Florida Shell Shop
Across the street from the condominium was a Florida
museum. It had that unprofessional look that seemed almost home-
made. A low income museum intrigued me. I had always felt one
could find more quality and interest in the unprofessional; the
non-commercialized than the user-friendly perfection of higher
budget corps. So, like the tourist I was, I decided to cross the
street to see the interests of Florida.
There was a large sign reading "Florida Antiques" with a
subtitle "Live Alligator!". The sign looked self-made itself. It
made me wonder if he cut down the very tree that produced the
wood for the advertisement. On it was a picture of a smiling,
bipedal alligator. Quite frankly, it looked pretty silly.
As I neared the door, I saw a second entrance just a few
feet away with a sign above it reading "Shell Shop". I decided to
check this out first so I walked through the second door.
Hundreds of pieces of chipped paint tore apart from the door and
seemed to disintegrate before me as I opened the door. The
movement also triggered a bell chime. An old man appeared through
a door behind the desk but I paid little attention to him.
I was surprised to find that, as the only thing the sign
had promised, the only objects being sold were shells. Some were
interesting but most of them looked like ordinary shells you
could find on the beach. Not being fond of sea cartilage, I
looked around for anything else of interest.
The room itself was dirty and drab. The walls were peeling
as much as the door was. The only sound was the faint noise of a
television set behind the clerk's door.
The aged clerk was obviously the owner. He seemed to stare
at me and I became conscious of my own actions. I escaped his
vigilance by leaving.
By the time I went through door designated to the museum,
the man had already went back into the other room. I rang the
counter bell and he reappeared. This time I got a better look at
him. He wasn't mad, but I felt as if he was bothered by my
presence. I paid the fee and he gave me a tape recorder to play
as I went through the tour. He gave me instructions on the route
to follow but they were quick and non-explanatory, as if I was
supposed to know this already.
I turned on the recorder and began the outdoor exhibit. The
antiques were kept in small buildings with large panel glass
covering an entire side. The roof overlapped the sides to provide
shade for the customer.
The tour was great and the antiques were interesting. I
enjoyed going through it alone. A lot of the attractions were
stuffed sea creatures but it also included old artifacts found
underwater, models of old ships, and even statues of Florida
Indians in an exhibit complete with teepees and totem poles.
It surprised me to see so many antiques in a privately
owned establishment. However, at the same time, the place seemed
very old and unkept. The grass had not been mowed and parts of
the buildings were falling apart.
I then came upon the alligator pond. It did not surprise me
that I could barely see it. It kept still almost totally
submerged in the mossy water where I imagine it stayed, not
moving unless to eat, for most of it's days. The pond looked
neglected as most of the entire establishment was.
As I walked back to the starting point, I saw the old man
walking with the same grim look on his face. He did not grumble
but I imagined him to. He went right past me without even seeing
me. I got the impression that he was always like that; as
unproductive as the alligator. I wondered if life could ever be
worth it going through life in such a dismal demeanor every day.
When I got back, I noticed the museum/shell shop also
tripled as the owner's home and that the whole place was up for
sale. Then I understood.
The man had worked hard his life and dreamed of opening a
museum for his retirement to show off the interests of Florida.
Only an obsession could have brought so many artifacts to a
privately owned business. The man, unlike so many others, was
able to make his dreams come true. Now, he thinks he is too old
to keep the place up. He just wants to retire from his
retirement, to move to a simpler existence where he doesn't have
to bother with customers or feed the docile alligator.
He isn't too old; just sick, sick of showing the interests
of Florida; sick of selling worthless shells you can find on the
beach. So, he has to move again, to get away from the utopia he
achieved, but that somehow didn't fit his dreams.