Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Have I Mentioned I Hate Bugs?

A Story

I was exhausted, it had been a long, hard-fought battle against the ants.  I collapsed onto my bed, my luxury princess bed in my mud and thatch castle.  The large pile of blankets atop the foam mattress felt like heaven.  I tucked a satin-cased pillow under my head and reached for my book.

Three days, it’d been at least three days, this battle with the ants.  At first there were only a few.  I didn’t mind a few, as long as they stayed on the ground or the walls.  They weren’t the impashi (“ihm-posh-eee,” fire ants) that can devour a human baby whole in a few minutes.  They were regular little ants.  And after all, inside isn’t all that much different than outside when everything’s made of mud and grass.  But then, they’d started getting into things, those pesky ants.  Climbing over the salade (“salad-eee,” cooking oil) bottle, around the balsamic vinegar cap.  Hey, that’s my breakfast!  Getting on stuff I needed to touch: the chair, the table, my sewing machine.  That was when I decided to fight back.  I had no idea it’d be so long or so torturous a fight.

At first, I just swept them out.  Short straw broom, hunched over, sweep, sweep, swee-eep.  Out go the ants, back outside where they belong.  But it wasn’t enough.

I put all the food away.  Well, the little bit that was out.  Most of the food was already tucked away in thick plastic buckets with tough snap-on lids to keep the imbebe (“ihm-bey-bah,” rats) out.  So the few glass jars and such, into the buckets they went, too.  With out any food out, there should be nothing to attract the ants.  Another sweep, sweep, swee-eep, and the ants were gone.  Briefly.  It wasn’t enough.  Time to call in reserves.

Ba Lenix, Ba Feya, Ba Joyce and Hampola came to investigate.  Where were the ants entering?  Maybe there was something we could do to block the entrance, or to make the entrance less appealing.  Considering the windows didn’t close, the roof didn’t meet the ceiling and the whole place was made out of mud, this seemed like an odd idea to me.  Oh well, anything’s worth a shot.

With the hut half emptied into the front yard, we found a few possible entry points and brushed some wood preserver around the areas.  On the brick, on the concrete, on the wood.  Sweep, sweep, swee-eep.  Goodbye ants.  Seemed good.  I rested. It wasn’t enough.  Time to call in the extra special back-up reserves: the village.

Ba Lenix had decided the ants were coming through the cracks in my concrete floor.  We emptied the hut, again, this time everything but the bed.  Ba Lenix and several men from the village began chipping away at the cracks in the cement floor.  The cracks had been small carcks, now they were deep gorges carved out with rough hoes and spare pieces of metal.  The men filled the newly enlarged cracks with new cement from a spare bag they’d scrounged up.  The previously smooth and shiny, but slightly cracked floor now looked like a relief map of the Missouri-Mississippi river system, with rough lines of various thickness running here and there.

It was done.  No more ants.  I was thrilled, absolutely thrilled.  I took out my floor polish and polished my new floor ‘til it shone brightly.  Everything was moved back into place and I polished the legs of my table and chair and bed, the bottom of my bookshelf, anything that touched the floor that the ants might want to crawl up should they come back.  There would be no more ants.  I was determined.

Finally happy and relieved, I dropped my exhausted body into that princess bed.  I lay there reading my book, muscles aching, smile on my face.  Then I felt a little tickle on my neck.  I reached my hand up to move my hair away, but as I brushed at my neck, I noticed my hair was not there.  I brought my hand back to where I could see.  There was an ant.  Slowly, stiff with fright, I rolled my head to the left.  The entire side of the bed was a wave of ants crawling over the mounds of fabric, headed straight towards me.

A Summary

That feeling, that twitch on my neck, the stiff fear that took over my body, the view of hundreds of ants coming directly towards me at eye level, it’s one of my most vivid memories from Zambia.  It was probably my hardest days there. One of those things that once it happened and I didn’t flee for the US made me realize I could handle a lot more than I ever expected.

I didn’t necessarily handle it well.  I jumped out of that bed and out of that hut as fast as I could.  I threw all the blankets and sheets  over the clothesline and hopped on my bike for town.  I  fled.

A Repeat

Today, I got to relive part of this story.  When winter starts in California, it rains.  And when it rains, ants become a problem.  I keep boric acid, and when I see some ants start to come in, I line the baseboards with boric acid.  That generally gets rid of the ants.

My roommate was supposed to move out while I was gone.  He did.  But before he did, the ants started to come.  I had emptied all the trash and put away all the food before I left.  If the ants came before my roommate left, he’d put down the boric acid and they’d be gone.  At the very least, the ants would just be trailing over empty counters.  After all, he’s a grown-up and grown-ups are responsible, right?  Nope.

Apparently, the ants did come before he left.  A lot of them came.  My roommate sprayed them with all-purpose cleaner and left them, large piles of drowned, smooshed ants all over the kitchen floor, the counter, the sink.  Knowing there were ants in the vicinity, he proceeded to leave dirty dishes in the sink, food out on the counter, and empty beer bottles and cans around the apartment.  And then he moved out.  Happy homecoming goldenrail.

Not only did I have those lovely piles of dead, drowned, smooshed ants to clean up, I also had nice streams of live, crawly, creepy ants to clean up.  Armies of ants marching across the walls.  Lines of ants going in circles on every bottle in my liquor cabinet.   A wall of ants covering the sink with its dirty dishes.  Even the faucet handles were teaming with ants.

This time, there was nowhere to run.  No reserves to enlist.  No super-special reserves to call.  Just me.  Me, a pack of cleaning gloves, a sponge and my boric acid.  Have I mentioned I hate bugs?


ants close in Double click for full-size terror.


Wendy said...

At least they didn't colonize your powerstrip to the point where you have to take a sewing needle to the area around the on/off switch to get remove their eggs. Although given that I just ended up throwing that powerstrip away (colonized by ants, sprayed with poison, and put under a small stream of water to remove all of the ant corpses) I probably didn't need to actually remove the eggs.

munchkinhead said...

Yuky not pretty. Spakle became my best friend when i moved back to the apt, no more ants they are stuck in the walls which realy isnt a good feeling either. but at least they werent maggots this time. maggots are worst in my opinion.