Saturday, October 31, 2015

Allie the Alligator

Before relocating to South Florida in 1973, I assumed that wild-life other than assorted birds and earth worms lived in zoos just like in NYC. I never saw a live snake slithering anywhere I lived in New York with the exception of my childhood summers spent in the Catskill Mountains. It wasn’t until after we moved to West Broward in South Florida and I was greeted by a rat snake on my walkway that I realized my new home was, according to the map, in the Everglades. As far as the natives, meaning snakes, assorted lizards, humongous frogs, and the grandest Everglades’ beast of them all, the alligators, were concerned, I was poaching on their turf, and they weren’t relocating.
            Shortly after moving into our home, my then young sons came running into the house screaming, “There’s an alligator in the storm sewer.”                 
After visual confirmation of what I hoped was a prank, I called 911. I was told not to stress because the “gator” would find its way back through the drainage pipe into the lake opposite my home. Because this beautiful body of water was really part of the South Florida Water (Everglades?) system, it is home to beasts that liked humans for snacks. Experts assured me that the chance of Allie the Alligator leaving the lake and crossing my neighbor’s property and then the street to my front door was slim. However, my lush greenery was home to the other Everglades inhabitants like possums and snakes. During one hurricane, my husband and I sat safely in our living room and watched in horror as the wind blew snakes out of the Areca palms that lined our property.
It took about 10 years for me not to care if a lizard dashed in through an open door. They don’t bite and are more afraid of me than I them. Also, they usually die within a day. If a small frog invades, and I hope I don’t gross you, I put a plastic cup over it. The next day I use corn prongs to remove the almost lifeless creature and toss it onto the grass.
            Whenever I see a snake near my house, I head to the supermarket and buy boxes of good old moth balls. Google says they are the same as snake repellant products and much cheaper. I sprinkle the balls around all my entrances and throughout the garage. Friends know that if they approach my home and smell the camphor, I spotted a snake on my property.
The active-senior community where I now live, about 40 miles north of our first Florida home, is near two nature preserves. Many of the retirees who are from northern cities incorrectly believe all the alligators in this area of Palm Beach reside in those two locations. Neighbors who fish in our man-made lakes claim they have seen small gators. As of yet, I haven’t spotted one, but you’ll never catch me walking near the water.
Unlike my previous home, my present home is on a lake (that is also part of the same system linked to the “real” Everglades). The first time my Atlanta family came to visit, my grandson tied his dog to the palm tree near the lake so it would not wander.  His father, who was sitting on the patio, sang, “alligator bait” repeatedly. My grandson has two parents raised in South Florida. He needed no explanation of his father’s song. The pet was quickly brought into the screened area.
            Recently my granddaughter visited me during her spring break from college.  She likes to jog at night.  We have guard gates, and supposedly it is safe for young girls to jog alone in our community, but I always worry about potential danger. My heart rate soared until she returned and immediately informed me the jogging path was filled with walkers and joggers. She knows of my propensity for worrying for what is supposedly “nothing.”
            The next morning an email came from our property manager with a picture taken around sunrise that day of a 6- 8 foot alligator. It was in the middle of the main road that borders our jogging trail—the very trail that my granddaughter was on just a few hours before.  As of yet, Allie the Alligator hasn’t eaten the bait in the trap that has been set. However, my granddaughter did her evening workouts in the gym for the rest of her stay. Who would have thought an alligator would reduce my stress!  

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Electronically Challenged


I was one of the last of my peers to buy a Smartphone. When I posted the news of my purchase on Facebook almost two-years ago, my Atlanta son who never comments on my stream but monitors my posts for my infamous spelling errors, wrote, “Return it IMMEDIATELY.”

            Those friends who didn’t know of my total lack of fine motor and electronic skills as he did, objected. One wrote, “I’m ten-years older than your mom, and if I can learn how to use it, so can she.”

Unlike them, my son also knew I didn’t read directions that showed anything more than the location of the on/off switch. Almost two years later, I will admit I’ve only mastered a few features, so my son and friends were both partially correct. I can take pictures—sometimes—and then post them on Facebook, a socially acceptable way to brag because here friends can ignore the post if they chose or hit “like” if they truly care.

It took almost one year to learn how to enter phone numbers, but I still can’t delete old ones even though I have even been shown twice. I’ve learned how to text, but only individuals, but I can send one email to multiple people.  I still have yet to activate the phone’s voice and probably never will. If the computer that types my dictated text or email can’t understand me, I’m not sure it is worthwhile to turn on the voice feature. This morning when composing an email, I said “all okay” into the phone’s microphone; however, “ooo k” appeared on my screen.

            My husband and I bought the car I am driving before we purchased our cell phones. Our dinosaur phones were compatible with the car’s Bluetooth device. They worked faithfully, and the driver’s phone was automatically connected. Not so with our new phones. Keeping them connected was like attempting to stand still while inside of a revolving door. The phones somehow adversely affected our navigation system. We were making more trips to the dealer than the doctors—and neither is a great way to spend the day. After replacing three car radios—thankfully under warrantee—one mechanic at the dealership finally found the cause of the problem. My husband’s cell phone, a Window’s model, was incompatible with the car’s radio/Bluetooth/navigation system. The mechanic then disconnected my husband’s phone from our car’s Bluetooth device. Hubby looked as if someone told him he could no longer have permanent custody of our television’s remote.

As soon as we were home, he researched and found out no “cure” was available for his phone’s incompatibility problem. Hubby had no choice but to remain “bluetoothless” until our cell phone contract was up.

Ironically, even though his phone is disconnected, somehow when he is behind the wheel, the screen on the navigational system/radio keeps changing. Even worse, my phone is automatically disconnected. It makes me wonder if electronic devices can be haunted by bad electronic memories.

 I have mastered the Words With Friends app, but the music and communication apps frustrate me. Once I had the music on, I had so much trouble turning it off, I never used it again. Our alarm clock broke, and I attempted to use the one on the cell phone. It actually worked the first time, but not the second. No clue what I did wrong, and since we almost missed an early morning appointment, I bought a new, old-fashioned alarm clock.

Recently, I took the reading list for my community’s Book Club to the library only to discover that most of the books were on hold, or they didn’t stock them. The librarian said some of them might be available to check out electronically. I thanked her, too embarrassed to say that I didn’t own a Kindle.

I drove home thinking that perhaps it was time I purchased an electronic reader, after all, “everyone” else I knew swore by the electronic books. My fear of not being able to learn how to use one was preventing me from partaking in Book Club.  “After all,” I said to myself, “I am learning to use my phone—slowly, yet learning.”

That night, after researching on Google, I decided to purchase the Kindle with the fewest gadgets and did so the next day. 

I would like to say I have mastered al the in's and out's of using the Kindle, I would like to ....but can't. Give me another year and I'll let you know.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Hometown? Hm


            “Where are you from?” my neighbor asked my visiting cousin.
           “How far back do you want me to go?” he responded.

             My cousin lived in three states before settling in the Midwest about 50-years ago. So where is he from—the city listed on his birth certificate or the place he lived most of his life?  Living parts of your life in multiple geographic areas is quite the norm for many folks, including me. Today my knee-jerk response to the “where are you from” question is “South Florida,” but obviously once someone hears me say “worta” instead of “water”, they know it wasn’t always that way.

In the late 1960’s, my husband and I moved from Queens, New York to the same area on eastern Long Island as my brother. A new, mutual friend of ours looked puzzled when I told him I was from Queens.
            “But your brother is from Brooklyn,” he said. “Didn’t you live together?”  

            Big Bro was ready for college when our family relocated to Queens, but I still was in grade school. My earliest vivid memories take place in Queens, my brother’s in Brooklyn. Hence our very different responses to, “Where’re ya from?”
            My husband and I moved to Plantation, a city in South Florida in 1973 along with our two young children, so I’ve lived here for well over half of my life. Our sons were raised there, and I collect a Florida teacher’s pension. I haven’t thought of myself as a New Yorker in decades. A few years ago, a comic who entertained in my “seniorville”—a community made up of probably 90% or more transplants from northern states—justified my current response as to my hometown.  
            “You’re a native Floridian,” the performer told his audience of retirees,” if you were here before ninety-five.”
            The “natives” in the audience howled because we realized he was referring to I-95, not someone’s age. The bulk of the audience in my over-55 community, relative newcomers to Florida, had a blank look on their faces. They were clueless that I-95 wasn’t completed thus connecting our area to the rest of the highway until the late 1980’s. 

            Shortly after we moved to Florida, years before Google Maps or a GPS, we asked a new neighbor for directions to a museum in Miami. “Can you drive on a highway?” the person asked.

            After my husband nodded, our neighbor advised us that our destination was very far—almost an hour’s drive. My husband replied—without cracking a smile—that he felt our family could handle the excursion.

That day I learned two interesting things about most of our new neighbors with respect to road travel. First, only those few who learned to drive on highways or parkways on an almost daily basis didn’t fear getting mowed down by a tractor trailer while merging onto I-95. My driving skills were honed on The Interboro, a narrow, curvy road connecting Brooklyn and Queens. Hubby received his training on the roads and bridges connecting the Bronx with the rest of the city.

Second, I became aware of the fact that to many people living in Florida a long time, anything more than 45-minutes in a car each way constituted an over-night trip to people who didn’t grow up spending half of their Sundays in traffic to and fro visiting relatives 50 miles away.

Forty years later, neither my husband’s nor my driving outlooks have budged. However, even though we insist our hometown is Plantation, we credit the city of our birth with giving us the skills needed to drive on South Florida’s highways, especially the fifty-mile trip from Palm Beach to Miami. We have no trouble crossing— in less than a mile—the five lanes at the southern end of the Florida Turnpike which lets us then merge onto I-95 South and then immediately cross five more lanes and enter the express lanes without either of us going into cardiac arrest.