Saturday, June 26, 2010


It's summer in Atlanta, and from all indications, this is going to be a banner year for the local insect population.  I thought it might be interesting to take an insect's point of view.

Hello, and thanks for reading my post.  My name is Chuck, and I'm a green grocer cicada, one of those insects that lives up in the trees and sings to you in the evenings.  You might call me a "bug", and that's fine, except you need to know that strictly speaking, "bug" is a general term used to describe more than just insects.  As a full-blown cicada (I knew my parents), I'm a member of the order Hemiptera, which is by definition a "true" bug.  For the purposes of this post, I'll relax the rules and use the term "bug" loosely, to describe all members of the insect world.

Now that we have that straight, let's get down to some facts that you may not know:
  • It has been calculated that there are probably about 148,574,965 bugs for every human on the planet.  That number will most likely have increased by the time you have finished reading this post...I'm just saying.
  • Although some of us live in colonies, most of us lead a solitary existence.  When we get stepped on, it's like no one notices.
  • We have brains and digestive systems.  They aren't as well-developed as yours, but please...most of us aren't even an inch long.
  • Some of us, notably wasps, actually have a sense of numbers and provide exact counts of food servings for our offspring.  I am not making this up.
  • Insects were the earliest organisms to produce and sense sounds.  Incidentally, we cicadas are the noisiest insects in the world.
I'm saying all this because, given the facts listed above, you would think we would be treated better by the human population.  Quite the reverse is true, as I shall endeavor to explain.

Being assigned to night tree duty, I have most of my mornings free, so earlier today, I sneaked into one of your home improvement stores.  I won't mention which one, because heaven knows that if I do, they'll come in and fumigate the place, and that will not accomplish much, given the fact that we outnumber you by 148,575,988 to 1.  Nevertheless, while I was flying above the "pest control" (a matter of opinion) aisle today, minding my own business, I noticed that there appears to be a concerted effort on the part of your species to take out mine.  Using a tiny digital camera specially designed for my compound eyes (yes, we've come farther than you think), I was able to take the following pictures:

Do you see a problem?  Where are the insect "treats"?  These are lethal substances, which if ingested by our kind will most certainly result in our imminent demise.  The first product, "Home Insect Control", appears to be some kind of generic potion designed to wipe us all out at one fell swoop.  This "Black Flag" company, with its cutesy retro name, is well-known among our bug tribes for enabling the deployment of veritable nuclear weapons.  The "Fogger" in the center picture represents an insidious approach that sneaks up on us; we don't see it, but the problem is, neither do you, so it doesn't help either of us.  Try eating a turkey sandwich in a room that's been fogged, and you'll see what I mean.

The last product pictured above, "Termite Killer", well...I can go with that.  Termites have their own highly developed social hierarchy, but other than that, they have few friends in the bug world.  Along with fire ants, termites consider themselves "badass" bugs who will stop at nothing to get the next meal, regardless of whether that means eating hardwood flooring, wall studs, grass, or even smaller insects.  Their collective conceit is beyond belief, even though in my humble opinion, they are among the ugliest bugs ever to roam the planet.  Entire human companies have sprung up just to rid the world of the termite population, and personally, I say have at it, Terminix.

Cockroaches get a bum rap.  Most of them are just hard working stiffs, but they have a common tragic flaw -- they prefer the dark.  They are practical jokers to a fault, and this is why they delight in hiding in your kitchen late at night, waiting until you flip on the lights, when they can begin the furious waving of their antennae.  Roaches, somewhat vain by nature, don't do this unless they have an audience, and they take great delight in the resultant screams that emanate from humans upon seeing their pretentious, over the top displays.  This risky behavior gets many a roach killed in the prime of his or her life, generally with a shoe.

Ants can be a pain to humans, but they are essentially harmless, except for the aforementioned fire ants and their mammoth cousins, the carpenter ants.  One thing most humans don't know about the average ant colony is that the overwhelming majority of its residents are female.  The few males that do inhabit the farm are so-called "drones", and they are not worth much of anything other than the use of their reproductive organs.  When the female ants have spare time, which is rare given the inherent laziness of the male ants, they catch up on the colony news, shop, and meet their sister ants for lunch at local park picnics, where they delight in amusing small children by performing Busby Berkeley dance routines while stealing the potato chips.  Seriously, they could have so much more fun without the guy ants.

So there you have it, the world from the eyes of a bug.  I know it's not much to offer, but hey, I don't get paid for doing this, and actually, since we don't live very long, I'll be lucky if I'm still here in August, assuming I don't get squashed, poisoned or eaten by some foolish predatory bird.

Enjoy your summer, my human friends, and give what I've said some thought the next time you're hanging out on the deck. That voice you hear from above, lulling you peacefully to sleep, just might be mine.

Oh, by the way, the ratio is now 148,796,293 to 1.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Would You Like Fries With That?

Time has forced me to come clean.  I am hopelessly addicted to french fries.  Yes, the same person who loves martinis and city dining has a weakness.  You're going to find out sooner or later.

I had my regular annual physical the other day, and all the cholesterol and fat numbers look okay, but deep down, I know that I eat too many french fries.  It's not anything intentional, but rather a habit.  My wife says that she saves up her fries allotment for places that really prepare them well, but I cannot claim such purity; rather, I am trashy when it comes to pommes frites.  I don't exhibit good behavior around them.  And apparently, neither do many other people -- according to a recent study, the average American eats about sixteen pounds of french fries per year.

As an example of how bad I can be about this, my friend Tanya and I sat down yesterday to have lunch at Taco Mac, one of our favorite local establishments.  Since neither of us figured that we needed "all the calories", we decided to split a burger.  Let me just say that up until this point, our intentions had been very good.  However, I ordered a small basket of fries, because as I said, I'm bad like that.  When the order arrived, not only did we each have half a burger and this shared basket of fries, but fries had also been added to each plate.  If each fry had represented a person, we would have had the population of Shanghai between us.  But did we complain?  I think not.

Here in the United States, we are generally offered fries as an accompaniment to (sometimes) otherwise healthy meals.  A chicken caesar salad wrap, say, will come with fries on the side.  Yes, you have the right idea with the salad thing, but the fries take you over the top.  I have a tiny bit of willpower when it comes to fries, but I will admit to none when it comes to fries from any of the following establishments:
  • McDonald's
  • Chick-fil-A
  • Bojangles
Let us examine each of these in turn.

McDonald's is arguably the king of french fry production and consumption worldwide.  I believe that the pairing of a Quarter Pounder or a Big Mac with Mickey D's golden russet fries is probably a divine inspiration.  People have been known to lose their minds over a craving for McD's french fries.  I once knew a girl who would quite literally go into spasms unless they could be produced for her on demand.  Otherwise sensible people wax prosaic about the fries and become violent unless their craving can be satisfied.  I have seen this happen, although I will not divulge any names.  Some of them are probably reading this blog entry.

Chick-fil-A produces an exquisite form of waffle fries, which are typically models of crispy perfection.  Yes, you may opt for the grilled chicken over the fried chicken, but nine times out of ten, I'll bet you choose the waffle fries as your "side".  Come on, let's face it, they're not a "side", they're the core of the meal.  And Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays, which gives the entire chain a validation of sorts.

The seasoned french fries of Bojangles, a regional chain quite popular in the Carolinas, are remarkable in that they contain trace amounts of addictive narcotic substances, or so it seems.  Bojangles' fries are sliced into beautiful, svelte hunks of potato, then sprinkled with a seasoning that is so good it can be bought online.  Bojangles is the perfect accompaniment to a day at Myrtle Beach, an ideal companion to beer drinking while watching people dance to beach music.

A few years ago, I went on a serious diet, and I was forced to forego fries for many fortnights.  After a time, I found that I could substitute other foods without too much anxiety, so I know that going fryless is possible.  I did learn from my diet that compensation is in order when fries are consumed -- if I've had a heavy meal with fries at lunch, I'll typically have a light dinner, sometimes even a salad.  But I find that within a few days, I'm craving fries. 

I need to get better about this.  The first step is admitting you have a problem.  I have a problem.  :)