When I was ten years old, I collected some unusual things: rocks, fossils, and beer cans. A few of my other friends also collected them, and we would occasionally make trades or show off some amazing new can we got.
I collected regular stuff too, the kinds of things you expected kids to collect. That same year, I collected baseball cards and had nearly the entire 1977 Topps collection. Each pack cost a quarter, and that summer, I did whatever I could to earn money. Whenever I had enough, I would race on my bike to the Village Pantry about half a mile away and buy a pack. And oh man, if I ever got a dollar, that thing burned a hole in my pocket until I could buy four packs.
I would kneel on my garage floor, feeling the cold concrete on my bare legs, and sort through each of my new cards, organizing them by team. Then I would sort the new cards in with their respective teams. Finally I'd spread out the entire collection and just look at them. It made me feel prosperous, like I owned land or had stocked enough firewood to last all winter.
I never took great care of them though. I wrapped each team with a rubber band and then wrapped the whole stack with a big rubber band, which bent them all slightly in the middle. I finally gave the entire stack away to my little brother several years ago, as we were decluttering our house.
Another victim of our domestic downsizing was a collection of little plastic baseball helmets you could get with every Slushie at the Village Pantry. I could get a Slushie and a cup for about 75 cents, and at the end of my 11th summer, I had every team. My wife made me throw those away too, but I kept my Cincinnati Reds helmet as an act of rebellion.
I also had to get rid of the remaining beer cans from my original 300+ can collection, which I had disposed of sometime in college. I kept about 30 because I believed they were fairly valuable. It turns out they weren't, because I posted most of them on a beer can collecting website, and no one was interested. I even threatened to dump them in the recycling bin if I didn't find any takers. No one stepped up, so they're probably someone's car door panel now.
I kept a few of the unusual ones though, including two Hudepohl cans celebrating the 1975 and 1976 World Series champion Cincinnati Reds, a commemorative six-pack of historic breweries, a couple Olde Frothingslosh cans ("the pale stale ale with the foam on the bottom"), and a Foster's Lager can that was printed upside down. They're on a shelf in my garage.
I tell you this because as weird as all this may seem, it's not nearly as weird as the news out of Central Florida this past week: a 2-foot long suphan cobra, which is highly venomous and extremely icky, escaped from its enclosure in Ocala, Florida.
Ocala, which is roughly 80 miles from my house — or 211,200 suphan cobra lengths — is far enough away that I don't have to wear titanium snake gaiters when I leave the house,. But I live in a state filled with people who collect venomous snakes, so I'm always a little nervous whenever I open my door.
According to LiveScience.com, cobras bite with a neurotoxic venom that can stop your breathing within 30 minutes and be fatal within an hour. And some wacko has decided these are something worth having several of in his house. He keeps them in special terrariums so he can look at them all.
And you thought a 10-year-old's beer can collection was weird.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said in a news release, "Members of the public should not approach or attempt to capture this snake."
No problem. I may try to run it over several times with my car though.
The FWC also says if you do spot the snake, you're supposed to call the wildlife hotline and scream unintelligibly before throwing your phone at it. Or you can tweet with it, like I've been doing, at @OcalaCobra.
This is the second Florida cobra to escape from its enclosure in as many years. The previous cobra, a 8 foot King cobra named Elvis, escaped from his home in Orlando — only 16,500 King cobra lengths from my house — and avoided recapture for nearly a month until it was found behind a woman's clothes dryer.
Authorities are on the lookout for the suphan cobra by standing on top of their cars, shouting "Heeeeere cobra, cobra, cobra!" I only hope they catch it before it heads to my house and grapples with my mongoose collection. Yeah, that's it, my extensive collection of angry mongooses.
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