Friday, July 17, 2009


Here in the moist underbelly of the United States (a phrase that only those of us who have ever been sufficiently obese that we actually had a moist underbelly ... the kind you have to occassionally apply antifungal ointments to ... need I say more?), we've been suffering a bit of an insect infestation. We get just enough rain to form breeding grounds for mosquitoes, bloom the foliage sufficient to offer succor to chiggers, yet keep the ground dry enough to embolden fleas and ticks.

It would be like The Perfect Storm, but without George Clooney and Markey Mark (sorry, RandoGirl). What keeps it from being that kind of rare, once-in-a-lifetime conflagation, however, is the fact that this is what happens every summer here in the moist underbelly.

Some years, believe it or not, it is worse. If we don't get at least one hard freeze during the warm winter, for example, then the insect population blooms even earlier in the spring. This means that the bugs of summer are older, bigger, and smarter. And a six-month-old mosquito is a wily critter.

Now, I know that the lifespan of a mosquito is either a week or a month, depending upon gender. Like humans, female mosquitos live four times as long as males. This is best for the continuation of the species, but also because (like humans) female mosquitos have four times as much to say as male mosquitos do.

Just kidding! Ha-ha. Please don't kill me in my sleep, RandoGirl.

Anyhow, my point (and, yes, oddly enough I do have one) is that Tennessee is freaking rife with bugs this time of year, and some of these bugs have been making themselves felt -- and tasted -- during evening rides.

Yes, I'm talking about gnat swarms.

You're riding along in the sweltering afternoon mugginess, trying hard to drop those four guys at the end of the pack who've been hanging on for dear life during the past three miles. You come over the hill and start hammering down into the shady valley, opening up the gap. Suddenly, you're being peppered by kamikaze gnats, smashing themselves all over your arms, chest, and face. Most of them seem to go right into your mouth, getting sucked in with the air from which you are desperately trying to extract every possible oxygen atom. You grimace, spit, and start wiping your mouth with your glove, blowing gnats out of your nose, and then wiping gnats off of your tongue. Meanwhile, the four guys on the back are now safely in the slipstream again, and will soon attack on the next hill.

You've got gnatpox.

There is no cure. There is no vaccine. You cannot avoid the gnat swarms because you will never see them in time. By the time you are into the swarm, you are already through the swarm and it is Too. Darn. Late.

The only advice I can give you is to wash your face as soon as you finish the ride. If you load up your bike and stop by Wendy's on the way home, you will scare everyone as you walk in with dozens a black speckles on your face. Since your typical Wendy's Assistant Manager does not have the background in contagious disease that would enable him to tell the difference between gnatpox and Legionnaire's Disease, you will be thrown to the ground and trampled as the other customers flee in panic. Eventually, you will be deloused by haz-mat suited agents of the Centers for Disease Control, strapped to a gurney, rolled into a glass-walled climate-controlled room in the bowels of an un-named government building, and slathered in antifungal cream.

The good news is that this will clear up the mold growing on your moist underbelly.

1 comment:

  1. Someone should invent the mouth screen door (opens for food and beverage). When I was riding last week, one of the riders in my group sucked in a really big flying bug and I thought I was going to have to do the Heimlich maneuver. When the coughing and hacking stopped, she (who will go nameless) then told all of us in the group that while she was trying to cough the thing out, it was fighting for all it was worth to go the other way. Ewwww.