“What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
No not just for some but for everyone”
The day before yesterday, I took the sentiment of that song way too far. The result: compassion blew up in my face.
I fear geckos like some people fear Muslims: one part justification to ten parts pure irrationality. (That’s a cooking reference in case any of you are wondering.) My gecko phobia has its origins in a pet store where I once worked many years ago. The pet store chain no longer exists, but the memory remains…
Back in the 1980s, some genius found out Tokay geckos will eat roaches and decided it would be a good idea to offer them as agents of free pest control in private homes. What could go wrong – right? Tokay geckos hide during the day and come out in the dark – kinda like roaches, unless you have a real infestation.
Pet stores began importing and selling the suckers like crazy. People were buying them, taking them home and releasing them behind their refrigerators where it is warm, expecting them to venture out during the night to eat their fill of bugs.
For awhile everything worked according to plan.
Then the reports of injuries from bites started coming in: pets, babies, people wandering barefoot into the kitchen in the dead of night for a midnight snack – all were getting bit, some quite badly.
We were getting bit too (well not me personally – I refused to handle them, big commission sale or not) – but the guys in the pet store had been bloodied enough times that we all began to ask ourselves: should people really be releasing them into their homes?
No – they shouldn’t have.
Even when the guys began wearing welders’ gloves to catch and box geckos for unsuspecting customers, the pressure from the frequent bites that ensued during the capture could easily be felt through the thickness of the welders’ glove. And Tokay geckos do not bite and release, they bite and hold with very powerful jaws. Tokay geckos draw blood.
Eventually stories began to appear in the newspaper about this phenomenon-gone-wrong. A reporter came into our pet store to interview the owner. In response, pet stores, including ours, advertised a no-questions-asked return policy on the critters promising a full refund. Unfortunately, few people brought them back. Most were released into the wild.
Last week, a distant relative found its way into my apartment. He made my acquaintance at the tissue box where I saw him and nearly jumped out of my own skin.
I managed to trap him under a small Tupperware container and that is where he lived in a corner of my bathroom counter for three days without food and water. To ensure he stayed there until he died, I put a heavy glass vase of flowers on top of the container. Problem solved. The fact that this little gecko was going to suffer and die that way did not bother me one bit.
Then, I started thinking about Dzhokhar…
I wish I’d never had the thought but once I did, I couldn’t shake it: What I was doing to that poor gecko was akin to what man does to his fellow man by prolonged incarceration in a tiny cell in solitary confinement.
I know you’re probably laughing at me right now but my conscience really began to bother me. I knew what I had to do: the lizard had to be taken back outside and released.I figured I could do it myself: slide a piece of cardboard under the Tupperware and carry the beast outside with a stern warning to never return… I mean, after three days with no food and water, he would be weak right? He would be slow right?
That rotten lizard spent the night laughing at me from under my bed. I slept with the lights on to keep him there.
The next evening, having quite forgotten about my unwanted house guest for awhile, I walked down the hall and flipped on the bathroom light, immediately hearing the unmistakable sound of the gecko scrambling back into hiding as I walked in. His little lizard toenails scraped across the back of the hard poster board picture that leans against the wall on a shelf behind the toilet. I sat there, silently promising never to use the phrase “bite me” when angry at anyone – ever – again…
I rushed out leaving the light on. This time, I would not try to handle the situation myself. This time he would not get away. This time, I would not have compassion. That gecko was goin’ DOWN!!!
This time I would call in the SWAT team. Her name is Anita and she is not afraid of geckos.
I don’t know where the gecko is now, but I am happy to say I was able to sleep soundly with the lights off last night.
Anita, you are my hero.
How I wish Dzhokhar wasn’t still waiting for his.