Hurricane Andrew may be history, but watch out for those baboons!

September 02, 1992|By Dave Barry | Dave Barry,Knight-Ridder News Service

Miami -- So I was in my yard, cutting and dragging trees, which is pretty much what I do these days, and I stopped to listen to the battery-powered radio, and the announcer informed me that there were 300 baboons on the loose.

And I thought to myself: Of course! Loose baboons! The one inconvenience we have not yet encountered this week!

"The baboons are harmless," stated the announcer. "But don't get in their way."

And I won't. If the baboons come to our house, they can just go on inside and help themselves to our rotting food and our water with bleach in it.

We put bleach in the water because the radio announcer told us to. The theory is, the bleach makes the water taste so awful that nobody will drink it, thereby preventing the spread of disease.

We do whatever the announcers tell us. We have lost the ability to think for ourselves. Our lives have been announcer-directed since Sunday morning, when we went into an ant-like scurrying frenzy of preparations for Hurricane Andrew. We had two televisions and three radios turned on, tuned to several different stations, so that everywhere we went we could hear announcers telling us things we need to do IMMEDIATELY:

"ASSEMBLE YOUR IMPORTANT PAPERS!" "GET BLEACH!" "GET PLYWOOD!" "FORGET THE PLYWOOD! THERE IS NO MORE PLYWOOD!" "LEAVE THE AREA RIGHT NOW!" "STAY OFF THE ROADS!" "DON'T PANIC!"

"CAULK UP YOUR BATHTUB!" "REMOVE YOUR PUMP MOTOR!" "SEPARATE YOUR KITCHEN UTENSILS ACCORDING TO ZINC CONTENT!" "I SAID DON'T PANIC, DAMMIT!!" "REMOVE ALL HELIUM MOLECULES FROM THE GARAGE!" "YOU'RE STARTING TO PANIC, AREN'T YOU??"

We raced around the house, bumping into each other, engaging in increasingly random activities. The more instructions we got, the more confused we became. It's a miracle that we didn't pour bleach on our important papers.

Finally, with night falling, we scurried over to the home of some friends who had a bedroom with plywood on the windows. We went in there, 13 people and one dog, and tried to sleep, but then the house started to vibrate, and the front wall started to cave in, and the children started crying, and the grown-ups lied and said they were sure the house wasn't going to fall down, and the dog -- this must have something to do with air pressure -- became unbelievably flatulent.

When it ended, we picked our way around the fallen trees and the power lines and went home to have a look. My initial reaction was that it was a horrible mess, but now that I've seen what happened to other people, I realize we got off easy. Our trees are down and our property looks like it was landscaped by Godzilla, but we have a house and the vast majority of a roof. We're not complaining.

So I started cutting trees with a hand saw, and my wife, Beth, a highly skilled shopper, went out foraging in the primitive wilderness that South Dade has become. She came back, hours later, with a chain saw AND a generator, which she bought from friendly men on trucks. She paid a little over retail -- roughly $789,000 -- but I don't care, because by the time the credit-card bill comes I expect to be dead from gasoline poisoning.

I've been attempting to siphon gasoline from the car so I can use it in the generator, and the announcers have not told me the correct way to do this, the result being that I have swallowed enough gasoline to power a Volkswagen Jetta from Miami to Syracuse, N.Y. When I'm not cutting and dragging wood, I'm lying on the driveway next to the car, holding a siphon tube, gasping and gagging and spitting out gasoline, which tastes almost as bad as water with bleach in it. I've been wearing the same shirt for four days now, and it's soaked with gasoline and spit and sweat and tree sap, and I bet if the baboons do come, they'll get one whiff of me and flee in terror.

One thing I can say about this past week is, we're getting closer to nature. At night, with no air conditioning, we leave the windows open, and we can hear this very loud frog who lives right outside our bedroom window. It's a girl frog. I know this because she calls out longingly for a boy frog named Frank, who apparently is WAY overdue for a mating appointment. Maybe he's been detained at a Frog National Guard checkpoint.

"FRAAANNNNNKK," says the girl frog. All night long.

I lie in bed and listen to her, and I think about the trees I have to cut the next day, and wonder what to do about the roof, and wish that the power would come back on. They're saying it could be weeks.

"FRANNNKKKKKKK," says the frog. The noise irritated me at first, but not so much any more. The frog needs to make frog babies as much as I need a roofing contractor. Right now, we're all just doing what we have to.

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