Ant That A Kick In The Pants?


September 15, 1991|By Dave Barry

Recently I had to pay several hundred dollars to get my car started, and do you want to know why? Nature, that's why. It's getting out of control.

Now before I get a lot of angry mail on recycled paper, let me stress that, generally, I'm in favor of nature. I'm even in favor of scary nature such as snakes, because I know that snakes play a vital role in the ecosystem (specifically, the role of Boonga the Demon Creature).

But nature should stay in its proper context. For example, the proper context for snakes is Asia. A snake should not be in your yard unless it has your written permission. A snake should definitely not be climbing your trees, although this is exactly what one was doing outside my window a few days ago. I looked out and there it was, going straight up the trunk, looking casual, ++ Mr. Cool-Blooded. It was impressive.

Nevertheless I was alarmed to see the snake, because according to top snake scientists, there's only one known scientific reason why a snake would go up a tree, namely, so it can leap onto your head and strangle you.

This particular snake had been watching me for several days. I'd seen it on the lawn earlier when I was out with my two dogs, Earnest and Zippy, who were trotting in front, looking alert and vigilant, providing protection. The snake was holding very still, which is a ploy that a snake will use to fool the observer into thinking that it's a harmless object, such as a garden hose, or a snake made out of rubber. This ploy is effective only if the observer has the IQ of a breath mint, so it worked perfectly on my dogs, who vigilantly trotted right past the snake.

Of course if the snake had been something harmless, the dogs would have spotted it instantly. Zippy, for example, goes into a violent barking rage whenever he notices the swimming-pool chlorine dispenser. This is a small, benign plastic object that floats in the pool and has never made a hostile move in its life. But Zippy is convinced that it's a malignant entity, just waiting for the right moment to lunge out of the water and dispense lethal doses of chlorine all over its helpless victims.

I tried to notify the dogs about the snake. "Look!" I said, pointing. "A snake!" This caused the dogs to alertly trot over and sniff my finger in case there was peanut butter on it. The snake, continuing to hold still, was watching all this, thinking: "This person will be easy to strangle."

So now I find myself glancing up nervously whenever I walk across my yard. I'm thinking maybe I should carry an open umbrella at all times, as a Snake Deflector. But that is not my point. By now you have forgotten my point, which involves my car. One day it wouldn't start, and it had to be towed to our garage, which has two main characters: Bill, who is responsible for working on the car, and Sal, who is responsible for giving you a dramatic account of what was wrong.

"At first we thought it was the [something]," Sal told me, when it was all over. "But when we tried to [something] the [something], all we got was [something]! Can you believe it?"

"No," I assured him.

"So then," said Sal, starting to gesture, "we tested the [something], but . . ."

He continued for 10 minutes, attracting a small but appreciative audience. Finally, he reached the crucial dramatic moment, where Bill had narrowed the problem down to a key car part, called the "something." Carefully, Bill removed this part. Slowly, he opened it up. And there, inside, he found: ants.

Yes. An ant squadron was living in my car part and eating the wires. I am not making this up.

"Oh, yes," said Sal. "Ants will eat your wires."

This gave me a terrible feeling of what the French call deja vu, meaning "big insect trouble." Because just a month earlier, the water in our house stopped running, and a paid professional plumber came out and informed us that -- I am still not making this up -- there were ants in our pump switch.

This is what I mean by nature getting out of hand. It's not natural for ants to eat car and pump parts. Ants should eat the foods provided by the ecosystem, such as dropped Milk Duds. Something is wrong.

And here's another scary but absolutely true fact: Lately I've noticed ants going into the paper slot of my computer's laser printer. Ask yourself: What natural business would ants have with a laser? You can bet that whatever they're up to, it's not going to benefit mankind, not after all the stuff we've sprayed on them.

So I'm worried. I'm worried in my car; I'm worried in my house; and above all I'm worried when I cross my yard. I'm afraid that one day I'll disappear, and the police will search my property, and all they'll find will be a snake who obviously just ate a large meal and is pretending to be a really fat garden hose; and maybe some glowing ants munching on, say, the microwave oven; and of course Zippy, Mr. Vigilant, barking at the chlorine dispenser. *

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.