Thursday, July 10, 2008

COLUMN: Mosquitos

The soggy season officially appears to be over. Listen carefully -- hear it? That's the sound of a hundred thousand Quad Citizens knocking on wood.

The sun is out, the forecast looks good, and the rivers are receding. Joy. Time, then, for me to seal myself indoors until the first frost.

It's rough being a borderline hypochondriac in our neck of the woods, and even rougher this year. Why? Take a listen again. Can you hear what's happening underneath all the wood knocking? The little "pop," "pop" noise? That's the sound of a hundred thousand mosquitos being born, all with one simple mission: to suck away our vital life fluids and give us all unimaginable cooties.

I'm an equal opportunity bug-hater. They're creepy, they're irritating, and they're the reason why I'm not such a huge fan of the summer months. I can barely make it home from work without encountering swarms of biting gnats or mentally challenged mayflies. The biggest advantage to being a cat owner is that they eat any of the little suckers that dare venture into my apartment, and hopefully do so before I spot them and freak out.

I used to think that my hatred of the insect world was irrational, childish, and immature. Now, thanks to the saturation of modern media, I can finally have just cause to be a full-blown speciesist.

I was driving around with my friend Jason the other day when I suddenly noticed that I'd been absent-mindedly itching my arm for a few miles. I looked down and there it was -- a welt. A little raised hive on my forearm that could only mean one thing: a mosquito had decided to dine at the International House of Shane. My reaction was swift and immediate: I began dictating my last will and testament.

Yes, the mosquitos that haunt our lands during the summer aren't just pests; they're plague-bearing, toxic cootie carriers of doom. I get to spend usually two days out of the year enjoying summer. That's how long it takes before we run our first article of the year reminding us all that the West Nile virus can be buzzing around our heads at any second of any day, all thanks to our friends, the blood-sucking mosquitos.

And because of all the standing water left over from flood-zilla? well, let's just say that if there's a mosquito record store out there, they're fresh out of Al Green and Marvin Gaye, because it's a good time to be a young single mosquito on the prowl.

The internet should be banned to hypochondriacs, at least the ones stupid enough to Google "mosquito." It turns out that when the little blood-suckers land on you, they first inject a small amount of saliva laden with anti-coagulents -- you know, to make you more of a fast food experience than a sit-down dinner. So when you see that little welt on your skin, rest easy -- it's merely a big pile of mosquito spit saying hi to your immune system. Problem is, inside that spit can be everything from West Nile to encephalitis to -- if you're lucky enough to live in an underdeveloped country -- malaria and yellow fever. Yes, nature's little miracle, aren't they?

The only solution? N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide, or as us non-scientific, unable to pronounce "N,N" folk know it: DEET. Just coat yourself from head to toe in the stuff and the skeeters will dine elsewhere. Two problems with DEET, though:

(1) A few years ago, when the West Nile scare was the hip new fad, I had to DJ an outdoor party. I knew I'd be out there at dusk, so I decided to DEET up before driving out to the gig. I was in the car for roughly four minutes -- and that's all the time it took for my DEET-covered arm to strip all the paint from my car's armrest. Call me crazy, but I have a hard time believing that I should lather up in any substance that's toxic to paint and NOT me.

(2) This is the worst. I was on the phone with my mom the other day when the random topic of DEET came up.

"I hate that stuff," I said. "It stinks to high heaven."

"You think so?" she replied. "I kinda like the smell. Sometimes I make your dad wear Deep Woods Off, just, you know, because." (Awkward pause.)

On behalf of all mankind, can I just say: Ewwwwwww. That's right, now every time I smell DEET, I immediately think of MY FOLKS listening to Marvin Gaye and Al Green, and that's a far worse vision than any mosquito nightmare I can muster up.

So I'll take my chances with mosquitos. I simply choose to take those chances indoors, with windows sealed and citronella candles at the ready, thanks much.

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