stuffed pink teddy bear for you. We can ride the carousel. And if you want, we can all share a big cotton candy roll! How's that sound?"
The kids and their friends only looked at me in silence. Oh, and I think I noticed some of my daughter's friends slowly back away from me a few steps.
So, there I was, all by my lonesome, walking around for three hours while my kids and their pals roamed the grounds and rode the rides.
What to do, what to do? Well, I certainly wasn't going to ride the rides by myself. I didn't see myself sharing a Tilt-a-Whirl bench with a kid.
"Mom," the child might say. "I don't wanna share a ride with the creepy white-headed man."
Or worse, I couldn't see myself riding the Tilt-a-Whirl alone.
"Jim," a friend of mine might ask her husband, "is that Rob riding the Tilt-a-Whirl by himself? That's really sad."
"Sort of creepy, if you ask me," the husband would likely respond.
So, scratching the rides off the "to do" list, I decided to head to the livestock barn.
Why, you may ask. Well, because large cows amaze me. These things were monsters with big thick rear ends that could crush a bulldozer if they sat on one. They looked as if they could conquer a city like Godzilla -- stomping around and knocking over skyscrapers with a nudge of their huge heads, flames shooting from their enormous nostrils, people screaming and running from the cow rampage. They were that intimidating -- which, come to think of it, is somewhat of an embarrassing thing to say. What man in his right mind would be intimidated by a cow? For that matter, what man in his right man would picture cows with flames shooting out of their nostrils?
But longtime readers of this column know with whom they are dealing, right?
Exiting the livestock barn, I noticed the evening's musical entertainment, the New Florida Boys, performing on the fair's stage. I'm not sure what the difference is between the New Florida Boys and the old Florida Boys, but I do know that the New Florida Boys didn't seem that new. They looked like retired insurance agents in matching shirts. The folks in the audience seemed to be enjoying themselves, but Southern Gospel is not my thing. Quartet-style singing is like nails on a chalkboard to me, so I decided to leave and brave the midway.
Hundreds of people, mainly kids and teenagers, slowly moved along and between the rides. Microphone-equipped carnies loudly screeched through cheap speakers trying to get folks to play their particular game. The roar of generators that powered the midway equipment sometimes drowned out the giddy screams of the riders. And weary-looking moms and dads walked along like zombies with their brood perched on their hips.
Oh, and then there was me, walking alone through the crowd, thinking that I likely looked odd wandering around with such a large group of, mainly, kids.
I'm quite sure some parents were saying: "There goes that creepy white-headed man." "Why is that white-haired man walking around by himself?" "Keep the kids away from that white-headed guy, Gerald. Should we call security?" "How did his hair get so white?" Or, "Hey, it's one of the New Florida Boys!"
Finally, an hour or so later, I was home with tired feet, dusty clothes and a layer of sweat that I needed to shower away. Crawling into bed, I realized I had survived another night at the Independence County Fair, and I wouldn't have to brave another one for another year.
But the next day, my son asked: "Hey Dad, can we go to the fair again?"
And that night, the creepy white-headed man made another appearance, wandering alone and getting odd looks while the kids did their thing.