Sunday, September 11, 2005

When flies suddenly gather in uncommon numbers, it's rarely just a coincidence

When I was 16, I drove a Chevy Citation for awhile. Not exactly a hot car, what with the hatchback and all, not to mention the bland grey interior to match the bland grey exterior. But hey, when you're 16 you're just glad to be driving. Know what's less hot than a grey Chevy Citation? A grey Chevy Citation full of flies.

I hate bugs. I know, hardly anyone outside of the entomologist population is big fan of them, but you've got to remember, I lived in Alaska til I was 8 years old. In Alaska, there are maybe 5 types of relatively non-scary insects, and other than that, there's just a whole lotta moose and caribou. I had seen mosquitos, ants, a couple flies and some bees--but none of those in any kind of number. I didn't like bugs, but I also just didn't think much about them, since they weren't much of an issue.

Then, owing to the general lack of adult supervision in my life at that time, I saw two horror movies when I was 7 years old which dealt with insects as predator. One was called The Bees, and the other was called The Swarm. Both of these movies, according to IMDB.com, are laughably bad, neither earning even as high as a scant 4 stars out of 10. But in both movies, incredible numbers of insects get together and basically blanket people, feasting on their flesh. There's a scene in one of the movies, I recall, where a frightened couple races to their car to escape the insect horde, and just as they're breathing a sigh of relief, the insects simply blanket the car and enter through the A/C vents and kill them anyway. I think I remember a scene in which insects are hiding inside a toilet--I'm not sure how well that worked since most insects don't do well in the water, but what I know for sure is that I spent the rest of that year lifting toilet seats and checking underneath to be sure there were no surprises before I used them. So there I was, just turning 8 years old, beginning to be a little skeeved out by bugs.

Then I moved to Missouri. In comparison to Alaska, Missouri is one massive insect nest. As an 8-year-old I was shocked upon discovering the vast array and sheer numbers of all the many insects I was apparently surrounded by in that new state. As far as I could tell, the movies I had seen had it right--insects did indeed exist in the kind of voluminous hordes that could consume the human flesh of most of North America. For a couple of months, before we were able to get a house, we stayed in a double-wide trailer belonging to a friend of mom's. I don't know how many of you have spent time in a trailer, but in addition to that one occasion, I also stayed in one many years later for about a month, and I can tell you one thing: Insects LOVE them. That first trailer experience was a fright show. For one thing, crickets were coming up through the drain in the bathtub. We'd kill the crickets, and the next day there'd be a cricket party in the tub again. We took to leaving the bathroom door closed at night to contain them, then drenching the tub with Raid in the morning to get rid of them again. I was aghast--they were coming up through the pipes! Exactly the kind of thing that happened in those movies!

Worse, there was some kind of incredibly stupid, hard-bodied beetle-ish insects that kept sneaking into the trailer and then bumping along the ceiling at night while I was trying to sleep. I'd be laying there in bed and hear them bump bump bumping against the ceiling as they flew around, seemingly trying to get past the ceiling to fly a little higher. It's one thing to know there are insects in the house, but it's just too much to ask that a person tolerate the kind of bugs that create a racket and constantly remind you of their presence. We had noisy crickets chirping merrily in both bathrooms, and the stupid beetle-y things banging themselves methodically against our ceilings. It was enough to drive a person nuts. And trailers are so cheaply made that there is often a ridiculous gap of an inch or more at the bottom of the doors that separate one room from another. Once my bedroom had been cleared of all invaders, I'd stuff a towel in that cavernous gap to help keep them out, then I would lay there in bed with the covers pulled up over my head, hoping that would afford some protection against them.

But enough about my psychosis.

Fast forward to me at age 16, in my bland Chevy Citation. It was summer in Missouri and I got into my car on a particularly hot day and noticed a big, fat fly buzzing around. Ack! Gross. And there's nothing more irritating than trying to driving while a fly is circling your head, so I opened the doors and shooed him out with much arm-waving. Then I went on my way, to a friend's house for a visit. Later, as I got back in my car to return home--another fly. I did that same comical dance, waving my arms and flinging myself over the seat to reach into the back seat, finally ousting the filthy little interloper. Weird--I hadn't left the windows down, but whatever. Flies are sneaky. He must have flown in during that split second that I had the door open to get in. But this went on. The next morning as I got into the car, there were two flies! Again, the windows had been up all night. What a bizarre coincidence! I shooed them out, and went about my business, but the next time I got in the car again, a few hours later...three flies! They were taunting me! I didn't have time to think about it right then, so after a now-routine shooing, off I went, and as you probably predicted, more flies appeared again later that day.

By now I'd had enough. Clearly, as you've gathered by now from the various escapades from my past that I've recounted on this blog, I'm no genius. But even I could see there had to be some explanation for this beyond mere coincidence. In the parking lot of the grocery store, where I happened to be at this most recent fly invasion, I began inspecting my car for clues. Front seat: Clear. Back seat: Nothing particularly suspicious. Hatchback: Seemingly normal. Just a few random things thrown back there and forgotten--a sweater, a pair of tennis shoes, a paper bag...hmmm. What's this in the bag? Mother of God, it's a sack of potatoes...TEEMING WITH MAGGOTS! What the fuck?! Who did this?! I leapt about a foot in the air, braying like a donkey on fire.

Then I remembered--I had gone grocery shopping for mom a couple weeks back. Clearly, I had carelessly left one bag in the car. And now that bag was a carnival of maggots. Why couldn't I have left the bag containing the canned goods? Or the one containing the toilet paper? More importantly, what do you do when your car turns into a breeding ground for flies? I had to somehow drive home in this fuel-efficient mobile nest. Howling dramatically and hopping from side to side, I snatched the bag out of the car and flung it across the parking lot like I was afraid it would bite me. After a quick inspection for leftover maggots (they very politely stayed corraled inside the bag instead of scattering througout my hatchback), I raced off to the carwash to give that car a vigorious, punishing scrubbing akin to what a rape victim probably does to herself immediately after the attack.

So there you have it: Proof that what you see in the movies is often not so far-fetched. The insects are coming for us. Just don't make things worse by storing potatoes in an environment of 100-plus degrees.

47 comments:

Ariel1980 said...

If I knew a good literary device for sounding out screams, shudders, and involuntary gagging, then have no fear such Onomatopoeia would be mimicking those sounds. Maggots! Uccchh!

I completely identify with the loathing of insects.....how you came through this potato bag experience without the benefit of psychotherapy is a testament to your fortitude. I am in awe!

Gerbera Daisy said...

I hate bugs too and would probably have had the same type response as you. Didn't you notice the smell? Rotten potatoes smell BAD!!

karla said...

There was a smell, but not as bad as you'd think, and only discernible when I opened the hatchback. Perhaps the decaying corpse in the back seat was distracting me from the smell of potatoes in the hatchback, who knows?

CommonWombat said...

"I leapt about a foot in the air, braying like a donkey on fire."

BOY did that phrase bring back some good memories...

I'd like to throw my hat into the "I hate bugs of all varieties" ring. Because, er... I hate bugs of all varieties.

Thanks for your birthday wishes, by the way. I had a cookout today with a bunch of my friends, and I pretended that you paid for it. That sure was nice of you.

miss kendra said...

thanks.

there won't be much sleeping tonight.

Romeo Jensen said...

okay first off I was eating a bag of potato chips while reading this post... you owe me 89 cents... I threw them out!

second... at the age of 5 I remember my parents being all excited because "The Wizzard of Oz" was coming on... we all got together... huddled in a blanket on the living room floor and for the first hour or so I totally enjoyed it...

but then came the flying monkeys

yes those flying monkeys... with their little organ grinder / bell hop hats and their flapping wings and shreaks and picking the scarecrow and tin man off the gound and... *shudders*

ever since then I've hated monkeys... and bell hops... must have been the hats

gotta bounce gorgeous... excellent entertaining post... oh and re ur comment on my site... dad would love to meet ya :-)

romey

psquared said...

I remember “The Bees” and “The Swarm” – and they scared the crap out of me that summer as well. There was all this “buzz” on the news about killer bees and a series of apocalyptic movies had recently been released as well. I guess they were prepping us for the approach of the millennium. Or that movie about the predictions of Nostradamus “The Man Who Saw Tomorrow” with Orson Wells – that freaked me out too.

homelessthoughts said...

Love the title on this one

I needed a good laugh tonight, thanks.

NA said...

omg... too fuckin funny. As usual you have out done yourself. Thanks for the laugh and remind me to never ever, ever, ever leave a sack of potatoes in my automobile!

john boy said...

Wow, cute and a great story teller. That's quite the dangerous combination.

leesepea said...

Ewwwww!

I would have jumped and brayed, too!

Glad you made it through (relatively) psychologically unscathed.

One more time:

Ewwwwww! Ewwwww! Ewwww!

Pikkel Weezel said...

How would you explain all the flies near my underwear drawer?

RitMeyer said...

Awesome, I brayed like a donkey once at 16. (maybe it's a missouri thing) Two wasps in my '85 volvo. I pulled to the side of the road, not at all mindful of the fact that I was driving and there were other cars on the road and jumped out and brayed up a storm while waving my arms wildly and screaming the bees are on me at the top of my lungs.

You know someone driving by gave their kid the speach about the evils of drugs.

SpaceCase said...

Ack, ack, ack, ack, ack.

Ack.

Karla, I'm so glad I found this site, because I'm learning life lessons without having to experience them first hand. Thanks for doing the dirty work for me. I'll always remember to take the bag of potatoes out of the car FIRST.

RONIN said...

Great story!

I used to drive a gray '78 Toyota Corona with various ailments. Though thankfully it didn't have any insect infestations...

OldHorsetailSnake said...

Oh, I was all confused. I thought sure you did it on purpose because you knew what good fish bait maggots are.

So, anyway, did you catch any fish?

Carbon said...

I never thought i'd say thank goodness to Canadian winters :) Glad bugs don't like cold weather!

Kiki said...

I'm the same way with bugs. I can't stand them. When I lived in Phoenix I saw a cochroach the size of a rat. It was dis-gus-ting.

undercover celebrity said...

I have an unnatural fear of crickets. I am sure that I will have nightmares for days about my bathtub after having read this. Darn you! I love bathtime.

And... can I be dumb for a minute... am I the only one who didn't know that flies are just grown up maggots? Is this common knowledge? That makes them 3-gagillion times more repulsive!

karla said...

I guess that's the kind of thing you only learn if you allow food to rot in your car. I know I was shocked at the discovery, so apparently I didn't know at the time that flies start out as maggots. See, what public schooling doesn't teach you, life does. Especially if you leave food rotting in your car.

ducklet said...

well, i hate to break this to you, and i bet you probably know this already, but Jake is probably going to love bugs. and he'll probably bring them inside. and he'll probably even create specialized breeding grounds for them in his room. and he'll probably supplement those bugs with grass snakes and horny toads. and you're probably wishing i'd stop talking now.

Carolyn said...

Oh, I thought I was the only one who had a gross maggot story. When I was in college, I had a roommate who refused to take out the garbage. She'd take it as far as right outside the front door, but would never take it to the garbage bin. I'd leave it for a few days to see if she'd take it, but would end up doing it myself. One day, she took it out, and then the next day it was gone from the front door. A miracle.

Several weeks later, my parents came down to help me move. My dad asked if there was anything I needed on the balcony. I told him no. He asked what was in the bag on the balcony. What bag? Oh, the bag that I thought she'd taked to the garbage bin. We lifted it up and it had the most gigantic maggots I'd ever seen. Bleeegghhh. I still get shivers. I guess she'd put it out there when she was doing a quick clean before her boyfriend showed up, and then forgot it.

I have an even worse maggot story, but I may save that for my own blog! :)

Lyvvie said...

I never knew flies would nest in potatoes...I'm never eating again...there's just no safety in food.

Miladysa said...

Ewwwwww!

a fish on a bycicle said...

Oh no, maggots, you had to didn't you?

I remember as a child the cat had kittens, they do it very privately don't they, only not all of the kittens made it.

Ever since, well, maggots...uuuurgh

nita said...

i totally hate bugs. and pretty much nature in general. there's a dead squirrel on my front lawn right now and i keep looking for the squirrel police tape and the squirrel coroner - but no, it's just gonna lie there. with bugs on it.

my husband asked what we should do with our backyard, landscaping wise. i said, 'how about we pave it'?

bugs = shkeeeviness

Little Light said...

You should copyright that "braying like a donkey" phrase - hahahaha. I remember the swarm too - my cousin took a bunch of us to see it at a drive-in theater in Chicago. The scene of the kids who didn't make it back to the school still sticks with me.

Masked Mom said...

Carnival of Maggots! I can just hear the barker--"Step right up!"...some pictures will just stay in your mind forever.

Arctic Skipper said...

"Braying like a donkey on fire" - beautiful! Just beautiful! *sniff* ;)

GROSS MAGGOT STORY: A person that I'm ashamed to know, (and no, it's not me!) once had a dog. That poor dog died during the winter. Now, being from AK, I'm sure that you can sympathize and understand that giving a pet a decent burial during the winter just isn't possible. So this brainiack decides to pack the poor deceased mutt in a couple of plastic bags, which he then stores outside of the shed, intending on burying said pooch as soon as the ground thaws. Well, the ground in Fairbanks doesn't thaw until mid May. While playing paintball, we all noticed this incredibly wretched smell . . . . coming from the vicinity of the shed. Smart Boy decides to check the bag to see if everything's okay - let's just say he didn't need to worry about burying the dog as their wasn't much left. Blech. Oh, and his son was standing a few feet away witnessing what had happened to dear old Fluffy. Poor kid . . .

SCARY ALASKAN BUG STORY: We now have these HIDEOUS pincher bugs that are half the size of your fist with antenna longer than my arm - and they like to fly into your up-do and root around in your hair. And they cling. And burrow. Especially when your screaming, batting at your head and trying to dig them out. *shudder*

kris said...

oh my goodness. I have a big fear of maggots. There are very few other things that instill such fear in my heart. Among them, cockroaches, eyelash bugs, flies (mostly because they're dirty and they birth their maggotty eggs), and pretty much ANYTHING larval. EW!

ianmack said...

maggots...nature's popcorn.

AnonymousCoworker said...

I had my first run-in with maggots a few weeks ago when I found them in my trashcan. I decided to cover them in lighter fluid and torch them out.

They pop when they get hot. It's totally gross, but so fulfilling to exterminate them that way.

Dirk the Feeble said...

Hey, the first car I ever rode in was a Citation! And just last week, I GOT a citation! What are the odds?

zazzafooky said...

You are SO unbelievably lucky they stayed in the bag. I went on vacation once for two weeks but forgot to take the kitchen trash out, I came home to an infestation! Nothing kills them, nothing except suffocation and fire! ... and the SMELL!!!!

Great story... I'm now teeming with flash-back heebie jeebies. :-)

Curator said...

It's a good thing I held off eating dinner for a bit, your story was poinant to the degree of being there. :)

Cheers.

FTS said...

Found your sit evia your comments on Ol' Hoss' site. I've just been reading anjoying it, and I'm going to add you to my "Rising Stars" new read list.

I also live in Texas, but what's even more odd is my first wife was from a small town in Missouri, about an hour or so east by northeast (as I recall) from Kansas City.

Great writing here! :)

trisha said...

I don't have the attention span to read this post. It looks like it is really good, though.

I stopped by via Daughter of Opinion because that little avatar photo of you is so stinking pretty. I was hynotized.

I shall enjoy reading you tomorrow, after I sleep the amazing sleep of the Nyquil.

Christi said...

I don't remember the name of the movie, I just remember seeing one about killer bees when I was little. I lived in Texas at the time, so I had to have been about four or five. As someone else said, they were talking about swarms of killer bees taking over the world or something on the radio and such, and it just happened to come on the radio as we traveled from TX to SC to move. Something about the bees going east...I was terrified for years...I still am. I am still waiting for them to come and get me, just like they did in the movie...

DeeJay said...

OMG, how nasty. lol

Little Light said...

karla - I had a nightmare about maggots last night (thanks). but I was able to sweep them up pretty easily knowing that they wouldn't leave their attachment to food.

Jessica said...

Say, Karla, what part of MO did you live in and do you ever return for any reason?

Maja said...

I hate flies too! All bugs suck.

There's a fly fest in my office at the moment.. it's getting hotter, and they love my desk! I'm killing them one by one with my trusty wooden ruler. Every time I kill one (or the other day I killed two at once) I do a victory dance.

Katya said...

all bugs are the spawn of the devil, and maggots are creepy, my dad used to keep them in our fridge for fishing bait...ever so digusting...

:0)

NA said...

Where ya been??? More stories needed if you want me to run you a tab at the bar ;)

tigger said...

Oh my Gawd that post creeped me out!! It was almost as bad as watching "Arachnophobia" or thinking about spiders crawling into my mouth as I sleep!!

aggiegrrrl said...

I'm not a fan of maggots but I work with them all of the time.

Danyelle said...

That was hilarious!! You are not alone in your fear of insects. Read my post labeled "I almost died today." Unfortunately, I do not know how to put a link here to my page.