WASHINGTON — Still shaken by a brief encounter with a small rattlesnake the other day on vacation, I am enthralled by one big story right now.

The New York Times has reported, in gripping detail, so to speak, the saga of the biting snakes of Bangkok, Thailand. Hundreds of snakes. Thousands of snakes. Maybe millions of snakes. The Bangkok Fire and Rescue Department has been called out on 31,801 (and counting) human encounters between panicked residents and snakes of the worst kind. The kind of horror story where a giant eight-foot python rises out of the toilet to bite you on the thigh and sends you bleeding to the hospital. And later another python does the same thing to your daughter.

Now this is journalism. This is public service at its best. This is why the Pulitzer Prizes exist. This is news we need. And it is not fake. There are pictures.

To think we Americans freaked out over a movie about snakes on a plane although it actually did happen to some passengers on an Aeromexico flight in 2016 when a large snake fell out of the overhead bins. Yeah, something definitely shifted in flight. After an emergency landing and a visit by animal control, all was well, except perhaps to those passengers who vowed never to fly again.

According to The Times, the Thai people are wondering if possibly their main airport, Suvarnabhumi (named so it is unpronounceable by most of the world) should not have been built in a place called Cobra Swamp. Some even wonder if maybe the city was wrongly located in a “marshy reptile paradise.”

The Times’ vivid account said that on one recent day the fire department received five calls to snuff out fires and 173 calls to snuff out snake attacks or at least remove them to wildlife refuges. The deputy director, Prayul Krongyos, was quoted as saying, “There’s no way we could survive if there were more fires than snakes.”

We Americans may be hopelessly split on politics but on the appalling idea of large snakes slithering around, we are as one. ONE! Our capital, Washington D.C., was indeed built on a swamp, but snakes have not been a major issue (except for the lying varmints who are going to raise taxes on millions of poor and middle-class Americans in order to give a huge tax break to millionaires, billionaires and giant conglomerates.)

One of the culprits for the influx of snakes is wet weather, which drives the snakes inside. Actually, the people of Louisiana, Florida, Puerto Rico and Texas learned about this habit of uncomfortably wet snakes this past summer. In the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, there were chilling pictures of poisonous snakes, alligators, stinging fire ants and confused sharks swimming in the streets in some of our own U.S. cities.

Thai officials are trying to convince Bangkok’s 8.2 million residents that most snakes are harmless and won’t hurt you if they are unprovoked. Apparently, thousands of snakes are simply dispatched by homeowners who never call the fire department so statistics about human-snake encounters could be much higher. There are even phone apps that let you take a picture and find out if your particular snake is venomous or should just be ignored and not provoked or killed. But I don’t know how much more provoking it can be than to have a snake come writhing out of a bathtub or toilet or lurching at you in the street. I say restraint goes out the window in such cases.

I dwell on Thailand’s snakes for two reasons. First, snakes are on my mind although I was never in real danger on that hiking trail and am completely safe now that I have returned to the safety of the Capitol and the White House, surrounded only by human snakes trying to raise our taxes while the insufferably rich get huge tax cuts. But also in this holiday season I bring you good tidings of cheer and comfort: Pure proof that things could always be worse in the nation’s capital.

Although I did once get bitten by a brown recluse spider in the Senate Watergate Caucus Room.

Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may send her email at amcfeatters@nationalpress.com.

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