I am ambling across the sun baked service station forecourt, clasping a two litre bottle of Coca Cola in one hand and my car keys in the other when I notice two boys crouching next to my car. They appear to be inspecting something in the grass in front of them. I too look ahead into the grass, curious as to what has caught their attention.
Suddenly the two boys jump to their feet and scream ‘gator’ in unison very loudly. Emitting a loud shriek I hastily press the unlock button on the car control and clamber into the vehicle, slamming the door shut behind me. Peering anxiously through the windscreen I am surprised to see the two boys still standing by the verge. They are pointing in my direction, their features contorted in mirth. Lowering the window a little I peer out apprehensively and ask in a timid voice, ‘where’s the gator’.
‘You’re scared of gators,’ responds one of the boy’s in a patronising tone.
‘Yes, isn’t everyone,’ I reply, now becoming aware that there is evidently no alligator in the immediate vicinity. The two antagonists’ find this response very amusing and their laughter increases in volume. I start the engine, waving a middle finger in their direction as I do so and then drive off. A short while later I have concluded that this is a prank that they have probably pulled on numerous other unsuspecting tourists.
Some thirty minutes later having rented a bicycle, I am cycling contentedly along a scenic track enjoying The Everglades’ idyllic scenery when I notice the black outline of an alligator in the grass to my right, merely a few metres away. I veer to the left in panic, struggling to remain seated on the bicycle and then pedal away furiously, until I am what I deem to be a safe distance from the reptile. Turning around I see more cyclists approaching along the path, unaware of the monster in their midst. I consider shouting out a warning, as the first cyclist, a small girl with stabilisers approaches the spot where the alligator is lying. She looks disinterestedly in the reptile’s direction and then proceeds along the path at a leisurely pace. Several more cyclists pass the spot, none of whom appear the least bit concerned at the sight of the alligator.
Over the course of the next hour I see numerous alligators and my fear of them subsides. Picture two shows me posing metres from one that had ambled onto the path. By the time I have completed the circuit I am confident that any further gator related pranks will be met with a calm and collected response.