Thursday, June 23, 2011

Don't forget to tip your waitresses. They have families and bug problems of their own.

I used to think that I was the kind of person who was not bothered by bugs and crawly things. I'm not the kind of squealy girl that goes all stupid just because there's a moth around the lightbulb. And really, apart from slugs, I LIKE bugs (and stuff. Technically – slugs are not bugs. But you know…).

I even bit the abdomen off a fried wing'ed thing once. On purpose. You hold the wings and then just nip its belly off with your teeth. It was Thailand, 15 years ago and I was under duress but still...  that gets me points, right? (Tasted kind of like a salted peanut. Maybe a bit squishier.)

Except praying mantises. I thought I liked them.  They are kind of fascinating. They do exist in the south of New Zealand but not like in the numbers in a wet Auckland summer. And one time, I was on the bus in Auckland and I noticed a praying mantis - a big one - clinging to the back of the seat in front of me.  I tried to ignore it. Because - you know - I'm COOL with bugs. (Did you know praying mantises are carnivorous? Don't click that link if there are small children nearby. You were warned.)

It was a really FULL bus.

I had a window seat near the back of the bus and there was a young Asian student sitting in the seat next to me and his girlfriend was in the seat in front of him and the aisle was crammed with people and backpacks and that unfortunate tight feeling you get when you're in a crowd and there just can't possibly be enough air for everyone.

And then the mantis locked eyes with me. Have you ever really studied a mantis's face?  They have the steeliest gaze of any creature alive.  I tried to look away but it had me like Medusa and there was no escape. I moved  my face towards the window - my face moved but my eyes stayed locked with those evil green ovals and that is when it chose to leap.

I emitted an involuntary, visceral kind of groan - like the sounds that people make when they are having nightmares. A REALLY  LOUD involuntary, visceral groan. And the poor boy next to me proved that he was truly a hero by slapping me right on the tit and squishing the bug between his fingers. His girlfriend turned around - everybody on that bus turned around - to see what the commotion was and he held up his hand to show the green smear like some kind of awkward open-handed, snot-covered  victory fist.
I'm not an idiot. I like bugs, but I don't like bugs that might bite me. That includes mosquitos and sandflies and anything with an obvious stinger.

Oh and millipedes? I get that you're a marvel of nature, and have successfully tiptoed across the surface of the earth for a gazillion years but really - I prefer you on TV and not in my garden. I mean - have you ever picked a pebble out of the soil and then recoiled in horror as it unwound itself, all of its hundreds of little legs waving in the air? At once?

And can we please also exclude caterpillars and pretty much all creatures in their larval form? Especially those weevils that made a mass exodus that time from my pantry to my ceiling when Mr Martin was away on tour and it was night and the only defense I had was the vacuum cleaner and sometimes when you try to vaccum a crawling weevil off the ceiling it drops down  and lands in your cleavage? (And of the same era - Barney - I'm really sorry still about that time I invited you over for dinner and watched in horror as you spooned a live wriggling weevil out of the ground chilli.)

Just what is it with you insects and my cleavage anyway? Remember that time there was a shootout on the motorway and the armed offenders squad were surrounding our house and the woman was standing on her garage roof shrieking and while I was looking up at the helicopters circling overhead thinking "I should probably go inside," and that wasp came out of nowhere and stung me on the boob! I mean really.  As if there wasn't enough drama going on that day.

The other day my husband invited to come and look at the really interesting beetle that had blown up onto our balcony in one of these storms we keep on getting and was now stranded on its back and it was a FUCKING COCKROACH.

All of my memories of the Philippines are prefaced by this sentence: There was a LEECH on the bathroom floor. “What if there are leeches somewhere else? Are they in the bed? Strip the bed! I said STRIP THE FUCKING BED! Why are you laughing at me?!”

And now I am engaged in a kind of war where I am the only one fighting, and the only way I can win is if I clean up my shit because the ANTS. Who sent the goddam ants? Martha Stewart?

The ants don't care if they lose large numbers of troops. It doesn't bother them at all.  No matter what you clean if you leave a crumb out they will find another way to get there because as far as they are concerned that is their crumb.

I should really be celebrating the fact that the first 4 months in our apartment were almost entirely ant-free, but instead I woke up the other day having a nightmare where there was a thick trail - several ants wide - on the wall, and that when I spray’n’wiped it they scattered and pretty soon there were ants covering every surface. The walls and the bed and the cushions and there are so many of them that you can kill a million and it won’t make a dent.

(Hi Nana. There aren’t actually a million ants in my apartment. I promise they won't crawl in your ears while you're sleeping. Can't wait to see you next week!)

Does this mean that I have turned into that kind of shriek woman I am so contemptuous of? Probably. Butterflies moths and beetles are still mostly OK. The non-disease-bearing ones in their adult forms, at least. For now, though, I am cleaning as I go and my kitchen positively glistens.

Probably my mother-in-law would be proud.


  1. We also have a massive ant problem that involves spraying and wiping down daily. So annoying! no matter how clean we keep the kitchen they always come back!

  2. Are they big ants? We had super tiny ones everywhere - which might seem like a blessing compared to what we could have - but they're still annoying. They sprayed our house and for the next few days we had miniature dead ants everywhere. My favorite kind :-)

    It's funny - I was looking at your lychee blog because one of my friends asked and it was easier than explaining it myself. Then I started reading this one. All the while I'm eating lychees. I ripped one off the stem, tearing a bit of the top off, and guess what was hiding in there? A tiny creepy worm... Not scary, but gross. And it jumps.. That's gross.

    I have a story about a bug and my butt crack. I'll tell you sometime :-)

  3. Ugh! Jumping worms! That's terrible. You have to watch out for funny shaped lychees too. You might be thinking - oh sweet! A heart-shaped one! When the whole reason that it's heart shaped is because it has a delicious little infestation in one lobe.

    The ants are small and black and not in massive numbers so long as I'm vigilant with putting away food. It's not worth napalming the apartment... yet.

    I'm busy entertaining my mother and grandmother this week, but very interested in hearing all about your butt crack some time soon!

  4. Nellie - the ants are smarter than us. We think we're smart, but we lack COLLECTIVE intelligence, and the sense of sacrifice for the greater good that ensures the survival of a superior species. After the zombiepocalypse the ANTS will be the ones cleaning up.