Shell Shocked: An alligator’s view of paved roads
My community in Sanibel is divided over the issue of whether or not to pave the roads. This issue has pitted neighbor against neighbor and residents against alligators.
What is at stake is the very survival of Sanibel, the perpetuity of blackened fish, the life span of manatees and the number of Dr. Scholl’s shoe inserts worn on our roads.
Even our community alligator is torn over this issue. Will it be more comfortable sliding along paved or hard dirt roads? Whichever way the alligator decides will be the way the community votes.
The alligator was sitting in his office the other day as community residents lined up to meet with it to present their views on the roads. Each resident brought a gift for the alligator. The first resident in line was ushered into the alligator’s office.
He said, “Hi, Al. I’ve brought you your favorite desert. It’s insect mud pie.”
The alligator stifled a yawn lest he devour the head of the visitor.
He said: “Please don’t try to bribe me. I will make my decision just as soon as I’ve heard all the arguments. I’d like to know why this community is so divided over our roads.”
The resident looked around to make sure he wasn’t being overheard.
“Well, Al. I’m for paving. I have scientific studies I can present to you that prove that paved roads are easier on alligator flesh than unpaved roads. These studies were conducted in the Amazon jungle among twelve hundred alligators. Half crawled on their bellies on paved roads and the other half on dirt. Those alligators that crawled on paved roads had fewer rashes, road burns, shingles, and bad breath episodes than their counterparts who crawled on dirt.”
The alligator smoked his pipe, blew a smoke ring and looked at the insect mud pie longingly.
“Was there any downside to the alligators that crawled on paved roads?”
The visitor paused for a moment and said: “Just one. The alligators that were put on the paved roads were able to achieve crawling speeds of up to forty miles an hour. The paving was so smooth that they glided effortlessly. They would occasionally knock over giraffes and lions along the way. None of the other wildlife could keep up with them.”
“And was there any upside to the alligators that crawled on the dirt roads? You’ve told me what the downside was.”
The visitor referred to some documents he was carrying and said, “The alligators that used the dirt roads became more laid back, mellow and friendly. Their rashes, road burns, shingles and bad breath led to their being medicated a great deal. So they slowed up their crawling pace on the dirt roads until they moved at the rate of five feet an hour.”
“So what do you think the implications are for paved or unpaved roads right here?” the alligator asked.
The visitor said, “My coalition believes that so long as you agree to limit the speed limit of your crawling, you will be a lot healthier on paved roads. You wouldn’t need to get medicated.”
“What type of medication were those Amazon jungle alligators that were put on dirt roads taking?” Al asked.
“Marijuana, I believe,” said the visitor.
“You mean to tell me that my Amazon cousins were stoned? If I inhaled some dope I’d crawl along at five feet an hour also. Who put them on pot?”
“It was prescribed by the jungle voodoo doctor,” the visitor said.
The alligator made a sudden lunge for the insect mud pie and devoured it in one massive gulp.
“Please do not construe my acceptance of your gift as a bribe. I shall make an independent, objective decision. So let me ask you this. If I chose to maintain the dirt roads in this community could I also get stoned?”
The visitor was confused. It hadn’t occurred to him that his community alligator might be tempted by marijuana.
“I assume so. I really hadn’t thought about it. But if marijuana was used in the Amazon experiment, I see no reason why that wouldn’t be the case here.”
“And if I voted for paved roads would I have access to other types of recreational drugs as well, like Alka Seltzer, Allegra, Phillips Milk of Magnesia and a touch of cocaine?”
The visitor could see the wheels spinning in the alligator’s peanut-sized brain.
“Sure. If you vote for paved roads we’ll get you whatever you want.”
Just then, another community resident stormed in.
She said:” I overheard this entire conversation and I will bring you up to our community inquisition board. You have violated community code 609 which prohibits bribing wildlife. This is not how democracy is supposed to work.”
The alligator interceded.
“Hold on, both of you or I will eat you here and now. Your friend here has been most objective about presenting the pros and cons of paving. Here is your dilemma, both of you. If you can’t reach an agreement between the two warring factions, I will leave this community and become the pet alligator of a more compatible group of residents.
“I’ve been in your community for many years now and I’ve never seen such friction among neighbors. You decide. Either make this discussion friendlier or away I go.”
The pro-paver and anti-paver now understood the damage that had been done to the community. Tears rolled down their faces. They faced each other and vowed before the alligator to prevent it from leaving their community. They hugged each other and left the alligator’s office discussing alternatives to paving, such as planting banana peels on top of the dirt roads.
The alligator in turn began to hallucinate about the roads. Paved roads meant racing past the cars, and unpaved roads meant mellowing out on pot.
Art Stevens is a long-time columnist for The Islander. His tongue-in-cheek humor is always offered with a smile.