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The City Snake

Co-Authored by Traci Moss and Joan-Marie Moss

© August 2004

You’d think that when you live in a city the size of Chicago life would be fairly routine.

You fight traffic to get to work … work 8-10 hours a day in the office of your choice … fight traffic to get back home and try to relax enough to face the same routine the next day. Weekends, a bit different, give you time to do housework, laundry and even get out to enjoy something new and interesting – a museum, the zoo…

When we moved back to Chicago, my thought was that if my children could live in Chicago, they'd be able to survive anywhere. Well, we’re here to tell you that life in the Windy City can get more than a little interesting at times.

Traci will be telling her grandchildren about one particular Saturday in August of 2004 when an most unusual guest came to dine.

It was a pretty routine day for both Traci and me. Saturday is catchup. We each managed to spend the day, as normal city folk do, catching up on chores and enjoying a beautiful summer day.

But when the sun set on this particular day… well, let Traci tell you…..

"The table where I found the snake" Saturday night I found a TWO AND A HALF FOOT LONG SNAKE ON MY KITCHEN TABLE!!!!!!!!! Yes, that's right.... walking to my bathroom and out of the corner of my eye what should I see but a snake all curled up on my table with its head up in the aggressive "I'm going to eat you alive bitch" stance.

Now don't get me wrong... I can handle snakes. I didn't have a major problem with Bill's snake as long as he was there and it was in its cage (forshadowing!!)... but when you find one on your kitchen table when you least expect it – it’s the most horrifying thing I have ever experienced. I literally felt my mind slip when I first laid eyes on it because it was SO unreal I couldn't grasp what I was seeing.

After standing there for a good 15-20 seconds just trying to swallow the idea that there was a SNAKE ON MY KITCHEN TABLE!!!!!!!!! I kicked into high gear, ran into the living room and scooped up my cats, threw them into my bedroom, ran back out into the living room and grabbed my cell phone, ran back into the bedroom, and, then, it hit me.

Wait!

That's a ball python.... Bill had a ball python... that looked like Bill's ball python.... that's BILL'S BALL PYTHON! HOW THE HELL DID IT GETINTOMYSON-OF-A-BITCHIN-APARTMENT!??!?!?!?! I called Bill on the phone screamed in my best Kathryn Hepburn voice (I was in super adrenaline survival mode, shaky voice and all) screaming that he had to get his ass over here RIGHT NOW to get his snake because it was sitting on my kitchen table and wanted to kill me, and then I stood in the center of my bedroom waiting for him to get there, venturing over to peek through the tiniest crack in my door every once in awhile to make sure it was still there.

8:00 pm had come and gone I was finishing up some work…It was about 8:30pm when Traci first called me ….

Brrrriiiinggggggg…..

“Hello?”

“Mom!”…. Traci was a lot more breathless than normal. And I knew something really unusual was going on.

“What?”  My level of anticipation rises exponentially.

“Mom…mom…There’s a snake on my kitchen table!!!”

“Oh, my gosh! What’s going on? Where are you right now? Where did it come from? Where are your cats?”

“I’m in the bedroom…but there’s a snake on my kitchen table…the cats are here with me and the door is closed…should I look out and see if it’s still there?”

“No…what does it look like? Where did it come from?”

“Mom, remember Bill’s ball python? How he lost it when he lived on Briar?”

“Yes…”

“Well, it’s here! It looks so hungry! You can see its ribs! It's coiled up with its head raised like it’s about to strike!”

“Ok, calm down. Tell me how this can be.”

“I was cooking dinner. I walked past the table and something didn’t seem right – you  know how it is…the same way as you did when you walked out and stood in the spot where you knew you parked your car the day you found it had been stolen. I looked and it was so out of place that I just didn’t register what I was looking at.”

“Yes, I remember that… So what happened?”

“Well, I looked back and then I saw it…the snake!!! It was coiled there on the table and its head was held real high like it was going to strike!”

“I grabbed the cats and ran into the bedroom and shut the door...

“Is it still there?”

“Should I look out and see? What if it’s by the door?”

“No! Call, Bill, and tell him to come get his snake!”

“I already did. He said he’s on his way.”

“Ok, but make sure the cats don’t get out!”

“Yup, it’s still there!!! It looks so hungry!”

“Wait, I think he’s here.”

“Call me back.”

Bill got there and put the snake in a box and we called the city and told them all about it. They promised to come right over and take it away. He left the box, because the "emergency" report had been filed already and they were "on their way" and went back home... he didn't want it and even if he did, he got rid of his aquarium a long time ago (you'll understand in a second).

So, here's the deal. The snake got out of it's cage about a year ago, maybe a little more. Bill never did find it. Apparently, when Bill moved from his apartment in December, it got into one of his boxes and curled up for a long nap. He (Bill) didn't really have a place to stay, so I agreed to keep some of his boxes in my dining room.... and the snake...has... been...IN...my…apartment…since...DECEMBER! In the very same room that I cook in every day…Right next to the litter box where my very tasty cats shit in. Right there! In my apartment! For EIGHT MONTHS!!!! Apparently, Saturday night it got SO hungry that it couldn't take it anymore (python's can go up to a year without eating) and came out to find something to eat.

Brrrriiiinnnngggg….

“OK, Bill’s gone.”

“He took his snake?”

”No”

”NO?”

”No. Bill, put it in a box. We called the pet store but they said they wouldn’t take it… so, we called 311 and they said they’d come to get it. They said they’d note this call as an emergency. So since we gave my address, Bill said we should just leave it here. They should be here soon.”

“Ok, but keep that box shut!!! And keep the cats in the bedroom”

”Now, how did this happen? It got lost before Bill moved his boxes into your apartment…how did the snake get to your apartment?”

“I don’t know!”

“Well, do you still have Bill’s boxes in your apartment?”

“Yes. It must have crawled into one of those cardboard boxes…but that was, what? Eight months ago?”

“It hasn’t eaten since then?"

“No, longer than that…it got lost last summer.”

“Oh, my gosh, that poor snake! How could it have lived that long without eating and without air and water?”

“Bill said they can live without eating for up to a year!”

“How is it possible? Didn’t Bill see the snake when he was packing his boxes?”

“Nope.”

“Are you sure you’re going to be ok?”

“Sure, they’ll be here soon.”

“Ok, but call me as soon as they come so I know you’re ok.”

“OK.”

Brrrrrrriiiiiiinnnnnngggggg……. (it’s now 10:30 pm)

“Mom….”

“Is the snake gone?”

“No….they haven’t come yet!”

“Did you try calling 311 again?”

“Yes, I called twice! They said they had the note on the call and that it is tagged emergency….and then the second time they told me that there’s a shift change at 11:00pm and it will be handled on the next shift….Mom, what should I do?”

Much discussion takes place here about the most humane way to take care of this situation…do we call the local vet…an animal hospital….maybe we should take it to the Zoo and drop it off there….or the police?

“The poor snake…it has to be so hungry!” I say.

“It hasn’t eaten way longer than normal.” Traci tells me, “I checked on the internet and found out if they don’t eat more than a year they can have serious kidney problems.”

“If it were fed a mouse now, it might die of shock. What about the cats? Imagine what might have happened if that snake had gotten out of the boxes when you weren’t home….and the cats are there!”

“I knooooowww!” says Traci, “Well, Mia would probably kill it. It’s so weak from hunger and cats’ spit is poisonous to snakes. But Lucky wouldn’t have a chance! She only has one tooth and she’s declawed….she’s so old she couldn’t even jump to safety!”

“Are you sure the snake is still secure in the box?”

”Yes, we punched air holes in it and taped it shut. But 311 emergency still hasn’t responded…what should I do?”

“Well, you can make some calls…animal hospital, police. Get suggestions from them but if 311 said the new shift would handle the situation, I’d wait until 11:30.”

“OK”

Well, turns out having a snake in your apartment isn't considered an "emergency" in Chicago after all. After waiting for five hours I finally called the police station and told them that either I bring the snake to the precinct or set it free in the alley, but it wasn't staying in my apartment another minute.

BBBrrrrrriiiiiinnnnnnngggggg…..

“Mom…. They’re still not here!”

“What?”

“I called them again and they said they have the reports and they are marked as an emergency…They said they’ll come…”

“Ok, did you make those calls to the vet…animal hospital…police….”

“I called a couple vets and got no answer. I didn’t get through to the animal hospital. There’s no answer at the zoo….”

“Well, no wonder. Look what time it is now.”

“…I talked to the policeman. He said they don’t take snakes. I should just let it loose out in the alley.”

”What!?”

“I told him it would probably help reduce our rat population…But what about the poor person who stumbles on the snake by accident! It wouldn’t be fair to the snake either! It’d probably get run over by traffic!”

“That’s right…what did he say?”

“He said he’d see what he could do….”

“He’ll call me back in a couple minutes…Oh, call you right back….”

It took about 20 minutes to convince them that I wasn't kidding and they finally told me to bring it on over.

Brrriiiiinnnnnngggggg…..

“Are you ok?” I ask.

“Yup, it was the police officer. He said I can bring the snake to the police station. He thinks he can find someone to take it.”

“They won’t come get it? Look what time it is!”

“Nope, I have to take it. I can just carry it – it’s still in the box.”

”No way! That rapist/murderer that’s been working your neighborhood hasn’t been caught yet, has he?”

“No.”

“Well, you’re not going to walk the streets at this time of night with a snake in a box all by yourself.”

“It’s ok.”

“No!”

“I’ll come down and take you there.”

“But it will take you so long to get here!”

“Never mind that….I’ll take you there.”

“Well…..”

“OK, we’ll wait until 12:30. Surely 311 will be out by then. But you call me if they aren’t! And I’ll come down.”

12:30 am

BBBrrrriiiiinnnnggggg….

“Mom….they’re not here!”

“I’m on my way.”

“How long will it take?”

“It will take me two minutes to get dressed. I should be there in half an hour.”

Traffic is unusually light and I manage to make it from Oak Park to Wrigleyville in 16 minutes flat!

Traci comes out.

“Eeww, it’s sliding from side to side,” she says as I open the door for her.

The police station is two blocks away but the one-way streets make that a four-block drive. I’m amazed at the size of the box…It’s well taped and there are holes punched in it so the snake can get fresh air. But the box is no bigger than a shoebox.

The snake is about two feet long now, Traci tells me. That’s not particularly big when you consider how big they do get…but then, it hasn’t eaten at all for something like 14 months.

“If you go in, don’t give the officers a hard time. They’re actually doing us a favor taking it,” Traci pleads. (She knows me well.)

“Well….ok. You’re right!”

When we arrive at the station there’s no place to park on the streets and I spot a “Police Parking ONLY, Violators will be towed” sign. I whip around in a perfect “U-ee” as we call it in the big city.

“Mom, you can’t park here.”

We look around and there’s no place else to park.

“I can leave my emergency lights on.”

Not a good option, according to Traci, who knows her neighborhood and how easy it is to get a parking tick there. “Ok, but if you stay here. You have to stay in the car,” she says.

I sit and wait…about five minutes.

“Is everything ok?” (Sure it is – she doesn’t have the box.)

“Yeah”.

"There were a couple of officers at the front desk. One officer standing back there said, ‘Is this the snake?’ And another officer took the box. He right away proceeded to open it. I told him to be careful the snake looks like it hasn’t eaten in a long, long time. Then he started showing off the snake. Everyone was surprised that it really was a snake. He kept asking who wanted to take it home with them.

The officer told me to bring the snake over…and I did.

Funny side note to this whole thing, its Wednesday and not a word from Animal Control regarding my "emergency". Traci and I finished this story a week after the incident.….A 311 emergency rep left a message on the phone for Traci to call them a week after her initial report. 

Hey! We live in the big city…where nothing is as you’d expect….


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