Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Election Day and Ants

I was quite virtuous today. I dropped off my absentee ballot at the fire station (how odd is it that my old polling place across town also was a fire station?), then ran for an hour on the beach.

I watered the back yard, did the laundry and cleaned. Oh, and found MOLD on the wall in my bedroom, ack.

And I thought more about ants. I am told having ants in San Francisco is a given, at least during the rainy season.

But I can't help but take it personally. (Nancy Kerrigan voice: "Why?!")

Growing up, I never saw more than a spider or silverfish indoors. My mom would sooner have died than let anyone see a roach or other unsavory insect in her house. Once, she spotted a roach in the roll bin at the Acme. She told me about this in a hushed tone and it was Not to be Spoken of Again. Apparently, it was equally as embarrassing to come across a roach where you shopped as to have one in your house.

I was fortunate enough to continue this bug-free streak until I rented an apartment on the top floor of a building at Eighth and Harrison streets in Wilmington, Del. A very unpleasant old Greek woman and her daughter lived below me. They hated me. If I so much as dropped my deodorant on the floor, one of them would take a broom handle to their ceiling. Other than that, the apartment was cute; it had a window seat whose lid opened up to store linens; hardwood floors and old-fashioned appliances in the kitchen, complete with a Frigidaire that opened and locked with a long silver handle.

One day I was in the kitchen and came face to face with the biggest roach I've ever seen, on the stove. For a minute, I thought it was cute. I called it Fred. Then I turned on the gas on the burner and fried Fred.

When another took Fred's place on the stove the following day, my first, irrational, thought was, "But I killed him!"

Ha ha ha ha ha. Ah, youth.

So I called my landlord, who sent over some fumigators. But being a landlord, he was cheap, and only fumigated my apartment -- not the six others connected to it. Thus ensued the Death March, in which Fred's family would crawl out of the woodwork -- literally -- and give up the ghost, belly-up.

Once the massacre cleared, new, lively Freds moved in. I persisted in bugging my landlord, and another "expert" phoned me. "Describe the bug," he said. "It's huge. It's brown. It's about, um, 4 inches long." He proceeded to tell me that, in fact, what I was seeing could not have been that big, or if it was, it could not be brown. "It's got to be a waterbug," he said. "It's black." "Sir, I assure you, my roaches are brown. And they are huge." "Can you catch one for me?" he asked. I killed one, put it in a jar, and left it for him in my apartment.

That night I came home and checked my messages. "Ma'am," he said, "You have a problem."

I was strangely vindicated. I might have roaches, but they were the biggest damn roaches he'd ever seen!

Fast forward to the ants.

Luckily, I never had much of a problem with ants in my old place in Noe Valley. And then not much in the Outer Richmond -- until this winter. All right, so it coincided with my first attempt to compost using a cute little green basket that Sunset Scavengers was giving away outside the Safeway the week they discontinued the plastic bags. My sister happened to visit shortly thereafter and can attest to a short period in which every item headed for disposal needed to be duly examined to see whether it could qualify for recycling or compost.

The period was short because I discovered two things: 1) Ants in a long industrious line leading from the window to the green basket, feasting on the remains of some eggshells. 2) Aside from a dead body, there is no stench like the stench of old food in the green bin in our garage.

Soon, I realized that, while I had removed the inviting compost bin, I was now in the ants' Zagat guide, and they were enjoying many a romantic dinner in my cupboard among my honey, spices and other foodstuffs.

Knock on wood, I've pretty much locked down everything in tupperware, refrigerator or ziplock bag, but I still have what my seemingly knowledgeable friends refer to as "scouts." These are ants that you see solo, searching for food. Often, I find them kind of standing up on their hind legs and waving their antenna, as if maybe they can get a better view that way, or sniff something sweet in the air. I feel kind of bad killing these ants; they seem so selfless and adventuresome and good sports, to go in search of food all alone in the land of the giants.

Today, after I had just cleaned up around the microwave, I saw a spot on the wall and looked closer. There was an ant, head facing down, desperately holding onto a crumb at least as big as he was. It was such a valiant attempt to hump food back to his peeps, I was touched. I could just imagine that ant thinking, "Dude! We could live on this for WEEKS! How COOL will I look when I come in the hill lugging this gem? I'm so going to get promoted."

What did I do? Right: I squished him. But I didn't like it.

1 comment:

Chebbles' Mama said...

Again with the cockroaches! OK, I got RID of the cardboard already! Oh wait, we last had this conversation in 1994? Time flies.