what hazards?

This was supposed to be a post on the subject of camping… but for a moment, I’d like to consider the hazards of grocery shopping. I went to Woolies’, today, to do the family’s shopping, and I took a nice long list with me. Having reviewed most of it, I thought I might be able to escape calling home with questions, this time. Well, I didn’t, but I got by on one phone call. And then I noticed an entry on the list, that I hadn’t noticed before. It said “warm chook”.

Now, I know what a chook is. We have them running around in the yard, the dog ripped all the tail feathers out of Lucy the chook, several weeks ago. They’re pestiferous creatures who persist in trying to get inside to eat the cat food, while I’m trying to hang up the laundry. And then I was introduced to the idea of a “warm chook”, being a cooked chicken you buy at a restaurant or store. Red Rooster is a food chain that sells chicken sandwiches and other items, but also sells entire cooked chickens, which I find a bit strange, for a fast food place.

But the term “warm chook” is still a bit odd or funny to me, as when you think of a chicken being warm, I think of it being either still alive, or dead only recently. Of course he’s warm, he’s breathing, isn’t he? That thought comes to mind, when I hear it. And then I go into the grocery store, where the sign over the deli counter reads “Hot Chickens”.

So, I’m walking towards the deli, trying to figure out what I’m going to say to the lady behind the counter. I do KNOW that she probably won’t laugh, when I make my order, unless it’s at my accent. But I continue to have the inner debate over what I’m going to tell her I need. A warm chook? A hot chook? A hot chicken? A warm chicken? In the U.S., I think we would just ask for a roast chicken. But I know what happens when you give them the American term, they don’t always know what you want. “Warm chicken” makes me picture live chickens, running around, which I know the store doesn’t have. And “hot chicken” has me trying to not picture sexy chickens being sold from behind the counter.

The entire time, I’m not sure whether my question is going to come out in a very embarrassed sounding way, or if I’m going to break down into hysterical laughter, and confirm in the lady’s mind that this is one crazy American. I think I ended up asking for a hot chicken, because that’s what their sign said, but I spoke uncertainly, so she thought I was asking for half a chicken. And then she told me that the ovens were broken (or something), so they didn’t have any today. Sigh. I think I’m going to remember to ask for a roast chicken, next time, and see what she says.

And now… the original purpose of this post. Which has nothing to do with chickens, hot or otherwise.

For my next vacation, I would really like to go to the beach. The idea of staying in a hotel, somewhere near the Great Barrier Reef, and being able to veg out on the beach, all day, if I want to… doesn’t that just sound marvelous? But I happened to mention to someone that if I was home, in the U.S., my idea of the perfect beach trip would be to head to Florida with my mom and cousin, and stay in a tent for a week. Yes, we would go camping at the beach. We’ve done it many times, and I can’t wait to do it again, when I get home.

But my friend said to me, “But… you have animals that will EAT you, over there!”, or something to that effect. Looking a bit startled, I said, “We do?”, and followed it up with, “But you guys have crocodiles and other dangerous critters!”. Or something profound like that.

This discussion had me stopping to think about why I think that the idea of camping at home would be so relaxing, and yet, camping over here would be so stressful. And the fact that we have very interesting views on the animals in different countries, and their dangers.

One of the reasons that camping, at home, is so fun, is that I have all the equipment, have done it any number of times before, and it isn’t stressful at all to arrange everything. And it’s cheaper. But over here, I would have to find all the equipment, I wouldn’t be familiar with it, and I would have no idea where to stay and what it would be like. And then there are the critters.

Australians don’t seem to think too much about the animal dangers of this country, or at least, they don’t let on that they do. While I can’t seem to get over the idea that any creek, lake, or ocean could contain a crocodile that will leap out and swallow me. But if it makes you feel any better, I’m not too keen on the idea of sharks, either, and the only time I ever went snorkeling, I was trying to find out whether there would be sharks around. The idea of animals that can swallow you, well, it’s a little nerve wracking, ok? So, if I keep asking you whether crocs live in the area, you’ll have to forgive me.

Now, in the U.S., we do have animals that can kill you, though not so many that can swallow you (or most of you) whole. Bears, wolves, and cougars are no joke… but if you’re going to be camping in an area where they’re known to be, you’d be stupid to go there without a gun. However, there’s a reason that we’re told to NOT feed the wildlife. If a dangerous animal becomes accustomed to humans, they will lose their fear of you. And THEN, you are seriously in danger.

If I were going camping in the western United States, you can bet that I’ll be finding more about the dangers of the area, and if necessary, bringing along someone who’s a better shot than I am. But the truth is that I’m not (yet) much of a wilderness camper. I like bathrooms, not digging holes in the ground, and when I’m in Florida, I’m nowhere near the swamps. Alligators primarily live in the southern swamps. So, we always stay somewhere that’s pretty safe, though we didn’t pick it for that reason. We like to pick campgrounds for the gorgeous beaches, right near where we’re staying. Hence, we always head to the Gulf Coast.

The worst animal encounter I’ve ever had, while camping with my mom and cousin, was the time we accidentally left out one of our bags of banana bread. In the middle of the night, I woke to the sound of an animal walking by our tent, followed by a raccoon fight, as they fought over our food. I was kind enough to wake my family up, in order to share the joys of the moment, as the coons considered to yowl and scream at each other. And we prayed that nobody would have to go to the bathroom before the fight was over, because you couldn’t have paid me to interrupt a coon fight, in the middle of the night.

So, I think we should probably try and be more understanding of each other’s nerves, when it comes to the subject of camping and wildlife, but it’s still reasonable to be concerned with how much the local wildlife make their presence known. You put up with my worries, I’ll put up with yours, and we’ll always be better safe than sorry.

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