Dispatch: The Moral Perils of a Snake in the Toilet Bowl

By Dispatch From . . . The Toilet Bowl
Thursday, April 23, 2009

We never, ever print anything here unless we're convinced that it's true. So we publish this with that confidence, even as we hope that this can't really happen.

It's a question for the ages: What is one's moral breaking point? The point where the rule of law is brushed aside, the point where we stomp on the light and cross over to the dark side. Let mine be a cautionary tale, an example of how quickly one can reach that point.

I am, for the most part, a law-abiding individual. I wait at crosswalks. I haven't gotten a speeding ticket in years. Another key fact: I am not a nature wimp. I have held a tarantula, rescue lady bugs and leave our porch spiders very much alone. An ant farm is sitting on my fireplace mantel at the moment, thanks to my son's overzealous godmother and a fact sheet that claims these ants need 60 to 70 degree temps. Yes, I even follow the fact sheet.

But still . . . we all have a breaking point. My moment? That would be the snake in my toilet. The toilet I came perilously close to using.

Perhaps I should have been better prepared. There had been a vague snake sighting in our basement about a week earlier. I did a little online research, guessed it was probably a harmless rat snake and dutifully noted that it's against Maryland law to intentionally kill a snake. My husband was sent downstairs fully prepared to remove any offenders and deliver them to my neighbor's yard. After an exhaustive two-minute search, no snake was found. There was a general agreement that the sighting was imagined.

Until. Until I went to use the basement bathroom, hereafter known as the "the scary bathroom." Extensive details are unnecessary. Let's just say I was poised to use said bathroom when something -- some little voice, the spirit of Saint Patrick, perhaps? -- told me to check the toilet bowl. And there, curled half in, half out, was a snake. A snake that registered evil intent in its beady eyes. It was me and one writhing, leering snake, somewhere between six inches and three feet (okay, I registered the leer, not the length).

I slammed the lid down and screamed. My 5-year-old came running. "Snake," I gasped, pointing at the toilet. We carefully opened the lid, at his insistence. And there, still leering, was the snake. A snake that'd been denied its true prey. A snake whose next victim was surely a juicy chicken-nugget-fed boy.

And that, so help me, was my breaking point. My descent into lawlessness. The toilet seat was slammed shut. The adrenaline kicked in. Flush. Squeal. Repeat. Flush. Squeal. Repeat. Until the moment we eased back the lid to see . . . nothing. And believe me, nothing had never looked so good.

So now, I'm left to ponder my action and what it says about me: Nature-hating criminal? Fierce protector of her family? Financial genius who just saved herself a lifetime of therapy resulting from an unmentionable snake bite on an unmentionable area?

This much is true: For the rest of my life, in toilets near and far, lavish and basic, I will always, always check the bowl first. For one never knows what lies within.

-- Kristin O'Keefe, Kensington

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