In a recent column investigating the possibility of vacationing in Australia, I wrote about some of the ridiculously poisonous creatures that can be found there. Admittedly, some of these animals, like the Inland Taipan snake (The Most Poisonous Snake In The World(TM)), don't live in densely populated areas. (Or at least, not densely populated anymore, if you catch my drift.) But others can be found right smack dab in the middle of the habitable world -- such as it is in Australia.
For example, the Funnel Web spider which is common in and around Sydney -- a major Australian-type city full of Australian-type people -- is about two inches across with fangs powerful enough to pierce a fingernail. If that isn't enough (and frankly, I think I speak for everyone living on the planet Earth when I say that, "Yes. Fingernail-piercing fangs are enough, thank you very much.") the venom from your average Funnel Web female spider can kill a man within a couple of hours. What's more, the venom from the male Funnel Web spider is five times more potent and, unlike the females, they are likely to "roam about quite a bit". That's just what the world needs: an outrageously poisonous spider on walkabout.
Now the last I checked, there are daily flights out of Australia to other parts of the world, so technically Australians don't have to live there. They have options. Thus it comes as a bit of a surprise that these seemingly normal people choose to live in what can only be generously described as a landscape seething in deadly neurotoxins. Of course, it's possible that everyone in Australia is starkers. Who's to know?
Americans, and most of the rest of the world from what I gather (with the possible exception of New Zealanders -- and who listens to them?), don't know all that much about Australia. We've gleaned what little knowledge we have based on very limited input: Mad Max films, the one good Crocodile Dundee film and the two other bad ones, and Steve Irwin. It's a bit of a narrow slice, I'll be the first to admit.
And so, while we might expect big burly men such as Paul Hogan, Mel Gibson, and Andy Gibb to routinely throw themselves into deadly peril wielding nothing more than a large knife (or in Andy's case, razor-sharp polyester lapels), what is surprising to find out is that every Australian faces deadly peril every second of every day.
Just walking to the end of the driveway to collect the mail is, apparently, a death-defying feat where the average Australian housewife may encounter any number of poisonous snakes, scorpions, and/or spiders, any of whom pack some of the most lethal venom in the world (and possibly the universe). And yet it seems that the average Australian does this with as much fuss and bother as "Pish posh! Off with you, you manky old 'Insert-name-of-one-of-the-14-types-of-deadly-venomous-snakes-native-to-Australia-here'."
Whereas in America, if that happened, we'd hold a press conference:
Reporter: "Tell our viewers what happened."
Man: "I was in the house watching TV when I heard Agnes scream."
Man: "The lady across the street who saw the snake."
Reporter: "And then what did you do?"
Man: "I called a press conference."
Well, perhaps I'm overstating the case. In America, we'd probably just pull out a gun and shoot the snake. And then we'd sue the snake's heirs, possibly taking a shot at the judge during the trial four years later. (It would be redundant to shoot the lawyers -- we'd already shot the snake.)
But the point is, as a vacation spot, Australia seems like a lovely destination. I especially recommend it to lawyers.