For the past five years, a snake has inhabited my garden. I bought a bale of straw for mulching one spring, and the snake took up residence in its shelter. The straw moved - the snake stayed. During the winter, the snake vanishes to hibernate. I only see it during gardening season.
Without fail, when I see the snake I leap ten feet in the air and scream. Logically, I know this is the same garden snake I see every spring. Garden snakes are also known as garter snakes. They do have venom, but lack the quantity or delivery system to kill humans. The snakes are potentially beneficial, eating mice and bugs - as long as they don’t eat too many earthworms.
Speaking of which, earlier this spring I was turning a garden bed and ran across an earthworm nearly as big as a snake. I believe I was justified in jumping and screaming then. A giant worm is unexpected. The garden snake, on the other hand, should be expected. I chide myself every time I react badly to a sighting of my gardening friend.
Maybe I shouldn’t, though. Think about movies. The dramatic music clues you that something is going to happen. The camerawork alerts you. Then the event bursts onto the screen. You know it’s coming, and you’re still startled. On the other hand, humor is based on a twist. The laugh comes when your expectations are turned upside down. “I didn’t see that coming!” So I’m still undecided on whether it’s expectations met or the unexpected that is more startling.
Another time I was startled when I shouldn’t have been was several years ago after seeing the movie Signs. Okay, maybe terrified is more truthful. I pulled into my carport and saw an alien. It was a rug and mop I had placed there earlier in the day, but until I remembered the facts, I was prepared to flee. And maybe never come back.
Imagination or instinct, not sure which. It overrides rational thought every time.
There may be no way to get over my extreme reaction to seeing the garden snake. I know it’s out there somewhere. I should expect to see it suddenly slither across a raised bed or through the strawberries. Yet if I tend to my garden today and the snake makes an appearance, I know I’ll react as I typically do – startled by the expected.
There are plenty of other silly things that startle me. Like opening a door and discovering someone with a hand raised to knock. Starting the car after my husband has been driving and being blasted by loud music. A bird flying in my face. Those are arguably unexpected events, and justifiably startling.
Other situations we should logically be prepared for – like getting splashed at a water park. A dog watching us through a fence as we walk by suddenly erupting in barks. Or anything involving a ten-year-old. Yet I am still caught off guard by these situations.
Which startles you more – the expected or the unexpected? Do you have any silly experiences of being startled?
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