Spring Quickens

Colors Are Bright But
Critters Are Crawling

We’re deep in the age of freaking out about nothing, while getting numb about what screws us up. If that sounds hyperbolic, take Spring’s arrival in the Northern Hemisphere, and its annual rites of wonder and obsession with sights, smells, colors, and specially, crawlers.
Yes, along with flowers and the birds, the music in the air, and the light afternoon breeze, there’s no end to the sheer terror of being touched not by an angel but by a bug. And there are plenty of them. We give you three of the most distinctive: cicadas, snails and cockroaches.
It may be hard to grasp why city folk is so terrified about the prospect of being covered by these minute aliens, utterly different from us, and yet, way more necessary to the natural world than our stinking behinds, but what’s really over the top is the language with which they’ve been greeted in the media.
‘Billions of Cicades to Swarm the East Coast.’ ‘Giant African Snails Invade Miami.’ Or ‘Roach Infestation Disables Greyhound Bus.’ Note the use of superlatives, of ‘enhanced,’ albeit cliche-ridden, imagery, all documented with detailed pictures of the little monsters in all their otherness and difference.
It’s all true, of course, even though that we are the ones who’re invading them, or at least causing them to multiply and seek refuge in our dwellings. Pollution, climate change, pesticides, it’s all our own doing, really. And the inclusion of roaches here is because, let’s face it, there are simply very few places on earth they won’t show up.
As for those who blame the media for all the alarm, let’s keep in mind that both language and imagery come from or are based upon the greatest compendium of advertising horrors we’ve ever known: the bible. That’s where such fears can be tracked to, plus the gory flair that pious writers, such as Dante Alighieri, have added throughout the years.

So when locusts showed up in city-size dark clouds over the Middle East, last month, that creaky mother of all qualifying cliches of news coverage trudged right along with it: ‘biblical proportions.’ Followed, of course, by words such as ‘plague’ and ‘apocalyptic.’ Never mind that the phenomenon, however its disturbing look and destructive power, has been happening since, well, biblical times.
It doesn’t matter. We’ll freak out about it all the same. War, poverty, hunger, slavery, exploitation, disease, all of which also playing leading roles in the gospels, seem to have somehow lost their ability of scaring us out of our malaise. But any talk about bugs gets us up and running. The same with zombies, naturally.

They have waited for 17 years, underground, but at anytime now, they’re about to take over the skies and ears of northeasterners, like a constellation of unmanned U.S. drones, striking fear at the heart of impoverished villagers.
Billions of Brood II cicadas are hatching as we speak and will be crawling out of their bunkers, as soon as the thermometer hits 64 degrees, entomologists say. They will have up to six weeks to find a mate, amid a cacophonous symphony of high decibel noise. Which, it’s been repeated, is at par with a subway train entering a station. Then again, patience with that kind of noisy pollution is usually much higher.
It may be just us, but we don’t recall such level of alarm about cicadas when growing up. It was all part of the sights and sounds of spring, a time eagerly celebrated. They may have lost all the good press about them along the way, and now are qualified as a nuisance. After all, the onslaught (we warned you about the language), however brief, it’s bound to produce plenty of, oh the horror, biodegradable litter.
One would consider that, if it were up to market forces, they’d be long gone, since no one seems to be investing any currency, emotional or otherwise, in them these days. But the fact is that they’ve been doing this for millions of years, and if they look like a giant green fly like those who inhabit our nightmares, then be it. In other words, screw the market.
We can’t help it, but we love them. Not as much as to be willing to be covered or placed in an enclosed chamber with them, and be droned out to death. But there’s some kind of poetry about a creature going through so much just to find a mate and continue its species, as noisily as the process may be.
Besides, nothing against living in the city, but between the two, subways are noisier, bigger, and way more dangerous, so we’d have to side up with them cicadas on this one. They waited 17 years to have their day under the sun (poor pun intended), so can we get a grip and stop freaking out about them for just a month? No? We didn’t think so, but we had to try.

Heavy-handed expressions are also being used for the giant African snail, ‘the world most destructive invasive species’ (presumably not counting us, humans), capable of grow to the size of a ‘New York rat.’ It seems to be trying to set camp in Florida lately and over 100 thousand have already been caught this year.
Few theories have been entertained to explain its appearance in the state known for its immigrants, both human and non human, such as pythons. But the slow-moving slimer has shown an enormous appetite for some 500 of the state’s fine native species. Plus, it also poises a health threat to us, so we can’t eat our way out of this problem either.
The hefty mollusk has no natural enemies in the Glades, so it may as well thrive in the warm and wet weather, (who wouldn’t?), before a sensible extermination plan can be put together. It’s all fair but we still have a problem with the superlatives being used to describe efforts to control it.
It’s seldom a good idea to move species out of their natural habitat, regardless if out of good intentions, or pure vanity. Having to compete against the new bug on the bush usually drives native species to extinction, if we haven’t already done the job ourselves. Using hyperbole and overheated rhetoric, though, won’t help it either.

Many New York residents are used to going to overnight trips, to try their luck at Atlantic City casinos, in New Jersey. As it is, it’s a trip that can, a) change their lives, as they always expect it; b) be a fun way to lose a few hundred bucks; and c) be a learning curve on the unpredictability of life, gambling, and the bus driver’s drinking habits.
Then again, it’s hard to be prepared for all of the above at the same time. Specially when the random factor comes in the form of a full-blown cockroach infestation in the very bus one’s traveling. A Greyhound bus, no less. But that also happens, and it did just a few weeks ago, even before anyone considered its odds.
Apart from the gambling, drinking, and general vagueness about the bunch of travelers (which we did to protect the privacy of the characters involved, honest to goodness), most of everything is more or less accurate. Except that it was a day trip. And the driver was sober. It’s still in the ballpark. Moving on.
Now, when boarding a bus of such a storied transportation outlet, the one with the stretched-legs dog trademark stamped on its sides, few would make the assumption that it may have become at some point a movable bug central, a nest of nasty critters, an insouciant source of unsanitary displeasure. Specially those already planning on spending the whole trip gabbing on the phone.
Right off the gate, there may have been some disturbing moans coming from the back, but we bet that any sensible passenger would’ve chosen to keep it to oneself the sight of a single bug somewhere. But 48 souls can’t be fooled for too long, though, or so we wish to believe. Soon enough, everyone was up for some shaking and screaming the kind usually reserved to other kind of trips.
In any event, and not to make too much of it, it was called, in the understated language of news tabloid, an infestation of Dantean proportions, enough to overrun the bus, and force it to park by the side of the highway. You may think, so what, but for those who caught a roach or two in their hair, it must have been the kind of experience one would hardly ever forget.
Unlike this post, done in the fluffy spirit of a quiet Spring afternoon that was going so well until the news about deadly explosions at the Boston Marathon destroyed our precarious sense of normality. It was just the timely kind of kick we need sometimes to see that seasonal bugs, of the organic kind, are really, the least of our problems.
Read Also:
* Summer Brood
* Bugs Dummy
* It Bugs Them
* Heat Riders
* Bug Time
* Airborne Bites

2 thoughts on “Spring Quickens

  1. eremophila says:

    Ah, and the meek shall inherit the Earth…. roaches being among them 🙂


  2. WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

    “way more necessary than our stinking behinds” – hee, loved that!

    And “It’s still in the ballpark. Moving on.”

    Love your writing, Wesley – so INTERESTING all the time 🙂


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