Friday, 25 May 2007

Snake Alcatraz

During the Civil War, military prisoners were housed on the Island of Alcatraz in the San Francisco Bay area. In 1934 it became a federal penitentiary and was known for its harsh conditions and its policy of silence. A small rocky island rising out of the bay, the prisoner-guard ration was 3-to-1, and escape was considered nearly impossible. There are no officially recorded successful escapes, although a few which are considered "missing and presumed dead." Now defunct, "the Rock" serves as a tourist attraction. It's an eerie feeling to shut yourself inside a solitary confinement cell and feel, for a few moments, the claustrophobic darkness. You can well imagine why a prisoner might try to escape regardless of the risks.

Immediately following the great escape attempt, I weighted the lid to Mike the Snake's tank down with rocks. The next night, I watched him begin his exploration of the lid anew, probing for a weakness. After an uneasy hour, I duct-taped the lid to the tank. But obviously that could not be a long-term solution. I returned to the pet shop, to talk with the old guy who runs the place. He asserted that it was physically impossible for a snake to push a latched lid off a tank. I told him I saw it with my own eyes. We stared at each other for a long minute and then he growled, "Well, whaddaya want?" The bigger tank they should have sold me to start with, a more secure lid, and oh, while we're at it, a full refund on the original set-up. Done.

So now the snake is snoozing in his new grown-up home, complete with sticks to drape himself on, a green rock from South America for resting, and plants to re-create that jungle feel that all pythons must surely hold in some archetypal unconscious memory. The lid slides in and must be opened with two hands, the latches being released simultaneously. (That's particularly good as snakes are lacking opposable thumbs. Well, thumbs of any sort. Or, uh, hands. Okay, they're limbless.) On the front, for added security, a combination lock. He'll be happier in there, I'm sure of it. And, more importantly, I'll be able to sleep at night.