Getting set for 2021

April 23, 2004

SEVENTEEN years ago we promised ourselves we wouldn't be here this spring, but here we are. It's our rendezvous with cicadian destiny.

We have many questions: Why 17 years, when it only takes 16 to get a driver's license? Why are they so bad at flying? Why do they make so much noise? Are they deaf? Why can't they settle down to productive lives, and postpone the reproductive part? Why doesn't the earth cave in when they all crawl out of it? Why, if they're looking for mates, do they keep banging into us? Are they blind as well as deaf? Why weren't we smart enough to figure out how to be away?

Here's what we don't like: cicada recipes. Newspapers print them every 17 years, as if editors, stumbling blindly, couldn't help themselves. Seventeen years ago, someone in The Sun said that cicadas taste like shrimp; we've been unable to enjoy shrimp ever since.

Parents, you may be lucky. Your kids may develop a scientific fascination with cicadas. They may go on to become great entomologists. Or you may be unlucky. By this time next month, your freaked-out kids may be asking where the nearest burqa store is. You may be wondering the same thing.

Let's get back to the shrimp idea. Wiggly shrimp all over the place, dive-bombing out of trees because, after all, who could expect a shrimp to fly? Shrimp desperate to make like the birds and the bees. Blissed-out wiggly shrimp and the carcasses of blissed-out wiggly shrimp under foot everywhere. Air shrimp, as loud as jackhammers.

Some of you were here 17 years ago and are wondering what all the fuss is about. Rowhouse neighborhoods with lots of asphalt and little greenery, high-rise condominium towers, and newly built suburban tracts on land scraped clean with bulldozers are not cicada-friendly environments. You're free to go about your business. In the old leafy neighborhoods - well, there's always July.

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