Saturday, August 21, 2010

Are there snakes in Mississippi?

My wife is terrified of snakes.  Absolutely, completely and irrationally terrified.

Before we moved to Southern Mississippi, my wife had a traumatic experience with a non-venomous snake that bitten off more than it could chew in our driveway in Kentucky.  One bright, warm morning my wife walked out to the car to do her errands when she noticed a small snake in the process of swallowing a toad.  When the snake saw her, he (or she) slithered backwards into a crack in our driveway, disappearing until only the head with the legs of the toad still protruding was visible.  My wife was never the same since.  That night when I returned home, my lovely wife recounted the horror of that experience.  It was then that I casually told her, “Don’t worry, Love.  We are moving to Mississippi where there are no snakes.”  In her emotionally fragile state, she believed me.

I am not sure why most women have an abhorrence for legless reptiles.  Perhaps it is related to the first encounter humankind had with a snake.

In any case, my wife now realizes the folly of believing someone so prone to leg-pulling such as myself, even if she really wanted it to be true.  Recently our next door neighbors found a nest of small snakes living under their driveway, which has my wife in an veritable panic.

I tried to calm her fears by explaining that she was far more likely to get attacked by a rabid raccoon than bitten by a venomous snake.  Although Mississippi is home to 40 species of snake, only nine are venomous, and being bitten by venomous snake is rare with death even rarer In fact, about 8,000 people a year in the US are bitten by venomous snakes, with only 12 fatalities.  This means that your chance of dying by venomous is about one in 200,000.  You are three times more likely to die being struck by lightening than by a venomous snake.

You are roughly 1,000 times more likely to die in a car accident than by a snake, which is why I am really thankful that my wife didn’t see this:

Snake in a truck

Yes, that is a LIVE SNAKE riding with that guy.  A moment earlier, the snake was sticking its head outside the window, enjoying the breeze and the warm sun.  My wife would have gone into hysterics if she had seen this.  I know that Dogs love trucks, but I didn’t realize that Snakes did too.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Toilet Paper – A million and one uses


There are things here in America that we often take for granted: Freedom of speech, a reasonably stable economy, Baseball, Apple Pie, our Interstate Highway System, the Bachelorette Reality TV Series and even toilet paper.  Why toilet paper?  Well, I have lived or worked in 14 different countries, and have traveled to another 5 or 6 and have to confess

that the American backside has it good.

When living in Argentina in the early 90’s, the expatriates living there referred to the local toilet paper as “60 grit” (a reference to a coarse grade of sandpaper).  When available, the toilet paper there was waxy and coarse.  At times, due in part to periods of hyperinflation, it was more comfortable to use 100 Austral bills in a public restroom than the toilet paper provided.

Since its first use in the sixth century AD, many improvements have been made to toilet paper.  Here in the good old US of A, we have two-ply, three-ply, quilted, scented, and even colorfast.  You can get hypoallergenic and dermatologist approved tissue, or even tissue infused with lotion, or aloe vera extracts.

On a side note, one distinct benefit to living in Argentina, however was the prevalence in bidets.  If you haven’t used a bidet, I highly recommend that you try one out.  No, they are not used to clean your shoes as was referenced in the first Crocodile Dundee movie.  One word of advice from personal experience: Thoroughly familiarize yourself with the operation prior to using the bidet, especially the controls for hot and cold water and the height of the spray.  Failure to do so could cause a burned back.

In addition to the obvious, there is another ingenious use for toilet paper in America: Rolling houses.


Basically you take the toilet paper and after starting to unwind the roll, you toss it high into trees with a spin.  The paper gets caught in the trees, and unravels as it falls to the ground.  It is amazingly difficult to clean up due to the fact that it is perforated.  Pulling on it simply causes it to break off high into the tree. 

Having had to clean up a lot of toilet paper in my yard during my high school years, I have learned an invaluable technique to getting it out of the trees: Light it on fire.  The fire burns from one end up to the top of the tree, and goes out at the peak.

Growing up, my father used to ration the toilet paper in the house.  In order to reduce expenses, he also limited the number of our friends that could come in to use the bathroom.  He was convinced that our friends were using more than the maximum “Four Squares Per Wipe” allowed, and that was why the toilet paper was being consumed at such a high rate.  Truth is, my youngest sister was secretly pilfering and hoarding a roll at a time in order to go out at night with her girlfriends to decorate other people’s yards.

In the end, we Americans are getting blamed for damaging the economy through our need to take care of our backsides.  Soft tissue paper apparently isn’t so soft on the environment.  Is it eco-awareness on the part of the British, or is it Toilet paper envy?