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Notes From Central Florida: Alligators and Angels Abound

March 8, 2009, 6:02 pm

Yesterday we made the long drive from St. Augustine to Dade City, with a quick stop at Blue Springs State Park. The major event of the day was the loss, and rediscovery, of my brand new iPhone. This is what happened.

We went to Blue Springs, a warm spring that flows into the St. John’s River, to see the manatees. And if I had my iPhone with me now you would see the manatees too. But more about that later. The manatees, delicate, bumbling and endangered creatures that look a bit like swimming elephants, migrate into a variety of warm springs around Florida in the winter and early spring to breed and to warm up a bit. It’s like manatee spring break. At any rate, there were five that we saw, all on the youngish side; there was also an outstanding sample of a blue-gray alligator mississippiensis sitting on the far bank. A park volunteer who was doing a gar census near where we were (a gar is a skinny fish that becomes as big as fifty pounds, and is distinguished by an extremely long, thin nose) handed me his binoculars and I got a good close-up of the alligator’s face. They all have a fixed, insane, toothy grin that inspires the thought: “Serial killer.” I myself cannot get enough of alligators, and my current hostess has promised alligators in the pond on their property. In addition to the gar, there were schools of snook, and at least one black fish as big as my head that is commonly sold in pet stores, but in a thumb size model. “Aquarium dump,” the volunteer said succinctly. Apparently fish that are thrown in the rivers in Florida, or flushed down the toilet, if they survive, thrive well beyond their life span as pets. So yes, it is worth saying: probably everything you have heard about wildlife in Florida is true.

So back to the iPhone. We got back in the car and, just as we were getting back on route 17, my companion noticed that the trunk was open. I won’t belabor this but: somewhere between me getting out of the car and getting back in, my iPhone slipped from my possession. Several blocks down the road, I realized this. We returned to the scene, pursued a methodical search, but to no avail. One of us went in to ask the gas station owners if it had been turned in, and they shook their heads sorrowfully. “Not a chance anyone would turn in a thing like that,” one said sympathetically, “Not here.” We left. There were tears. I will quietly draw a veil over the next hour or so.

Needless to say, as we passed development after development in the metro Orlando region (most of which — if state-level statistics in Florida are correct — are running at a foreclosure rate that is expected to run well over fifty percent before this financial crisis is over) I wrestled myself back into some version of sanity. Not only is it not fair to ruin someone else’s vacation over a lost telephone, but in the midst of bankruptcies and foreclosures, to kvell relentlessly over an object that is, although beloved, replaceable, is wrong. And certainly not Radical. In comparing my pain to the pain of others, I found mine wanting.

And I promised myself I would buy another as soon as I could get to an AT&T store on Monday.

But then there was a miracle. As we drove up the long driveway to the home of the family members who are harboring us for the rest of the week, as they all came out to greet us (the youngest, a great nephew who is four, shrieking with pleasure at our arrival), my niece came out with a telephone and said that one of our other mutual nephews, who lives in Shoreline, needed to talk to me now.

My phone had been found, by Roy and Kristine of Orange City, Florida who, when they pulled up to the gas station, were returning to their home in Orange City from celebrating Bike Week in Ft. Lauderdale. Actually, it was Kristine who spotted the iPhone in the parking lot and picked it up, perhaps minutes, or even seconds, after I dropped it, and Roy claims it is in perfect condition. They found me by calling the first number in the book, which happened to be said nephew’s father, who happened to know where we were, but knew nothing about an iPhone. But my nephews — who pay close attention to the electronic acquisitions of their nearest and dearest as well as to where everyone is going on vacation and when — put two and two together and explained to the pater that someone had found my iPhone! Needless to say, a happy ending is underway. Roy and Kristine are going to mail me the cherished item tomorrow; theoretically it should be here Tuesday or Wednesday. I am going to mail them a lot of money, which they didn’t say no to, so my guess is that it is welcome. And when you figure that I was ready to spend the money anyway for a new phone, well, it all makes sense.

So when you think of Florida, don’t think of Jeb Bush: think of Roy and Kristine. As I thanked them profusely, Kristine said, “Well it’s no trouble at all. I would like to think someone would do the same thing for me.”

I would, actually. But now I really would. And as for the nephews: I now officially pronounce you The Boy Detectives.

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