Sunday, August 07, 2005


Allow me to share a story of harrowing conflict, another brief chapter in the ages-old struggle between man and bug. Like most desert places in the American West, Las Vegas is lousy with crickets that chirp and hum all night during the summer months.

My house is better insulated than the one in which I grew up, and the noise is scarcely noticeable - scarcely, that is, unless there is a cricket right outside my window. Then I can hear it and it only quite plainly. Indeed, if I could speak crickitese, I would know what it was saying and probably what mood it was in.

It turns out that a single cricket is far more annoying than many. If you think about it a bit, this will make sense. With a hundred crickets giving a moonlight serenade, the separate voices blend together into a rather pleasing, even cadence. But with just one voice, a prima donna soloist, it is terribly uneven. It will go louder and softer, and stop for a few seconds every time the breeze shifts or a spider walks by. I believe the same principle is at work with snorers, though I have never tested it.

So anyway, you may have already guessed that I have been tormented by a single cricket with a curious insistence in laying forth its evening ministrations in the same place every day, about fifteen feet from where I lay. The noise would crowd out any thought, relaxed attitude, or sleepy sensation I might have held otherwise, and at that moment I would despise crickets - that cricket - above most anything else. At least the black widows are quiet! I think my annoyance has more to do with the fact that I am bothered by such a simple, small thing that nobody else hardly notices. Bothered by being bothered, as it were.

Not content to sleep with ear plugs all summer, I needed to do something about the troublesome thing. Our yard is one enormous garden of rock and gravel, and it is nigh-impossible to find an insect among the scree even though I could pinpoint its location. I poured a quart of water over it, and then tried stomping on top of the rocks, hoping to hit it with a lucky strike. Every time I did this the cricket would stop and I would wonder if I had finally taken it out, only to hear it start up again a few minutes later. I think that after a while the poor thing became rather terrorized by my attacks - before it would stop only if something was moving right next to it, but it took to stopping anytime I came within ten feet, and would not start again for some time. I wonder if some miniature Cricket News Network (CNN?) was reporting on the daily terror attacks in Las Vegas. Perhaps some far-away cricket governments were debating over what they were doing in Las Vegas anyway, and shouldn't they withdraw their forces for more worthy pursuits.

But enough about cricket culture. In despair of any other solution, I upped the technological ante by purchasing a spray can of bug killer at Wal-Mart. That evening I went out and sprayed the area the little noisemaker occupied. We must credit crickets for knowing quite well what is bad for them, for before I could do anything it hopped away from the spot in great haste, and disappeared again into the rocks a few feet away.

Hoping I had dealt it a fatal blow, I withdrew to the cool air of my house. Sadly, upon retiring I heard it again from a new spot. For all my efforts I had succeeded in moving it perhaps five feet further away.

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