My so-called life as a cicada

One member of Brood X pleads his case.

April 30, 2004|By Joe Cicada | Joe Cicada,Special to baltimoresun.com

Hi, everyone. Joe Cicada here. It's been a while. Seventeen years to be exact, but I'm back and feelin' more than a little randy. I want you to know right up front that I'm taking time out of my busy and, sadly, very brief mating schedule to plead my brood's case to you humans. What's that? You hate my voice, the way I express myself? Yes, I suppose I am the Fran Drescher of the insect world. It can't be helped, and I do apologize. Just know that if you spent the vast majority of your life burrowed underground, sucking sap from tree roots as your only nourishment, I wouldn't blame you for being a little shrill when you finally got a chance to go topside and see the world.

You see, every 17 years, my kind gets to party with your kind. And we like to get loud. We like to bring all of our family and friends to the dance. We call ourselves Brood X, mainly because we think it makes us sound tough. Hey, it's a tough, tough world we're waking up in. Don't hate us because we're multiple! Instead, marvel at our uniqueness. And if you can't do that, at least we'll be out of your hair (it has been said that we could literally wind up in your hair) by early July.

I am a male cicada and darn proud of it. I don't try to be anything other than who and what I am. I am not a locust. I have no grasshopper relatives. I'm not part of some Biblical plague prophecy. It won't be the end of the world when you see me in the coming weeks. You don't even have to cancel school. We ain't snow, people!

Every 17 years, thousands of us (OK, millions ... but, really, who's counting?) emerge from the ground, make that tough transition from childhood to adulthood, reproduce, and then die. Yes, die. I will die very soon after mating. OK, I'll probably make a sandwich first and take a nap. Then, I'll croak. There won't be any courtship. No engagement, no wedding, and certainly no 30-year mortgage. I'm not even gonna be around long enough to open up a checking account. Nest egg? Ha! I'll be lucky if I live to see a few of the eggs some lucky female is gonna lay after I ...

Ahem, and after I get my groove on (on the first date, no less), my job will be done. My role in nature will have come full circle. But at least I'll be leaving this ol' rock with a smile on my face. Not wasting away in some old folks' home, watching "Diagnosis Murder" reruns. Joe Cicada is goin' out with a bang, folks, fulfilling Mother Nature's destiny for my species.

Indeed, it has been 17 years. The last time you humans saw my kind was 1987. Reagan was president, "The Cosby Show" ruled TV, and filling up on a tank of gas didn't require a small bank loan. A lot has changed since then, so apologies if we are a little disoriented.

First, where the heck did all of this traffic come from? I've already had several of my siblings go splat on your windshields. It is really hard avoiding these big minivan and SUV thingies clogging your roadways now. Any fool can flit around a soccer mom trying to park her Ford Expedition at Towson Town Center. But when you see a hundred of them comin' at ya on I-695? Forget about it. Second, who built all of these houses? Are there really that many more of you today? Do you have any idea how far Brood X has to fly just to find a decent wooded area to mate in? It's depressing. We can't even get a little privacy.

And what's with all of the complaining? Is our singing really that much worse than anything that comes blasting out of car stereo speakers these days? The last time you saw us, Billy Idol, Run DMC and Lisa Lisa assaulted our senses. Now, we can't get away from Linkin Park, Jessica Simpson and Usher. That's part of the reason why we sing all the time -- to drown out your noise. And don't take it out on our women. Only the male cicadas sing. Our ladies are lured by that sound we make that you hate so much. They can't get enough of it, and that's all that really matters.

I've also heard that some of you are afraid that cicadas bite. We don't. We don't even have biting mouthparts. My kisser is more like a soda straw, which I've used for sipping good, old, low-calorie plant sap my whole life. Actually, we fear you and your biting ways. Listen up, people. I want to make this very clear. Cicadas are not the other white meat! We are not tasty with ketchup and a side of fries. We have no interest in being the main course for fondue night at the neighbors'.

We just wanna mate and die, OK?! We're doing it all for the nookie! And when we die, we won't be leaving any permanent damage to your world. Sure, the aftermath of the Great Cicada Orgy of '04 will likely resemble the Pimlico infield after the Preakness. We can't exactly clean up after ourselves. While our bodies lie dead on the ground piled on top of one another, don't fixate on the aroma. Instead, think of how we have already aerated the soil with our tunnels, letting in rainwater and air. We're giving back to the community, and we're not even charging you a landscaping fee.

Yes, humans. We're here to kick off the summer with you. Your species calls it an "infestation." Our species calls it a celebration. Joe Cicada is comin' up, so you better get this party started!

--Joe Cicada is actually Teddy Durgin, who spends a lot of time communing with nature.

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