Saturday, July 16, 2005

Lessons I've Learned, Part 1

Lesson: It's a bad idea to sleep in a ditch.

I know what you're thinking. "What on earth prompted you to sleep in a ditch?" Let's not delve into the petty details. Suffice it to say that for one thing, there was booze involved, lots of it, and that secondly, there's not much napping room in a Volkswagen van with 7 people passed out inside. Besides that, my friend Mary had previously found herself on the floor of said van for a period of time, and the mysterious yellow, cakey stains had never completely come out of her shirt.

It was not my idea to go to sleep, by the way. But the driver (if what he had been doing could be called "driving") simply pulled over and announced he was too tired to continue, and I was thinking the exact same thing everyone else in the van was thinking--"No way in hell am I going to get a DUI driving this stupid van." The situation called for some quick thinking, and my brainstorming session concluded with me sacked out in the tall grass of the roadside ditch. As you might assume, it turned out to be a very bad idea--but not for the reasons you might think. You might be thinking you'd never even consider sleeping in a ditch because you might get rained on, or because a car might careen off the highway and plow into you, or even because a prison escapee might happen along and rape and rob you, then dismember your body and mail the various parts off to ex-girlfriends and/or local politicians. All valid concerns for the safety-conscious. But no, none of those are the reasons I am now an aggressive proponent of non-ditch napping. It's all about the chiggers.

Every once in awhile I run across someone who doesn't know what a chigger is. ("Humpf," I think to myself. "Smug little hoity-toity prick is clearly too good to sleep in a ditch, I see.") If you're unfamiliar, it's a little insect that a person might think has bitten them--people often say they "got bitten by chiggers" after spending the day at a picnic or some other grassy festivity. Turns out that's the fantasy explanation for what's happened to them. Here's what I found on one website about chiggers:

What a Chigger Is
Chiggers are tiny (most can only be seen with a magnifying glass) and red, and they are a type of mite. Mites aren't insects - they are arachnids and part of the same family as spiders, scorpions, and ticks. Chiggers are found all over the place, including in grassy fields, along lakes and streams, and in forests. There are adult chiggers and baby chiggers (called larvae), but only the baby chiggers bother people and animals.

Chiggers have tiny claws that allow them to attach tightly onto people and animals. Once attached, they are able to pierce the skin and inject their saliva, which contains digestive juices that liquefy skin cells. The chigger then slurps up the liquefied skin cells. To the chigger, this is a tasty meal! Having a chigger do this is very irritating to your skin. After a few days, the chigger will be done feeding and fall off a person's skin, leaving behind a red welt where it had once been.

GAK! This sounds like something out of a bad B movie! More horrifying than the thought of one teensy little chigger doing this to you is what happened in my case--hundreds of these monsters feasted on me. I was covered, head to foot, with red welts. The ensuing itchiness went on for a week or two. Incredibly demoralizing and irritating--and as it turns out, being covered in little red welts is not hot, even when you're young and can afford a blemish or two. Also not hot: Constant, frantic scratching, accomplished while wearing a look of blind desperation.

So let's review: Driving across the highways of Missouri in a Volkswagen van with 7 drunks and no less than 6 cases of Milwaukee's Best Light, 3 bottles of booze and a beer bong (for the booze, not the beer, stupid), is perfectly fine. Reaching a point in such an evening when you have a yen for a little nap is also perfectly fine. In fact, clearly, in such a situation it might be fair to assume that just about anything goes--but beware the parasite-filled ditch that looks so deceptively inviting. Sleep on the top, or at least near the top, of the pile of idiots passed out hither and yon throughout the van. But not, not, NOT in the ditch.

Thank you.

(Oh, and thanks to Undercover Celebrity for reminding me to mention that this didn't just happen yesterday. It was years ago, before I outgrew my "riding around in cars stuffed with drunk people" phase.)


Anonymous said...

Think I missed that party..but seem to remember the fun after!

leesepea said...


These days it only takes one beer to have me passed out on the couch. But I've had nights that sound a bit like this (though the bong was not for beer, cough cough).

Give or take eight years.


Anonymous said...

i still have vivid memories of a bad chigger infestation that I got at a cub scout function when i was kid. the worst bites were right behind my knees. i remember that they look like a reverse boob. big red welt with a little whitehead nipple on top.

Walker said...

LOL That was funny. I have never slept in a ditch and will mever now. I passed out in a row boat once and found myself 2-3 miles down stream.

OldHorsetailSnake said...

K.: How's this for a title:

"Why Don't Chiggers Eat Other Chiggers?"

That's a fun post about your "night-talkie" husband. Maybe I should come back here some more. Yeah, I'll do that.

Emily said...

So... I have to ask the obvious question... was this chigger infestation a recent occurence, or were you reminiscing?

The thought of a seemingly intelligent woman, complete with a family of her own, sleeping in a ditch in a drunken stuper is pretty darn funny, though.

Christi said...

I would like to point out that the same thing can happen when you sleep in a sand pit in the middle of a forest and are attacked by sand fleas. Chiggers terrify me!

Thankfully, though, I'm so freaked out about getting dirty (OCD) that I would NEVER sleep in a ditch, even if drunk, b/c I'd be too afraid of getting dirt on me!

Christi said...

No-see-ums are gnats, aren't they?

Brandon said...

you know what's weird is that i've slept in plenty of missouri fields, and i kind of miss the momentary pleasure of scratching a great big patch of chigger infested skin. mmmm. mosquitos can't hold a candle to chiggers. (in texas we called em red bugs growing up).

oh, and i confronted my liver today like you said. i'm afraid it's gonna take a lot of tequila, though, before i make any real progress...

Lyvvie said...

Arg, chiggers suck big time! I remember the dogs being reduced to mad footlickers for the whole of summer because of those things. I once had a similar story but it was asleep on a beach and eaten alive by sand fleas. I still have scars.

Thanks for leaving comments on my blog! Nice to meet you!

Hale McKay said...

Ouch! Chiggers!! Back in the woods of W.Va. as a kid we used to get those little demons. Talk about itching! I won't say here where the little buggers like to camp out, I'll just say you can't scratch the spot they chose in public.
We use to dab kerosene on the the spots. It was very effective - but Mom didn't like that smell of kerosene on our BVDs!

Lisa said...

Was trying to picture this beer bong thingy...nope, can't visualise it lol

I'm glad I read this, I was thinking of sleeping in a ditch this coming I'll remember to pack the extra large can of insect repellent.

Mar said...

Whoa! I sewed my "wild oats" in the day but that was teenage vomiting in cop cars kind of stuff and left no permanent scars! You're gonna be a great mom!

karla said...

Yikes, you bring up an excellent point, Undercover Celebrity. I've amended the post to reflect the fact that this happened a long time ago (years and years and years ago, in fact). Thanks! Otherwise I might have gotten a call from Child Protective Services!

leesepea said...

Riding Around in Cars Stuffed With Drunk People would be a great title for a book!

Sort of like Riding in Cars With Boys, except more interesting!

Mine would have to say something like Riding in Vans with Phish Heads, except it would only pertain to about 18 months in my very early twenties.

How we've grown.

And thank goodness!

OldHorsetailSnake said...

Tex: I used one of your headlines today (Monday). THANKS!

Kiki said...

Okay this is gross, but once I got Scabies. Yes, Scabies. It sounds a lot like Chiggers.
Gross gross gross.
My friend and I got them from her bro we're guessing and we shared clothes so there ya go.
We used to talk about them like they were our pets.
Talk about weirdos.

Me said...

This made me think of a time in college (in San Marcos) where I'd had way, way, way too much to drink. It was summer. I was wearing shorts. Didn't have my glasses or contacts, was walking home from friend's party (I was, thankfully, being escorted by another, but equally drunk friend). *Had* to sit down and rest (I'm sure you can understand this). Sat in a fire ant bed.

I'll just leave it at that.