staying power…us vs. them

Despite the turmoil bedbugs have caused in my family’s life recently, I’ve an underlying admiration for their “sticktoittiveness.” I’m certain you’ve heard the word before, although it’s probably not in Webster’s Dictionary. After all, bedbugs are just trying to coexist, especially since they need our blood to survive. Don’t you think we can spare a little, now and then. If it weren’t for the itchiness and accompanying rash…???

During his initial visit to my daughter’s apartment, the rep from All America Pest Control, demonstrating his vast knowledge of bedbugs, explained that there’d been an infestation in the U.S. back in the 80s. However until recently, the problem had been on the wane. With the influx of people from Third World Countires, the rep indicated that bedbugs were again on the rise. Why so?

Image representing Bill Gates as depicted in C...

Image via CrunchBase

According to the rep’s explanation, bedbugs are rampant in Third World Countries because the people have not the means to erradicate them. Since the pests aren’t a health threat, as yet, the people learn to live with bedbugs. In other words, they’re viewed as a nuisance, not a hazard. Makes total sense. Who has unlimited funds to drive the little buggers from existence? Maybe Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Queen Elizabeth. Not me and mine, that’s for sure. Therefore as a result of the inability to contain the bedbugs, they are being inadvertently transported by Third World Country travelers, via their belongings, as many seek to improve their lots elsewhere in the world.

My personal take on the rep’s stance is that we should learn to live with bedbugs to some degree. It’s a fact that world travel isn’t going to disappear, and neither are the nasty pests for that matter. So what other recourse have we? We’ve not the financial resources to exterminate their entire population, nor have we the stamina to Clorox-wipe them out of existence. Believe me, I tried. After cleaning too many articles to count, my daughter and I took to garbage bagging stuff and leaving them to bake in the heat of her locked car for a couple of days. Otherwise, we’d still be sanitizing every crevice of every single thing. That’s more my friend Sylvia’s “cup of tea.” She has staying power to match that of bedbugs, especially when it comes to cleaning.

Source: Jackie Gleason Columbus, OH Desc: Pict...

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Another bug with staying power is the termite. It’s a native of tropical climates, because of the warmth and moisture. I’d forgotten what nuisances termites can be until our family rented a spacious home atop Diamond Head one summer years ago. It was in the Black Point neighborhood where the view of nearby Waikiki Beach is stunning. Sipping coffee while watching early morning surfers ride the waves was luxury personified. While the house retained its charm, it was in need of updating. But with so many windows giving way to beautiful views of the flora and fauna, as well as the ocean, and allowing the tropical breezes to wend their way unobstructed throughout the many rooms, we felt we were in paradise, which we were. Having extended family over to enjoy our hospitality was the reason for our once-in-a-lifetime treat. The “fly in the ointment,” were the termites.

Mastotermes darwiniensis or Darwin Termite, is...

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Termites would settle on the window sills in never-ending numbers. I’d Windex them away, only to find more settling in as replacements later. The kitchen windows seemed to hold a particular attraction for them. Keeping termites from alighting on our food was a battle. Not a major one, but still a struggle nonetheless. It was not an appetizing sight to watch their little bodies writhing about as they attempted to take flight. There was no fear of them attacking us for they were so inconsequentially small. But they were as bothersome to us, as David and his slingshot were to Goliath.

Just as with bedbugs, and most definitely cockroaches, termites will probably outlast the human race on this planet we like to call ours. It’s my feeling we only rent, while the insects own. We’d better start being nice to our landlords.

Inspecting for Bedbugs

Image by bug_girl_mi via Flickr

…here bedbug…nice bedbug…hugmamma. 😉      

bear bells

Our neighborhood backs up against a mountain where wildlife abounds. We’ve heard of black bears raiding bird feeders in back yards and garbage cans left at curbside. I’ve spoken with a few neighbors who have had sightings or encounters. Fortunately, I’ve not had the pleasure; nor do I want to. I admit the hair at the back of my neck does bristle when I’m walking my dog. With an abundance of mature landscaping, bears, and cougars, can be lurking anywhere.  I don’t mind if they look; I just don’t want them to touch…me.  Knowing my dog, she’d run straight for the animal, barking all the way, dragging me behind her. Stopping right in front of it, she’d drop down on her belly, not hesitating to offer me up as sacrificial lamb. My defense? Bear bells!

Your eyes aren’t deceiving you. Bear bells hang on the leash my dog wears when we’re walking outdoors. They’re suppose to warn bears, and cougars, that I’m coming so they’ll clear out. I guess they work; I’ve not crossed paths with a wild animal…yet. And I’m not planning to test the theory either. I don’t hike in the woods, and I’m not about to start. So where did I learn about bear bells?

When she was 15, my daughter traveled to Banff, Canada for her first summer dance program. I accompanied her, booking us a room at the exquisite Banff Springs Hotel, where we would stay for a couple of days prior to the start of the program. We had a great time sightseeing, but the day arrived for me to escort her to the dormitory where she’d be living for 5 weeks. We went by taxi because of her luggage, but on my return trip to the hotel I decided to walk.

Uncertain about directions, I asked someone who pointed me toward a path behind one of the dormitories. I proceeded as directed, trodding on a wooden walkway hidden on one side by tall shrubs. As I was about to descend a short flight of steps, I heard loud shouts from above and to the rear of me. Turning to look through the thick forest of tall pine trees, I barely made out the figures of people waving their arms and screaming. Unable to make out their words, I turned back thinking they were calling to someonelse. Pausing on the landing at the bottom of the stairs I looked up. On the path ahead of me, some 30 feet or so, a humongous black bear had turned toward the shouting. Sitting on its haunches, I could see his snout. I didn’t know if he saw me, but I wasn’t going to wait to find out. I slowly turned on my heel and climbed back up the stairway. I imagined the bear would be on my back in seconds. My heart seemed to be in my feet. Drained of adrenalin or numbed by it, I’m not sure, I was able to get behind the tall shrubs at the top of the steps. I unexpectedly met a man walking toward me. I explained the situation, wondering what we should do. Off in another direction we saw another path leading away from us. I fantasized we’d take it together and if the bear caught up with us, I’d jump on the stranger’s back letting him fend off its attack for both of us. Of course, I didn’t tell him what I had in mind. He’d have thought I was crazy, and I was. I was crazed with fear of being mauled and eaten alive, while my daughter sat unsuspecting in her dorm room. What would she think if I didn’t come to watch her in class the next day as promised?

Well I was amazed that the stranger barely paused to consider the circumstances before continuing in the direction from which I had just come. I wasn’t sticking around to hear what happened. I booked it back up toward the dorms and located a couple of campus security guards who pointed me down a road that exited the grounds.  They were aware of the bear’s presence, so went off in search of it. As I walked on the paved road, I saw a police car which stopped alongside me. The policeman asked if I’d seen a bear and I gladly explained my encounter. He too left in search of the animal. As I continued on my way, my heart finally returned to normal, pounding fiercely in my chest. I wanted to talk with someone about my experience. Since I knew no one in Banff, I got on my cell phone and called…my husband, who’s always there, when I need him, in his office in the U.S.

Unable to do much else, my husband asked if I was okay, and so on, and so forth. It was comforting to hear his voice, but I still wanted to talk to someone in person who would share my fear, and my excitement. I walked about the small town, amongst hundreds of tourists. I wanted to shout at the top of my lungs “There’s a bear! Run for your life! Hurry, get away!” But of course I remained cool, calm and collected…on the outside; on the inside I was “jumping out of my skin!”

I wasn’t sure how I would defend myself against a repeat encounter, since I planned to walk back to the campus the next morning. Wandering in and out of shops, I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. On my last stop, a bookstore, I found the answer…bear bells. Accompanying literature explained that they would forewarn bears of my coming, so that they would escape in another direction. No weapon, no mace, no pepper spray, just li’l ole bells.  Paying for them, I related my story to the salesgirl who “burst my bubble” when she proclaimed that bears in town were not an unusual sight. In fact, walking to work one morning, she’d seen a bear huddled in a tree right in the midst of town. “So not a  big deal,” I thought to myself and left, making my way back to my hotel.

The next day as I wend my way through the campus where my daughter was ensconced, I jingled my bear bells. The only animals I passed were a couple of huge elk, one standing and one reclining on all fours. I eyed them across the street, and they eyed me. I wasn’t sure if the bells would repel, or attract the elk. They didn’t run, and their gaze never left me. It was disconcerting to say the least. Being trampled by elk would have the same outcome as being attacked by a black bear. I would be no more.

After watching her ballet class,  I told my daughter, and anyonelse within earshot, about my adventures. In turn she told me about the elk and deer that would wander near the dormitory, a couple settling down to rest outside her window. Needless to say she had a unique summer in Banff, the only American dancing with, and learning from, exceptional Canadians. Add to that wild animals; what could be more perfect?

not sure if I’ve seen my last bear…hugmamma.

“vino, anyone?”

Have you noticed how airports around the country, and the world, have been transformed into “destinations?” Passengers who once shopped for last-minute trinkets, can now purchase Burberry coats, TUMI luggage, and Disney memorabilia for themselves. Grabbing a cold, dry ham and cheese sandwich, has been replaced by gastronomical delights like Wolfgang Puck’s 3-cheese-pizza, Sabarro’s spaghetti and meatballs, and Chinese delicacies. Bars have always been available for the business traveler in need of a “pick-me-up,” after a day of endless meetings. But according to a Journal article “Airports Blend More Spirits Into the Mix,”  “Alcohol has rarely been in short supply at airports, but some cash-strapped local governments are taking steps to open the taps further.”

Bars at Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway airports are open 24 hours, as are the 17 pushcart vendors selling beer and wine. A plan is in place to open a bar in the baggage claim of Las Vegas’ airport, while wine bars are expanding. “Vino Volo, a San Fransisco airport wine-bar chain that opened its first shop in 2005, plans to add its 14th location this month and hopes to have 50 in three to five years. Vino Volo, which means ‘wine flight’ in Italian, offers meals and wine-tastings and sells bottles to go from most of its locations.” HMSHost, part of Italy’s Autogrill SpA, sells bottled local wines at two California airports. The company also sells bottled wines at wine bars in several airports, and is planning to open more.

“Critics say the last thing needed in the skies is more tipsy passengers.” This week a flight, prepared to take off from Florida’s St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport, returned to the gate because of a drunken passenger. While such incidents have occurred before, Joe Tiberi, the International Association of Machinists union spokesman feels that ” ‘Making liquor more easily accessible in airports will only exacerbate the problem,’…” Rebecca Rolfes, a Chicago publishing exec, who travels from O’Hare several times a month feels pushcarts would allow tipsy drinkers to roam concourses, bringing them into contact with families and non-drinking passengers. “That could create ‘some pretty sloppy situations,’…”

The obvious benefits to increasing the availability of alcohol are providing respite for passengers other than food courts, more revenue for airports and cities, and creation of jobs. Making a plea for those like himself who may find themselves stranded overnight at the airport, electrician Ray Mazzoni feels that with bars open 24 hours “you could have a drink and a snack and watch TV.”

It’s likely that if “you build it, they will come.” The question is do we really need IT? Just because we think it, does it mean we must give it life? There might be short, and long-term, consequences which we aren’t taking into account. Dispensing more alcohol in airports doesn’t seem like a proposition worthy of our support. It’s not of medical or scientific or even human necessity. It’s a luxury most can’t afford.

in my opinion…hugmamma