On a very good day, The Plan survives and I go to bed feeling that I’ve accomplished something. On a bad day, The Plan’s fallen apart before I’m fully dressed.
This past Sunday The Plan lasted until about 11AM when I got a call from the condominium president (CP) telling me that we were having a bit of a crisis out at the swimming pool—to whit, we had an alligator. It had arrived during the night and though it appeared capable of leaving the pool, it didn’t seem inclined to do so on its own.
Given the general weirdness of Florida, one might think that having an alligator in the pool is a fairly common occurrence around here, but as far as I can determine, this is the first time in the 40-odd years of our existence that we’ve had a gator. We’re about as far from a lake, pond, stream, or river as you can be in Lake County and we’re in the part of town that was built up when people were still paying attention to where they were building. Google Maps puts the nearest body of non-cholorinated water at more than a mile from our pool.
Either it had help getting here or it had a dangerously acute case of wanderlust.
As alligators go, it wasn’t a great big one — about three-and-a-half feet. But getting it out of the pool posed a problem. It’s not like a dog; you can’t call out “Here, boy!” and expect it to join you on the pool deck…and, really, you wouldn’t want it to do that anyway, even at 3.5′. And you certainly wouldn’t want to get into the pool with it.
So, we did what right-thinking people are supposed to do: We called the police.
I don’t think they believed us. At least the first officer to arrive seemed surprised when he saw the gator. He called for assistance and we wound up with two more officers, their cars, and two long-handled pool scoops: one for herding, the other for, well, scooping.
The story could have–and maybe should have–ended there. And you can see from the time stamp that I would have still had plenty of opportunity to recover The Plan. Except… Except the general consensus (including the police) was that there was no way the gator could have gotten into the pool without help and since we have a surveillance system, the general consensus (including the police) became that we should study the files in hope of identifying the culprit, who — since alligators are still a somewhat protected species around here — would be due for a spot of trouble from the authorities.
Of course, when it comes to studying the surveillance files, “we” devolves instantly into “me.” Everybody else has successfully managed not to learn how to operate the system which is, admittedly, slow and balky.
I started collecting the camera/hour files from the recorder and playing them back in the relative comfort of my living room: 12 viewing minutes per hour, per camera. It’s about as interesting as watching paint dry, with no multi-tasking allowed because at Keystone Kops speed, it’s easy to miss what you’re trying to see. I can scan surveillance files for about two hours before my eyes de-rezz completely.
I started with the pool camera — the one that caught the pictures above — but at night, they revert to a black-and-white capture mode that incorporates some infrared wavelengths…meaning that in Florida they’re just about worthless: We’re so humid after dark that everything’s under a fog bank. Worse, we’d had a thunderstorm move through about 11PM on the 10th, the camera got wet, and the world was covered with sloppy, white polka dots.
I switched to a different camera, figuring I’d be able to spot someone carrying an alligator through the parking lot. Of course, I picked the wrong camera and watched 10 hours of nothing happen at 6X speed. (Scratch Sunday’s Plan and a good deal of Monday’s). But I got lucky when I settled in to watch the third camera’s files…
That bright oval on the right…
That’s him (or her), all by his lonesome, marching up to the pool from (I suspect) the Main Street storm sewer.
As I understand the alligator life-cycle, the smaller ones try to stay out of the way of the larger ones, at least until they’re too big to be swallowed whole. So, this guy might have been hiding out in the storm sewers– which drain directly into one or more of the nearby lakes. That 11PM storm, which had been a true gully-washer, could have flushed him out (literally, perhaps) and he followed our pool’s overflow back to its source.
Mystery solved: Alligator 1 / Daily Plan 0.
I can’t wait to see happens this weekend!