Friday, October 28, 2016

Friday Night Fright

When I was first married, back in the late '70s, we couldn't afford much, but we found a cheap apartment in Hollywood. Not the nice part of town but downtown. It was across the street from where a bunch of hookers lived (apparently they avoided our apartment building because you needed a key to get in the front door of the building). That apartment came furnished, which we needed, but it was also furnished with cockroaches. Lots of them. We used to go out to horror movies a lot, just to see depictions of someone whose life was worse than ours.

Six months later, when the lease was up, we hightailed it out of there for the suburbs, where we found a brand new house that had been built by the landlord, who also lived on the property. The lot was about half an acre, very deep and skinny, and it had a tiny old house on the front corner. The landlords had built themselves a big, narrow two-story house on the other front corner, and the garage was on the end of the house that was away from the street. Across the long driveway from the landlord's house, directly behind the tiny old house, the landlords had built two tiny new one-bedroom houses, and they rented out all three of the tiny houses, of which the middle one was ours. The way they designed their house, the landlords could (and did) come out of their master bedroom and onto the flat roof of the garage, where they could overlook their domain. As uncomfortable as it could be living in an outbuilding of a feudal manor, it was a million times better than living with cockroaches.

Now, we were still pretty broke, so we didn't have much in the way of furniture. Our decor was Early American Garage Sale combined with Stuff We Made Ourselves. Our living room couch during family gatherings was the back seat pulled out of our 1964 Mercedes 220Sb (the car was a wedding gift from one of my husband's college roommates - he had found the car abandoned in a field and got the Sheriff's title to it and rebuilt the engine for us). Our mattress was nothing more than a big piece of foam on the carpet.

Life was pretty good there. We liked our rental neighbors and tried not to interact much with our feudal lords.

One Saturday morning, probably about 7:00 (an ungodly hour for a Saturday), I opened my eyes a crack, because I'd heard a soft noise outside next to the house. Not far from where I was lying, I noticed a line of ants walking along the top of the baseboard. In my desire to get back to sleep, my mind calculated that the ants weren't approaching me, and so I decided I could tell my husband about it later, so I closed my eyes and slept some more.

The noise outside continued and must have become more forceful, because my husband suddenly sat straight up in bed and expressed his annoyance and determination to investigate. That's when I woke up, opened my eyes again, and saw that the line of ants had become a superhighway of at least four lanes that followed the baseboard, turned a corner, climbed up the wall to the 4-inch potted philodendron that rested on the windowsill, and climbed up the side of the pot and into the dirt. Horrified, I looked more closely: all those ants were carrying eggs.

My husband came back from his investigation. It seemed Mr. Lord of the Manor had taken it in his mind to do a bit of weeding right next to our house at the crack of dawn and had dug up an ant's nest with his shovel, and the newly homeless ants had decided to move lock, stock, and hatchery right into my philodendron. CREEPED. ME. OUT!!!

After much Raid and airing out of the room - and the Raided philodendron in the garbage can - we resumed life again. Because this is California, we've had ant invasions countless times in countless abodes, but they haven't brought their eggs with them. Most of the time they're looking for something to take home with them. They die for their efforts, of course, because this is me we're talking about.

Fast forward to last night. Friday night. A good night. My son came over with the new (to him) game he bought, used, at the game store, and we gave it a try. It's called, Hansa, based on the old Hanseatic League. My son won, and then he and my daughter played Carcassonne while I hit the treadmill, and then after my daughter won, my son went home. My daughter was pretty tired, so she went over to the power strip to unplug her laptop before going to bed. She let out a disgusted, "Mom, there's a million ants over here!"

When I got over there and peeked behind the shelves that hold all our TV-attached devices, the power strip had ants crawling all over it, and the narrow space between that and the wall was black with them. I didn't know if some sort of horrible vermin had died back there and attracted all of them, or what. It was repulsive. And it's been years since there's been a husband to call to come deal with it.

We moved the shelves out of the way, and then my daughter sprayed the heck out of them. They were coming in from under the bottom of the baseboard. This is what it looked like post-spraying, when they were all DEAD.

There was nothing they were trying to eat or take home. All those white things were their eggs. They had decided that making their new home under the warmth of the power strip was just the thing for a Friday night. I can't begin to say how many times and in how many ways we expressed our revulsion at what was happening in our very own home.

After inspecting the rest of the house and seeing no other incursions, we finally went to bed to give the bug spray a chance to dry before we tried vacuuming.

In the morning the real work began. We moved furniture for better access, vacuumed, swept, and wiped down all the wires with wet disinfecting wipes. As a last task, I wiped all the ants off the power strip - top, bottom, and sides - then set it down on the blue-ray player while I wiped off its power cord. I picked up the power strip to start putting everything back together when I noticed a bunch of white eggs on the top of the black player. Noooo!!!

Then I hit the power strip against the floor a couple times , and this happened:

Their new nest was INSIDE the power strip! That thing had to go. We got out a brand-new garbage bag for the power strip and vacuum cleaner bag (once the new pile of disgust was cleaned up), because you can't trust the plastic shopping bags you get at stores to be air- and ant egg-tight. Since my daughter needed to go to Walmart for some food, she volunteered to pick up a new power strip. This one is a wall-mount model, so there should be less opportunity for the ants to make their home inside it (at least, that's what we're telling ourselves).

All of our various pieces of electronic equipment are now plugged in, and we're back in business. We have no idea what gave the ants the idea that it was time to move - it's not as though our landlord  was digging in the dirt beside the house - and I know better than to ask God what on earth He was thinking.

It says in the book of Revelation that God will wipe every tear from our eyes. I am confident that this memory, too, will be wiped away along with my tears when I get to heaven. It can't be the kind of thing we have to think about forever. Eternity without ants and their eggs is a very, very comforting thought.

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