Tuesday, February 15, 2011
[Originally published almost exactly one year ago, I'm re-posting this because Matt Conlon, in the comments for No More Mr. Mice Guy, said that that story reminded him of this one. Since I'm willing to take the easy way out as soon as it becomes available, he gave me an excuse for giving you a re-run instead of something new. So, if you have a complaint, go to his place and make it. Thank you.]
Saturday morning, MY WIFE and I were watching TV. She was sitting on the couch, while I was in an easy chair. She made an annoyed sound, and I asked her what was the matter. She said, “We’re going to have to buy some ant cups. The little ants are back.”
Little black ants intermittently invade our house. They show up once a year or so, usually during a colder month. They’re harmless, so far as I know. If I see one or two, I either try to ignore them or trap them to put outside. The problem is that one or two are almost surely followed by forty or fifty, and then they become impossible to ignore. If I ignore the forty or fifty, they’d be followed by a couple of thousand, and then maybe a quarter million, at which point they’d lift up the couch, carry it outside, and dump us on the lawn. Then they’d take the couch back inside, flip on the TV, and eat all of our graham crackers while watching… I don’t know; horror films about anteaters or something. I haven’t thought this through completely. You get the idea, though. At some point, the ants have to go.
The problem is that I hate to kill insects. They’re usually not doing anything to me personally. They just happened to wander into the same space I’m occupying. I hardly think that gives me the right to croak them. I mean, if a mosquito lands on me, that’s one thing. A mosquito will try to suck my blood. But, a little black ant? The worst he’s going to do is climb on my arm and tickle me. I should kill something because it makes me laugh? That would be bad news for The Three Stooges, if they weren’t already dead. Of course, some women wouldn’t mind seeing them killed all over again, but I digress.
Speaking of women, MY WIFE does not hold the same opinions concerning life that I do. She feels it’s just fine to squash an ant. It does not trouble her conscience in the least to provide an early demise for an ant. When I express my displeasure with her morality, she says that I should become a vegetarian. She says that I kill cows and such, if by proxy, and that’s the same thing. No, it isn’t. I tell her that if she wants to EAT the ants, I’m fine with her killing them.
Be that as it may – and, unfortunately, it is – I’ll buy the ant cups next time I go shopping. MY WIFE is more important to me than the ants are, so if it will keep peace, fine. And I can sort of rationalize the ant cups. I’m not shoving the ants into the cups and forcing them to eat the poison; they’re entering of their own accord and eating what they choose. So, it’s more like they’re committing suicide, if perhaps unwittingly.
Well, anyway, I tired of our continuing debate concerning the propriety of killing some creatures but not others. I decided to cease fire and enjoy a nice cup of coffee. I asked MY WIFE if she’d like a refill of the used mug she had in front of her on the coffee table. She answered in the negative. So, I grabbed the mug to put it in the dishwasher.
I hit the kitchen and opened the dishwasher. As I was placing her mug in the rack, I saw that one little black ant had hitched a ride on the handle.
I could have squashed the ant, but you already know how I feel about that. Another choice was to pick up the ant and place him outside. If it were spring or summer, that’s probably what I would have done. It’s winter, though, and putting the ant out into the snow seemed just as cruel as squashing him; maybe more so, as I have no idea how long it takes an ant to freeze to death. What I finally decided to do was just leave the ant in the dishwasher. He could fend for himself and my conscience wouldn’t bother me.
As I put the mug in, the ant fell off the handle and landed on the floor of the dishwasher. There were some tiny bits of food there. He no doubt thought he had hit the ant lottery. He immediately made his way to them. Satisfied that not only had I saved the ant, but had probably made him much happier, I shut the door to the dishwasher.
A couple of hours later, I had forgotten about the ant. I had eaten some toast and I went to place my plate in the dishwasher. As I did so, some buttery crumbs fell off of it. The ant – presumably the same one, anyway – reappeared, perhaps wondering if he had died and gone to ant heaven. All he had to do was wait a bit and, every so often, he’d receive a bonanza of food residue, refreshing liquids, butter, sugar, and other bits of treasure. Life was great!
Of course, his general attitude toward the beneficence of his God will change when the dishwasher is full. As he’s wondering just how much more good stuff can possibly come his way, the worst will happen. He will become a victim of a deluge that, in ant terms, will make the one suffered by Noah seem a light sun shower by comparison. Rather than getting another treat, he will be scalded, shaken, swirled about in a soapy morass, shot through the drainage hose, and then deposited in the sink. If he somehow survives that initial thrill ride, he will then find himself riding a wave into our garbage disposal, where he will not have time to admire his new abundance of wealth, but, instead, will be whisked away to his final place of disposition: a sewer.
I can’t help but think that, given the choice – and maybe granted the intelligence to make such a choice worthwhile - he might have decided that eating a bit of poison from an ant cup was not so bad by comparison. Or maybe, if granted that intelligence, he might be able to judge an appropriate time to exit the dishwasher of his own accord, rather than stick around to see what happens when his cup literally overfloweth.
Well, you can occupy your day for only so long with such flights of fancy, so I then went to do the grocery shopping. Among the things I bought were the ant cups. When I got home, I saved MY WIFE’s soul. Rather than delegating to her the duty of placing the poison, I laid out the cups myself. Hell, one way or the other I was to blame for killing the ants. Just buying the cups was enough to make me a hypocrite, so I saw no reason to remain all high and mighty from that point on.
I did try to get the ants to understand that they had a choice. I said to them, as I was laying out their poisoned treats, “Ants, this is poison. If you just go away now, you’ll be happier than you will be if you eat this. My advice is to leave our home immediately, not eating any of this seemingly delicious treat on your way out. It is not a delicious treat. It is death.”
I’m sorry to report that the ants did not listen to me. They fairly much ran towards the poison. As I write this, most of them have eaten their fill and died. Meanwhile, I haven’t done the dishes yet, so I’m still providing ONE ant with what he thinks is paradise but is actually an impending horrific doom. What a swell fellow I am! For all of my talk about not liking to kill bugs, I’m doing a fairly comprehensive job of exterminating them.
And now, I wonder if we’re actually any better off than those ants. Adam & Eve (or, if you wish, Adam Ant & Eve) were presented with a similar choice in the Garden of Eden. They could have lived indefinitely in paradise, so long as they didn’t eat one particular fruit that was poison to their souls, but they chose the poison. The result was death. God told them what the result would be, but they ate it anyway. And, much like my one ant in the dishwasher, after a while there were was only one person remaining that God deigned to talk to. Maybe I should try to get Noah, the ant in the dishwasher, to build an ark. I wonder if he knows what a cubit is? I really don’t want to imagine what he might be gathering two-by-two of, though.
Soon, with more better stuff.
[Image of little black ant from How To Get Rid Of Things, which appears to be a great resource should you be planning an insect holocaust.]