Can you imagine discovering a baby iguana in the seatback pocket of an airplane?
It happened—but not to me, thankfully, or I wouldn't be alive to tell this tale.
At dinner the other night, an airplane pilot friend was talking about his former pet iguana. He explained that after a plane landing, a member of the cleaning crew had discovered a live, baby iguana in a seatback pocket. Apparently someone had intended to bring the exotic pet with them to the plane’s final destination, thought better of it at the last minute, and abandoned the reptile.
The pilot thought it would be cool to have a pet iguana and took the creature home. The iguana lived with the pilot and his partner for several years—until the beast bit down on his arm one day. The pilot showed me the circular scar on his forearm.
Did I just hear you faint? Or was that me?
Anyhow, during his stint as a hideous houseguest, the iguana had free reign of the pilot’s home. Sometimes they’d find the iguana in a bookcase, for instance. The iguana was particularly fond of running water and would often join the pilot or his partner during their showers.
Is there still such a thing as smelling salts? If so, where can I buy some?
One day, the pilot and his partner had a houseguest. She was staying in their home while they were away. She knew they had a pet iguana and wasn’t particularly thrilled at the idea, even less so that the reptile was uncaged. So imagine her reaction when, unexpectedly, the iguana joined her in the shower. The screams that resulted were reminiscent of the shower scene in Psycho.
Hang with me, y'all, I'm almost done with the horror parade.
The pilot then told a story about how, during a cocktail party at their home, the iguana made an unexpected appearance. One of the guests, whom the pilot said was “a nelly queen,” took one look at the beast and bolted for the doorway.
Let me just say that had I been there, I'd have beaten that nelly queen out the door. Despite my attempts at alligator hunting with cocktails, I have a morbid fear of reptiles—especially one that might show up unexpectedly without a leash and has two penises. (Yes, it's true; iguanas have two thingies.)
As a boy in Greensboro, my earliest memory is discovering a garter snake in the driveway. I shrieked for so long, so loudly, that a concerned neighbor appeared with a hoe. To stop my screaming, he chopped the snake into two. When both pieces of the snake continued to squirm, my shrieks blew out every window on the block.
Geckos used to make me jump every single time. Finally, I came to terms with them (more or less) when I realized they like to visit the same places I do—especially warm, tropical islands.
But iguanas? I can barely look at a photo of these prehistoric prowlers without wanting to flee. (In fact, you may have noticed this post has no photo of an iguana. This was not an oversight on my part.)
I know I’m not alone in this. One day years ago, my friend Bob and I were walking along a San Francisco street on our way to a movie. There was a homeless guy on the corner with a pet iguana on his shoulder. I turned to remark upon it to Bob, but he was no longer there. Almost immediately, I heard car horns honking and tires squealing. Bob had dashed into the street with little (if no) regard for the traffic in order to reach the opposite side of the street as quickly as humanly possible.
After my recent Night of the Iguana with the pilot, I was sure I’d go home and have horrific nightmares. Oddly enough, I had no memorable dreams whatsoever. Could it be that I’m getting just a teensy bit less fearful of cold-blooded creatures?
Probably not. From here on, when I’m on airplane, you can be certain that my hands will not venture inside a seatback pocket.