I strongly recommend you steer clear of Florida, unless you aren’t put off by the possibility of being unceremoniously delivered to Kingdom Come by a large coconut falling out of a tall tree and colliding with your defenseless head.
My wife and I this spring spent several weeks in Florida, the land of sun, surf and sand. And coconuts.
Everywhere we’d walk, we’d be exposed to these big, green bombs, hanging from the top of a palm tree, waiting to be launched onto some unsuspecting cranium below.
The people in charge of the grounds at our community obviously were aware of the danger their coconuts posed to human heads, because on some days they’d dispatch crews to go around with long sticks to jab at the threatening fruit to dislodge any that were cocked and loaded before innocent heads wandered within range.
One day, I asked one of those humanitarians if coconuts ever claimed any casualties.
“Very seldom,” he said. “Our job is to see that they don’t.”
I saluted as I left this brave veteran of the Coconut Wars so he could go disarm another missile. Where would we be without him? Suppine on a lawn? In an ER? A morgue?
SHARKS VS. COCONUTS
When I got back to the safety of our condo, I looked up on Wikipedia to find the extent of the threat that hovering coconuts actually pose to inattentive humans, and the findings were chilling, especially for anyone who views the coconut as just another harmless snack:
“Coconuts falling from their trees and striking individuals cause serious injury to the back, neck, shoulders and head. They can potentially be fatal.
“Following a 1984 study on ‘Injuries Due to Falling Coconuts,’ exaggerated claims spread concerning the number of deaths by falling coconuts. Falling coconuts, according to urban legend, kill a few people a year.
“This legend gained momentum after the 2002 work of a noted expert on shark attacks was characterized as saying that falling coconuts kill 150 people each year worldwide. This statistic has often been contrasted with the number of shark-caused deaths per year, which is around five.
“Concern about the risk of fatality due to gravity’s pull on coconuts led local officials in Queensland, Australia, to remove coconut trees from beaches in 2002. One newspaper dubbed coconuts ‘the killer fruit.’
“Historical reports of actual death by coconut nonetheless date back to the 1770s.”
Harmless fruit indeed!
I remember when I was a kid my father used to bring home a coconut from work every now and then. He worked in the office of a paper mill. Why coconuts were being distributed at a paper mill was never made clear to me, and I never had the sense to ask. I just figured it was routine for a bookkeeper to be handed a coconut every so often.
Maybe, instead of giving employees raises, the company gave a coconut every once in a while to express the firm’s deep gratitude for keeping the IRS off its back.
Anyway, he’d bring the coconut home, get out a saw, a chisel, a hammer and an assortment of other tools and set out to crack the thing open.
He’d spend an hour and a half, or so, penetrating the coconut and then about 2 minutes consuming the contents. If it were the other way around, he’d probably have had a weight problem accompanying him into old age, so his arrangement seemed to work well.
He’d invite the rest of the family to join him in this delectable repast, but I don’t remember anybody ever taking him up on it.
So, for my father, anyway, the thought of perambulating around a part of the world where a coconut could turn the tables on you and crack your head open might well have been worth the risk.
But, for the rest of you, if you go to Florida, make sure you’re looking up in the air all the time ready to dodge a streaking coconut and hope you don’t step on a rake.
Better yet, stay up here in the North. The weather is just now turning tropical, and most people have fled Florida. But if you stay here next winter, the worst thing that would probably happen is you’d get hit in the head by an apple. And you’d probably have a hat on.
Bob Grady worked for the Press-Republican newsroom in a variety of positions for almost 40 years, retiring as editor in 2011. For 20 of those years, he wrote a weekly column, often based on his maladroit acquaintances, including his wife’s cats and his friend Ted. He still lives in Plattsburgh.