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Posts Tagged ‘bugs’

  1. Counting Bugs

    May 7, 2017 by Diane

    Black ant on white background

    One person’s nightmare can be another person’s walk in the park. Let me explain.

    In the car, I was listening to the audio version of Robert Fulghum’s What on Earth Have I Done?—a collection of fun essays that made me grin like a goofball rather than grind my teeth like a raging American, which is what I usually do when driving and listening to news on NPR. But Fulghum has the soul of a child in the body of a white-haired minister, with a child’s sense of play. So while I drove, I grinned. If you’ve never heard Robert Fulghum read his work in his soft, gentle voice, I urge you to do so without delay.

    Anyway, in one of the essays, he talks about counting the bugs in his home.

    I decided to do the same. I’d perform a census of sorts, on the bugs residing in my cottage.

    The day I counted, I found one ant zipping along the window sill. I squashed it with a tissue. One down. A moment later, I saw one ant zipping along the window sill. The same ant, un-squashed. I’m sure it was the same ant, because there were no other ants as far as the eye could see. Ants don’t travel in pairs. There’s the one ant, scouting for whatever it is ants scout for, who later returns to the tribe to relay whatever information they’ve found. The ant I squashed was the scouting ant. If the scout goes missing, the assistant goes scouting for the scout. I had just squashed the head scout, so technically, he had only been missing for sixty seconds—not enough time to alert the assistant. Which proves my theory: even though I had squashed the scout, it came back to life.

    Which reminded me of that episode on The Twilight Zone where a man flushes a spider down the toilet and it comes back bigger, so he flushes it again and it comes back bigger, and so on until the spider is as big as the house and flushes the man down the toilet. At least I think it was The Twilight Zone. It may have been my vivid imagination.

    Something else: the day I decided to count the bugs in my cottage—a cottage normally overrun with bugs—all I found was one ant. Where were all the spiders and mosquitos and mosquito-eaters and crickets and caterpillars and fruit flies and those little orange things no bigger than a dot? Did I imagine them? Am I like that woman in the movie Gaslight where her husband schemes to drive her mad?

    Are you scared yet? Because I am.

    So, one ant. And several teensy-weensy black thingabees that looked like rat poop, but upon closer inspection were the husks of bugs that had been eaten by some spider nowhere to be found.

    I basked in the buglessness of my cottage, until two days later when we had a heat spell. Suddenly, every flying insect on the planet plastered itself to the outside of my windows. When I opened the door, they followed me in. They batted my head with their hard bodies. They congregated in the upper corners of the ceiling. They swarmed the lamps, clicking against the plastic shade over my bed, and in the glass shade over the bathroom mirror. I spent half the night smashing them, and for every one I smashed, two more appeared.

    But this is nothing compared to what Dave endured.

    He had just gone to bed, and heard a gurgling sound coming from his bathroom. He thought, God, I hope it’s not the sewer backing up into the shower. He flicked on the light, checked the shower. All clear. Then he glanced in the toilet.

    There, blinking in the sudden light, was a giant barn rat.

    That’s right.

    A barn rat.

    In the toilet.

    Having scurried up from the sewer pipes.

    Evidently, the rat was as startled to see Dave as Dave was to see a giant rat peering from the toilet, because it turned tail and scurried right back down the pipes.

    “Wait a minute,” I said a week later when he told me. “You found a rat in your toilet? And you’re telling me this now, a week later?”

    If I had found a rat in my toilet, here’s what I would have done:

    1. Run screaming into the night.

    2. Driven to Dave’s and banged on his door, yelling, “Move over, I’m sleeping with you!”

    3. Never gone to the bathroom again. Ever.

    I’ll take a whole tribe of ants and a gazillion flying insects over one barn rat in the toilet any day.

    Dave will take one barn rat over one snake in the toilet any day.

    And some poor schlub who pulls down his pants and hears hissing will take one snake in the toilet over six half-eaten cockroaches in his cereal bowl any day. Gulp.

    Any day can add up to a walk in the park, depending on what it is you’re counting.

  2. There’s Nothing Up My Sleeve

    March 17, 2014 by Diane

    hand extended

    Whose big idea was it to consider handshaking an acceptable practice?

    According to Wikipedia (that trusted resource written by anybody with the ability to login and type), the handshake has been around since the time of the ancient Greeks. The custom was meant to show that the bearer of the hand had no weapon. “See? Nothing up my toga.”

    What compelled the other Greek to grasp the hand and shake it? Was it to see if anything fell out of the toga, if there was a weapon stuffed up the sleeve?

    What those toga-wearing philosophizers hadn’t considered was the lowly bacteria; the secret weapon invisible to the naked eye. That outstretched hand…who knows where it’s been? It could be lined with the plague. Or a skin-eating organism. Or fish from last night’s dinner.

    Usually I try to have my hands occupied so I don’t have to engage in mutual shaking. But there I was, sitting on the examination table in the orthopedic department at the hospital wearing paper shorts, when Dr. Bloomberg walked in, his hand thrust out for a good hearty shake.  

    The fact that Dr. Bloomberg hadn’t washed his hands first led me to believe that he wasn’t a real doctor. I came to this conclusion because the nurse, after ushering me into the exam room, told me there was a doctor in the department who used to be an air conditioning repairman in the hospital. This was in answer to my question, “What’s the difference between a physiatrist and a physiologist?” There was more to the nurse’s answer, but that was the only part I heard.

    The gloveless Dr. Bloomberg, I feared, was the repairman.

    “So, what’s going on with your hip?” the fake doctor asked.

    I explained that my hip hurt when I walked, it hurt when I slept, it hurt when I sit and it hurt when I got up from sitting. I told him I’d tried physical therapy and chiropractic and yoga, I’d tried ignoring it and babying it and icing it and heating it, and the pain had been going on for years now and I had a pretty good idea that what I had was bursitis, and I wanted a shot. I wanted a shot of cortisone, providing I wouldn’t suffer any horrible side effects, like sudden death. “And by the way, what’s the difference between a physiatrist and a physiologist?” I asked.

    He felt my hip, and then sat on his little rolling stool. “A physiatrist,” he explained, “works in rehabilitation departments. Physiology is the science of rehabilitation.” He said more than that, but that’s all I needed to hear; he sounded legit. Or well-read. When he had run out of story about his medical background, he gave his quads a light tap with his palms and stood.

    “I’m going to go fill up,” he said, “and then I’ll give you your shot.”

    And off he went.

    To fill up.

    Five minutes later he returned. Full.

    “Ready?” he asked. This time he didn’t offer a hand to shake, but they both looked empty. What had he filled? Was it stuffed up his sleeve? Those Greeks might have been onto something.

    I turned onto my side and faced the wall. He snapped on some gloves, slid the waistband of my shorts down, and felt around for the tenderest spot on my hip. Nothing. He asked me to find the tenderest spot. Nothing. “Well, I’ll just pick a spot,” he said, and did, and it must have been the rightest, most tenderest spot, because when he inserted the needle the pain lifted me off the exam table. I think I levitated for five minutes before he withdrew the needle.

    “There,” he said. “That’s it. You should feel better immediately.” Anything would feel better than having a needle jabbed in your bursa. He pulled off the gloves. “Let me know how you’re doing in a couple of weeks,” he said.

    And thrust out his hand to shake.

  3. Superbugs: The Game is On!

    December 23, 2013 by Diane

    Pills, 10eps

    Superbugs appear to have super powers when it comes to antibiotic resistance. But there is a power more resistant to antibiotics than the lowly superbug.

    Human beings.

    Allow me to present Exhibit Number 1:

    A coworker showed up for work one morning in a grumpy mood. I asked, “How are you today?” and she shouted, “TERRIBLE!” She had a toothache so intense the pain radiated into her left eyeball.

    I suggested that she book an appointment with a dentist.

    “It’s the holidays,” she griped. “The dentists are all golfing.”

    So she marched across the street to see an acupuncturist.

    The acupuncturist looked at my coworker’s tongue and announced, “You’re stagnant. Stagnant!” She stuck needles in my coworker’s left ear; adhered tiny magnets to her ear lobe. “Press these when you feel pain,” the acupuncturist advised.

    So my coworker pressed them. And pressed them. She returned to work carrying a bag of Chinese herbs in one hand, and pressing her earlobe with the other. She spent twenty minutes pressing her earlobe, and then drove home to cook up the herbs.

    She needed antibiotics.

    Maybe a root canal.

    Instead, she chose to boil up and drink down a brew of herbs so foul, the odor alone would drive the infection from her tooth.

    Would a superbug survive such an experiment? Doubtful.

    Exhibit Number 2:

    Many years ago I was working a temp job, setting up a file system for a woman who had an infected growth on her neck. She had a fever. The growth, day by day, was getting progressively worse. This woman, a capable healer in her own right, telephoned a super-duper healer who told her to write certain phrases on a yellow legal pad and then beat herself on the back with it. Five feet away, filing documents, I pretended to be unaware that this woman was battering herself with a legal pad.

    She needed antibiotics.

    Perhaps a good lancing.

    Instead, she used the power of the legal pad to drive the poisons from her bloodstream.

    Antibiotics? Bah!

    The human mind has the capacity for resistance far superior to any bug. What do bugs have? A hocus-pocus evolutionary trick that transforms them into something super.

    From now on, if I ever develop a suspicious growth on my neck, I’m calling the exterminator to have it removed. If I acquire an abscessed tooth, I’m heading to the hardware store to get it fixed. I can resist antibiotics as well as any superbug.

    Game on!