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Tales of Misfortune #1: A Plague of Locusts

06 April 2005
Wednesday, 3:21 PM

When I was growing up, on the frequent occasion that I expressed any sort dissatisfaction to my mother, she would usually offer the cold comfort of suggesting that I be thankful for the limbs and blood and shelter that I have. As much as I would have preferred unconditional pity, her approach did teach me to have a healthy sense of humor about my life’s perceived inadequacies. With this series (which might be better titled “The Story of My Fucking Life”), I wish to extend that opportunity to you.

It Begins

One fateful day in June of 2004, I awoke at 5:00 AM to the pitter-patter of rainfall and an itch on my shirtless back. “Ah,” I thought, in exhausted bemusement, “an insect has alighted upon my back.” I groggily contorted my arm into the awkward position necessary to shoo the insect away. With great effort, I lifted my reluctant eyelids. “Ah,” I thought, no less bemused, “the refugee insect has now fled to my pillow. And a friend stands with him in solidarity.” My rubbery arm, still awkwardly contorted, obeyed orders to conduct a second deportation.

I sat up. The sun was finding its way through the cracks in my curtains, and consciousness began its slow descent. “That’s strange,” I thought. “It’s not raining outside; it’s raining inside.” (Such a thing is not actually strange at all, as you’ll learn in a future Tale of Misfortune.) The raindrops were whimsically bouncing off of my walls and richocheting back and forth inside my lamp shade like tiny, frenetic pinballs. A quiet hum accompanied their movements. “Oh! Duh! That’s not rain. It’s a bunch of flying insects.”

Consciousness was now complete. My entire body stiffened under the weight of my realization. “Oh. My. God.” I reached for the lightswitch, but hesitated, terrified of what its light would reveal. These were the parts of the Indiana Jones movies when you did not want to be Indy. On with the light.

Little black winged insects. Dozens (hundreds?) of them. Coating the walls, my lamp, my bed. I gaped in disbelief for a few seconds before grabbing some clothes and scrambling out the door in a whirlwind of limbs, stifling a series of womanly shrieks and slamming the door behind me. My mind raced as I stumbled upstairs to the kitchen. What were these things? Termites? Ants? Where did they come from? Why were they here? As terror gave way to rational thought, I formulated my simple, obvious plan: Bug Bomb.

I was in luck. My neighborhood’s average income ensured that the shelves of the local supermarket were well-prepared to deal with all manner of vermin infestation. From a massive selection of brightly-packaged poisons and snares, I decided on the Hot Shot® Fogger3, mostly because its slogan, “Kills fast! Keeps on killing!” was not only reassuring, but also totally badass.

Back at the house, I carefully read the Fogger3’s instructions and mentally prepared myself for reentry into The Nest. If you’ve never used a bug bomb before, it’s a pretty simple device. It’s basically an aerosol can with a locking mechanism to keep it in the “on” position while it expels the whole of its content (in noxious vapor form). Foodstuffs and dishes should be covered up or removed from the room, air conditioning and ignition sources should be turned off, and doors and windows should be closed. I did these things, and for an extra measure of safety, I taped some cardboard over my ceiling vent, speaking to the creatures as I did so:

“Ordinarily, I would say this is nothing personal, and ordinarily, it wouldn’t be. I’m not sure what makes this situation different, but I want you to know that I’m going to enjoy riding the train to work today, knowing that I’m choking the final breath out of each of you.”

I gently closed the door as the room filled with venomous aerosol fog, this time stifling maniacal laughter.


When all was said and done, I was able to determine that these were ants (not termites), and that they sometimes swarm indoors for no reason other than being able to find a way in. When I returned home that evening, I didn’t bother to stifle the maniacal laughter as I entered the carcass-strewn battlefield and turned on the vacuum.

Filed under: Personal

Comments Closed (23)

1. Jeff Louella says…  |  06 April 2005 / 5:37 PM

Isn't nature grand. I just finished fighting of 3 wild squirrels that ran amok in my attic.

2. Ian says…  |  06 April 2005 / 5:42 PM

Wow. What you were part of is a ritual almost as old as life itself— the nuptial dance (or flight in this case).
I'm planning a post about this on my site sometime this summer. It's truly extraordinary. Consider yourself lucky, Rob.

3. Steve Truett says…  |  06 April 2005 / 7:37 PM

Man, you think thats bad? The attic over my garage is infested with birds. I actually saw one of the little bastards poke its head out from a the opened portal today, and sqawk at me! (Steve wonders to himself if they make "bird bombs")

4. goodwitch says…  |  06 April 2005 / 9:37 PM

But could have fed so many starving bats. They love flying ants.

Next time you are in Austin, remind me to take you down to the Congress Avenue bridge at sunset so you can see the 1.5 million mexican freetail
bats in flight!

5. Rob Weychert says…  |  06 April 2005 / 9:56 PM

goodwitch, 1.5 million bats at sunset sounds like something I need to see. As long as it’s not in my room…

Steve, maybe the Bird Bomb is that million dollar idea you’ve been waiting for!

6. Rob Mientjes says…  |  07 April 2005 / 7:11 AM

"I decided on the Hot Shot® Fogger3, mostly because its slogan, “Kills fast! Keeps on killing!” was not only reassuring, but also totally badass."

I'd have chosen that primarily for the slogan too. Makes me wonder why no-one makes any food with a label saying "Easily eaten and digested. Kills hunger in a matter of minutes!". Oh my, I'd better make some money with that idea.

7. bearskinrug says…  |  07 April 2005 / 7:26 AM

I love this story, Rob - a wonderful retelling. And, I dug up this visual aid from the sketchbook I had at the time this happened to you...

8. niff says…  |  07 April 2005 / 1:51 PM

You think thats bad? My friend Clint, at the ripe age of 11, awoke one early morning to the sound of buzzing. His room and him, where covered in yellow jackets, and I mean COVERED! He got stung a bunch before his parents figured out a way to rescue him. Apperently there was a nest in the cealing and they broke threw. Talk about tramatized!
See Rob, it can always be worse.

9. niff says…  |  07 April 2005 / 1:55 PM

OH! and try being infested with Giant RATS sometime. Nothing like drowning a rat in your sink with a spatula. Ian, show him the pictures...

ahh, those were the days!

10. kingbenny says…  |  08 April 2005 / 10:45 AM

Growing up, my bedroom was right beside the attic. Bats lived in the attic. One day Daddy decided to plug up the entrance whereupon the bats entered and exited their attic home. Then, for a week, while I was trying to sleep all I could hear was the sound of dying bats, starving.

11. Rob Weychert says…  |  08 April 2005 / 10:56 AM

kingbenny, too bad your bats couldn’t eat my ants. Then everyone would have been happy! Well, except for your dad.

12. niff says…  |  08 April 2005 / 3:00 PM

poor bats! that is so mean. wouldn't your dad rather have bats then mosquitoes and flies?
*sad face*

13. Indranil says…  |  09 April 2005 / 6:15 AM

You killed those poor little devils? You... killed... them...

Good for you, bravo! Kudos!

14. Paul Carpenter says…  |  09 April 2005 / 10:35 AM

Ants are annoyingly inedible, if that weren't the case you could have made something positive of the situation.

15. Kim says…  |  11 April 2005 / 2:30 PM

Loved your story. When does part 2 begin?

16. Max says…  |  13 April 2005 / 3:35 AM

Mmm, waking to hordes of bugs (even if they're only ants) is not the most fun you can have.

I walked into my room one day and found the entire roof covered (and I mean covered) with freshly born Huntsman spiders ... I didn't sleep much that night.

17. Rob Weychert says…  |  13 April 2005 / 11:39 PM

Kim, more Tales of Misfortune will show up periodically. No dates are set. But don’t worry—they will be plentiful.

18. Chris Hester says…  |  16 April 2005 / 7:04 PM

I'm reading Beyond Lies The Wub by Philip K Dick, and the last story I just read in the collection was called Expendable. In it, a man is wary of insects seemingly targetting him. Luckily he can speak to them. One day, while brushing off the debris from a cobweb near his house, a spider warns him:

"... careful ... inside ... wait ..."
Of course the man ignores the warning, only to find a carpet of ants inside, waiting to attack...
Inside. They had never got inside before. Maybe a moth or two, and flies, of course. But they were harmless, fluttery, noisy —
They really meant it. Not an anger raid, annoyed, spasmodic; but planned, an attack, worked out. They had waited for him.
Well I'm sure you can guess the final outcome. It reminded me of the post here, only I didn't know ants could also fly!

One last thing. This comments form is pretty screwy in Opera 7 on Windows XP. I see 2 textareas (!), overlaid by the top 2 input boxes, neither of which have text to say what they're for. (I had to turn off CSS to use the form.)

19. Rob Weychert says…  |  17 April 2005 / 12:55 AM

Chris, thanks for the heads up on the Opera problem. It—and its siblings—will be dealt with when I have some time, but unfortunately, Opera and its very few users will continue to get the short end of the stick for now.

As for Beyond Lies the Wub, Philip K. Dick will be hearing from my time-travelling lawyers.

20. Chris Hester says…  |  19 April 2005 / 4:00 PM

Screenshots from Opera 8:

1. What I see first (where'd that duplicate textarea come from!?)

2. I can click to show some of the form fields

3. Oh dear...

4. With styles turned off - the form is revealed!

5. Scrolling up and down can reveal some of it

Opera has a fair amount of form bugs I've noticed, so this doesn't surprise me too much. I'll ask on the Opera support forums and see if anyone can help.

21. Rob Weychert says…  |  19 April 2005 / 4:41 PM

Thanks, Chris! This will be handy info to have when I do get around to making this site more Opera-friendly.

22. Chris Hester says…  |  20 April 2005 / 7:01 AM

I've made a testcase by narrowing it down to just two lines of CSS. I've also posted about it on the Opera forums now. For the full details, and to track any responses, take a look at my post here:

Forum Post

23. Ryan says…  |  29 April 2005 / 4:48 PM

Something similar happened to my brother and his wife once. They live in an apartment right on the edge of lake in Chicago. One evening they mistakingly left their balcony door ajar while they headed out for some food. When they returned, their bedroom was full of thousands of seasonal green bugs. Unfortunately for them, their little friends "popped" when touched with a vacuum smearing the walls, floors and ceilings with green insect guts. I saw pictures and quickly excused myself from any planned of visits during June.

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