Friday, January 30, 2015

Alligators and Guns

What could alligators and guns have in common? Your brows pucker, your head moves quizzically to the right, then left, attempting to figure out any relationship…

Until last week I never thought much about alligators. And I try not to think a great deal about guns. Gun rhetoric makes me mad.

Hub and I spent five days kayaking in the Florida Everglades. Before leaving, every person we mentioned our trip to responded in the same way,

”What about the alligators?”

Yes, alligators can be dangerous and yes, we saw lots of them.
Snoozing the day away...
But we were not worried, although we did steer clear of the reptiles by several feet. Do not bother the alligators and the animals will not bother you, locals told us.

Thinking about everyone’s universal response, the wheels in my quirky mind began slowly grinding, creaking, eventually making an absurd analogy.

When I go to a mall, no one asks, “What about snipers?”

When kids leave for school each morning and teachers head out to work, no one asks, “Nervous about snipers?”

When going to the movies, no one inquires, “Worried about being shot?” The question asked is, “What movie are you going to see?”

The odds of being attacked by an alligator in Florida are 1 in 24 million.

It is not alligators I worry about.

Guns on the other hand are, unfortunately, more likely to present a problem.

Statistics gathered by the magazine The Economist found the chances of being assaulted by firearms 1 in 24,974.

I do not know about you, but I am a lot more concerned about kids in school and everyone everywhere, including myself, being the victim of gun violence than being assaulted by an alligator.

But friends did not ask about being shot. They inquired whether or not we were worried about being attacked by alligators.

Somehow our society manages, after every horrific shooting incident, to shake its head and move on, as if these events are part of life and therefore should be accepted, if not expected.

But I believe our society wrong.

Touring Guatemala a couple of years ago, I could not help notice the prevalence of security measures in many parts of the country. Gated and barbed wired walls surrounding homes were the norm. In Guatemala City my companions and I met friends at a restaurant located in an up-scale mall. Security guards were posted at all entrances and exits. We walked through security scanners before entering the mall.

Guatemala is considered a developing country. We believe ourselves, lucky to live in a developed land, safer than citizens of developing nations, but perhaps we deceive ourselves.

I hope no one I know, including myself, experiences gun violence. But the odds are not good. One in three people know someone who has been shot. Yet I am not ready to wall and barbed wire my home. I continue visiting malls, movie theaters, and other public venues.

Meanwhile I am not at all nervous about the alligators. One day I will return to the Everglades, kayak again and visit my alligator friends.
Baby gators enjoying the Florida sun. 

The Economist chart offered fascinating information on the possibility of dying various ways. A few statistics to ponder:

Chances of dying from an asteroid impact: 1 in 74,817,414.
Chances of dying from a dog bite: 1 in 11,273,142.
Chances of dying by being struck by lightning: 1 in 10,495,684.
Chances of dying due to “exposure to excessive natural cold”: 1 in 474,844.
Chances of dying by falling down stairs: 1 in 157,300. 


  1. Wow what a cheerful post. Alligators were the least of my worries when I lived in FL. Personally, I am much more afraid of Black Widow spiders.

  2. I left a comment.

  3. Are you advocating body scanners to enter the mall, pat downs at the school doors? I don't know. That is not how I want to live, but maybe I am ignoring the dangers of life today.

  4. Great, now I'm worried about going down stairs!

  5. Thank you for this post, Meryl. I really feel we need to get better, stricter gun laws in place. However, even in Hawaii, we have people wanting guns. I don't understand it.

  6. Yes, every morning when I turn on the local news, there's another shooting death. Or more than one. I have become inured to it now, and maybe that's the plan. But I have never worried about alligators in Florida, either. Guns are everywhere now, aren't they? :-(