Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Where's Waldo?!?

Rob has a friend, or mascot, of sorts, who frequents the area behind our house in Costa Rica. We'll call him "Waldo" for the sake of this story. Rob is always quick to report his spotting of Waldo's comings and goings, his pleasure with the fact that our construction and subsequent activity in Waldo's habitat hasn't sent him packing. Rob and Waldo have forged some sort of bond. I guess it's a guy thing...

"Waldo" is an impressive specimen. He is a rather large male Ctenosaur, or Black Spiny-Tailed Iguana. Waldo is easily four feet long and boasts a pretty thick middle. In researching Waldo's kind for this blog, I learned that the Guinness Book of World Records lists the Ctenosaur's running speed as 21.7 miles per hour, qualifying it as the world's fastest lizard!
I can vouch for some pretty fast departures from the back of the house, down the dirt path, and toward the back of the lot where Waldo inhabits a tree. Male Ctenosaurs are known to be very territorial. They make their homes in tree hollows or crevasses in rocks and spend the majority of their time basking, eating, and generally hanging out in an area within 50 meters of their home. From time to time, Waldo maxes out the far reaches of his territory to woo a female Ctenosaur living beneath the transformer box at the front of the lot, or to climb the Corteza Amarilla tree behind the house to munch on the golden blossoms. So, on the day I spotted Waldo basking on the driveway next to the car at the front of the house, I half expected him to turn and run before I took another step in his direction. He was pretty far afield in terms of his usual territory.

It was an afternoon in July and I was heading out to pick up Joan for a quick trip to Santa Cruz. I initially stopped dead in my tracks when I noticed Waldo next to the car. I took a big step forward, then paused to await his certain departure. Waldo didn't move. He held his ground. In fact, he turned toward me and bobbed his head, then froze. This was a different Waldo from the one I observed from the windows of the house. That Waldo always looked smaller in the distance, less threatening as he ran away from the house, hightailing it toward his distant tree. This Waldo appeared bigger, more colorful, seemingly boasting breeding colors. This didn't bode well.

Clearly, I've caught Waldo off-guard. Obviously, when I take one more little step in his direction he'll take off running... I step. He doesn't budge. Clearly, I have underestimated Waldo. One more step should do it. I step forward and Waldo turns toward the car and disappears beneath it in one fluid movement. Then, silence.
Where's Waldo? In the wheel well? This was not in the homeowner's manual!

Now I'm thinking... this is really no different than the neighbor's cat or the pesky squirrel in the garage at home, right? I'll open the car door, get inside, and slam the door. Waldo will run off faster than I can say "Adios!" Door open, door closed... nothing. Door opened again, door slammed again... still nothing. Time to take it up a notch. I'll start the car. The sound of the engine turning over will send Waldo running. Key in ignition, key turned, engine on... nothing. I'll put the car in reverse and roll it slowly backward, just enough to motivate Waldo to drop out of the wheel well and take off. Brake on, car in Reverse, letting up off the brake, car easing backward... then a "thwacking" sound and commotion under the car that rocks the floorboard. "What the hell?!" I throw the car back into Park and sit. Nothing. Not a sound. Ignition off. Door open. I step (cautiously) out. Door closed. Door open. Door closed. Nothing.

There's a saying that there is a correlation between the prevalence of swear words in ones vocabulary and his or her intelligence, or lack thereof. This is the part of the story where my intelligence becomes seriously undermined by the flurry of obscenities that accompany my ensuing actions in trying to extract Waldo from under the hood of the car. I've taken the liberty of censoring myself in the re-telling of this tale.

I dialed Joan's cell number and she quickly answered with "Hey, what's up?" I explained that I was running a few minutes late, as I had a Spiny Iguana under my hood, and that this might take a few minutes, it being kind of a new situation and all... "Do you want us to come over?" she asked. "No. I think I've got it under control. I'll call you back." The wheels in my head were turning. While on the phone I had spotted a wooden broom stick on the front porch. A perfect pry bar!

Open the door. Pop the hood. Close the door. Nothing. (Here's the stupid part...) Carefully lift the hood and (really stupid part...) stick finger into crack below the hood to feel for the hood release lever. Push the hood release lever to lift the hood and (seemingly smarter plan...) lodge wooden broom handle under hood to use as a makeshift pry bar to lift hood in order to keep fingers clear of Ctenosaur teeth. Simple, right? Lift hood by leveraging with wooden broomstick to an open position... "Thawack-fffffth-shwack" resonates from under the hood as Waldo, nestled on top of the engine cover, spins a 180 and hunkers down onto the engine and I let out a "Holy sh#*!" and simultaneously drop the hood. Regroup. "Jeeeeeezus Christ Lizard!" No one is gonna believe this. I need a picture.

Walk to the house, unlock the gate, unlock the door, find the camera, exit the house, lock the door, lock the gate. Deep breath. Open the car door. Pop the hood. Close the car door. Carefully lift the hood and (some people just never learn...) stick finger into the crack below the hood to feel for the hood release and (really, really stupid part...) push the release lever again. Lodge wooden broom stick under hood and begin to pry to open position, then "thawaaaaaap-fffftht-thwack" and another wild spin as Waldo whips around a second time, sending me backward with a hood slam and a "Mother fu@k#r!" I forgot to take a picture.

Third time's a charm. Open door. Pop hood. Close door. Turn camera on. Grasp camera awkwardly in left hand. Lift hood. Stick finger (stupidly) into crack beneath hood. Push release lever. Wedge broomstick under hood. Lift camera to ready position. Leverage hood up with broomstick in one hand, arm shaking under weight of hood. "Hissssssss-fffffthwack" tail-whipping 360 commotion... Camera drops. "Fu@# mother fu@#er!" Hood slams. Waldo drops out from under the car and takes off at a velocity rivaling that record 21.7 miles per hour, bony knees and scaly clawed feet exaggeratedly peddling to propel him across the understory!

"Hey Joan. I'm on my way."