By Jeeni Criscenzo
How about something lighter this week? Any analogies in this story to present day issues are purely coincidental and of your own making.
This morning (Sunday) I was browsing through Facebook, delighted to see that while Saturday’s unusual thunderstorms may have literally dampened the Pride Parade, they certainly did not dampen the spirit of an event makes me very proud to be a San Diegan.
Scrolling down, one of the posts about the rain was from a good friend who lives in El Cajon who wondered about the flying insects that were in her pool and seemed to attack her as soon as she went out the door. I imagined that the rain had caught some passing swarm by surprise and brought the whole mass down into her yard.
Scrolling further down, another friend who lives in Escondido posted a photo of her pool, showing a coating of winged and un-winged insects. She too was wondering what was happening. By then my imagination was kicking in – perhaps the freaky July storm had an even freakier component – the invasion of the pool invading insects!
Turns out, some helpful commenter informed us (the merely curious and the hysterically imaginative) that they were termites, which, he explained, have a propensity for swarming in the spring after a good rain. Well I can’t figure out what season it is anymore, so I guess the termites can be forgiven for being confused.
That image of those termites got me feeling itchy. I was scratching the back of my neck, my ankles, the small of my back and top of my head. Some deeply hidden anxiety was surfacing and it was driving me nuts! Could this be the same person who works in the garden oblivious to bees and spiders and all kinds of crawly critters?
But termites – that’s a different story – a story I haven’t thought about in almost 40 years!
I had moved into a house in Levittown, NY a few months earlier, with my first husband and three-year-old son. I had been trying to find an OB/GYN who would take new patients because I suspected I was about three months pregnant. For some reason, at the time, there was a shortage of OB/GYNs on Long Island and I’d been going through the phone book, leaving my name with receptionists, hoping someone would have an opening. (How did we ever manage before the internet?)
So that Spring morning (maybe it was a rainy morning?) the phone on the kitchen wall rang and I hurried down the stairs to answer it. (Did we actually survive before cell phones and caller ID?) I was a little out of breath when I answered the phone, but delighted to hear that there was an actual doctor on the other end of the line. He started to ask me how far along I was…
And then I saw them… swarming out of the switch plate by the phone, swarming out of the back of the phone where it met the wall, swarming out of the molding where the wall met the kitchen floor. There were zillions of them! Termites!!!!
At first I was just trying to smash them as fast as they appreared. I tried to do this while answering the doctor’s questions. I couldn’t focus on both things. I started to stammer. My desperation to get a doctor was overwhelmed by my frantic attempts to hold back the winged invaders. But they kept coming and coming and then they were flying! I didn’t realize that I was gasping and making all sorts of sounds of anguish and disgust.
That poor doctor. He had no idea what was going on. He was asking me if I was alright Did I need an ambulance? Was I miscarrying? But all I could say was arrggghhhhh, ombh, eeek, aggggagh. I dropped the phone and continued to attack the swarming mass that was now on the countertops, the window, the ceiling – Good gawd they were everywhere! (That’s what we said before we had OMG?) God only knows what horrific sounds were coming from my mouth.
Then I heard the shouting coming from the dangling phone receiver. That poor doctor was in a panic. I hadn’t given him my address yet and he was certain I was dying. (What did we do before there was a GPS locator on our phones?)
I don’t recall how I managed to calm down enough to reassure the doctor that I was OK. He actually gave me the name of an exterminator and he even said he would take me as a patient. I imagine he told this story more often than I did, because after it was all over, it was ROTFLMAO funny! Or whatever we said back then.
Anyway, I need to end this column now because I’m feeling kind of itchy and I’d appreciate it if you didn’t bring it up. And don’t be showing me any more photos of termites on Facebook!
tom 2 says
Not to challenge the previous expert, but those also could be ants. Many ant species swarm the evening after the first big rains in the summer: its a good signal to synchronize swarming & mating across colonies. [If you’re a drone (male) ant who dies the same day he emerges & flies, flying on a day when no other nearby colonies swarm is a big fail.] While each colony of termites or ants can produce hundreds to a few thousand winged alates (the reproductive females) and dozens to hundreds of drones, in our urban areas we tend to have many times more ant than termite colonies, so swarms and especially big swarms tend to be ants. [Out in the Sonoran desert, both termites & ants tend to all swarm the same night.]
You are a great addition to SDFP! Your Long Island story brought back memories of my year at Stony Brook (and roaches), but yours was much funnier!
Mandy Barre says
Flying ants??? Huh? Hope that doctor didn’t have a heart attack, Jeeni..great story!