ALL SNAKES AND SOME PROFESSORS ARE DEAF ~ I like snakes. Professors are 50/50

            Throughout my years as both a volunteer and, eventually, as an employee of the New Jersey Audubon Society, I worked with many animals, all of whom I enjoyed. However, my favorites were always the turtles and snakes. Unlike many persons, I do not have a snake phobia.  There was one exception: an eighteen foot long boa constrictor we had to house, at the request of the police department. It stayed with us for several weeks, as it was evidence in a trial.
            Snakes, even venomous snakes have never caused me any great fear. I was cautious when handling them, of course, but I did have the proper tools and the proper caution, and was only seldom bitten. The sole rattlesnake bite in my life occurred when I was ten years old, and I was afraid to tell my mother for fear she would punish me. It was a small snake, anyway.
            There are many myths about these fascinating reptiles. Briefly: they do not “attack” unless cornered, but warn you by hissing loudly. No snake can “jump” more than one third of its own length. Screaming and gunfire do not scare them because they are unable to hear.
            During the course of twenty years, I acquired a reputation among state and local law enforcement  fire departments, schools, science and educational conventions, and other related entities with my Snakes of New Jersey presentations in which I showed my photographs of the twenty-two species of snakes of the state, including the rattlesnake and the copperhead. I usually brought several harmless, if short tempered, snakes with me for people to touch.          
            And thereby hangs a tail. (Forgive my awful puns!) In my middle thirties, when I was in the process of obtaining a college degree in education, I would sometimes give this presentation. There were other presentations related to the history, geology, botany, and birds of our fascinating state.
             One class required was learning how to make speeches. I remember that term with disgust.
            It was taught by a Dr. whatever her name was, who was the worst professor I had ever met. She was arrogant, fact-deficient, a bully, and had an extremely high opinion of herself. The prof was also ten minutes late to every class. To make matters worse, spoke with a bogus British accent, although she was born in Philadelphia.
            After the first class she told me I should drop my dreams of being a teacher because I didn’t dress well and was too fat. That was mild, compared to some of the statements she made to other students. At least half the class dropped out. I once had the class in helpless laughter when, as we waited for her to alight from her carriage, I said she was probably sleeping with the dean in order to keep tenure.
             Despite her abusive style, I stuck it out and finally warned her if I didn’t get an A or a B in the class, I would bring charges against her at the college and in a court of law.
            After that, she ignored me. Then came the day when she announced the final. It was to be a speech trying to convince the audience of a controversial point of view.
            I had figured out she had to be terrified of snakes. So one day, I showed up with a stuffed snake as a necklace. She almost fainted.
            Aha! My road to revenge was set.
             On the day of the finals, I showed up with a footstool-sized Herr’s Potato Chip can. The contents were a snake, yclept Potato Chip after his “travel cage”. When she disdainfully called on me, I went to the front of the room and proceeded to show slides of the 22 snakes of  New  Jersey to “convince” the class snakes were fascinating. After I announced the title and purpose of the presentation, the woman actually began sweating! How great was that?
             Within my allotted time, I finished a short slide show, then opened the can and pulled out Potato Chip, a five foot long Corn Snake with beautiful red, orange, yellow, and brown markings. It ate rodents. I had rubbed my left hand with a live mouse when I was still at home, knowing full well the odor would be sensed the snake. Then I cheerfully walked around the room and showed off the animal.  Whenever I passed the professor, I slipped my unscented hand towards his back and released my other hand, waving it in the air. The snake promptly tried to catch the scent.
            The professor almost had a breakdown. Then I smiled sweetly at her and inquired, “Am I moving around the room enough as you taught us?”             
            What could she do? Weakly she nodded assent.
            After three slow rounds of the room, I gave my summation and sat down to thunderous applause.
            Potato Chip was returned to his container.
            The professor announced I had received an A just like my other speeches. More thunderous applause emanated from the other students.
            Carefully cradling Potato Chip’s travel case in my mind, I purposefully strode to the professor, grasped her hand, and thanked her.
            Then, grinning triumphantly, I sat down.
            More applause.
            And you know what the female dog did? She gave me a B for the course.
            It was worth it.
            The head of the department cornered me a few days later and told me she had heard about my speech. “Anytime you need a recommendation, please let me know,” she grinned. “That woman deserved it.”


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