Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Ant & The Dishwasher



[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.]


38 comments:

Matt Conlon said...

Hah! Yes, I loved this post. I think it was shortly after this post that I had a post about the swarms of ladybugs we were having at my home. I'll have to dig that one up...

Hilary said...

If only you'd have acquainted yourself with all the other ants as you did with Noah.. and written about them too. You'd have an ANThology by now. ;)

Clare Dunn said...

As my Auntie Ann(t) would say...

This Sully person is as SOFT as a GRAPE!!!

xoxoxo:)
Anti-ant

Teacher's Pet said...

I hadn't read this before...
Delightful...and ranks up there with the poinsettia and the li'l mouse stories you shared. I agree with Clare Dunn. You have a soft heart.
And as Martha Stewart would say, "That's a good thing!"
(She's such a snob; I don't know why I even quoted her...)
I love your sense of humor, Jim. I'm so glad I found your blog.
Hugs,
Jackie

Shrinky said...

No apologies necessary to me, this post is timeless and well worth a second read (but then, um, I may have selfish motives behind saying that, considering all the amount of re-posts I tend to offer up on my site)..

I love you have a tender side, makes you kinda' cute and fluffy (and nuts) y'know?

Sausage Fingers said...

Nice one,
Cheers, Sausage...

Gaston Studio said...

Great read Jim!

Jazz said...

I have no problem killing mice or ants (cause let's face it, ants are a pain to trap).

However, I will trap a fly (or other flyiing insects that don't try to suck my blood out) in a glass and then put it outside. Maybe because that way I don't have to clean up the goo from killing them?

Funny how we assign levels of worthiness to living things...

Craig said...

Nifty piece of writing here, Sully. I know I must've read it before; I've been coming by here for more than a year now, fersure. . .

Again, as in the previous post, the general disposition of our household toward critters of the 'vermin' variety is pretty much DEATH TO YOU AND ALL YOUR CHILDREN! Altho, yeah, on the 'vermin scale', ants are WAY more tolerable than mice. For one thing, even if the ants shit in my pasta, I probably won't know it; and I certainly won't mistake it for black pepper. . .

But there is something galling about those long strings of ants marching across the counter-top, following the trail of spilled honey. . .

And, you know, sometimes testosterone gets the better of you, and you just gotta squash somethin', y'know?

Pat - Arkansas said...

Thanks for the re-run! I loved this one. You are a tender-hearted fellow under all that -- uh, gruff exterior. :)

Uncle Skip, said...

So, if the ant in the dishwasher is Noah, is the one at the front of the line going across the floor Moses?

Suldog said...

Jazz, Craig, et al:

I've always thought that most decisions of this sort - kill or not - are based primarily on size. If we feel we can easily step on it, we're likely to do so. For instance, if it were chickens that came marching across the countertop...

Well, I don't suppose that's a very good example. You could just pick them up and throw them out of the nearest window. But, maybe that makes it an excellent example? You wouldn't squash them - too messy.

Discuss, as needed.

Suldog said...

Uncle Skip - It makes sense. Or, at least, it makes some sense out of how it took Moses 40 years to get his people through the dessert, um, desert. If he led them the same way ants do, back and forth and criss-crossing the same paths...

If I Were God... said...

Again with the Adam & Eve story? Look I've already admitted it was More my fault than it was theirs. They were kids, yes, but I was a younger kid -SORRY. Do you really need to hear the story again? Fine:

http://if-i-were-god-or-had-his-powers.blogspot.com/2011/01/when-i-was-young-god-knuckleheads.html

Quirkyloon said...

Ha! So many funny nuggets in this post.

"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."

Amen Sistah!

"... I saved MY WIFE’s soul."

What a good man you are Suldog Brown.

"... (or, if you wish, Adam Ant & Eve)"

Ha! *snort* He don't drink, he don't smoke, what does he do?

Ha!

Chris@Knucklehead! said...

"It's more they're committing suicide, if perhaps unwittingly."

Interesting point of view. I can see the mob using that same argument.

"Nah, I din't whack da guy. He started the car of his own free will. It just happened ta explode."

Uncle Skip, said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Uncle Skip, said...

Funny that you mentioned chickens in your response, Sully. There was a story on the TV news about some extremely dangerous chickens. To quote: "...the public is being urged not to approach them. Officials say the animals should be considered dangerous..."

Pam said...

Ha, ha! Great post! I was almost getting teary eyed thinking about the ant being drowned in your dishwasher but then I'm really like your wife and kill them and spiders every chance I get. The ladybugs get to stay where they are though. Thanks for the re-run as I missed it the first time around.

IT (aka Ivan Toblog) said...

I'm kinda with you on the preserve the critters thing. Except I haven't a clue how to pick up and ant and hold it without squishing them.

Michelle H. said...

Okay, I'll probably be hanged and quartered in assisting with your endeavor to post reruns, but...

Wasn't there another post concerning your benevolence toward creatures small and smaller, one that had to do with some type of harmless bug catching device?

Buck said...

Ah. Ants, mice, whatever. "Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out." That's what we who were formerly in the bid'niz of breaking things and killin' people what needs killin' always say.

That said, I DO respect your POV, Jim. Even if I don't get it. ;-)

Suldog said...

IT - Well, you have to have patience. You stick your hand near one and let it crawl onto you. Or, if it won't do that, lay a sheet of paper down and try to steer the ant onto it with very gentle prodding :-)

Yikes. If I wasn't classified as a looney tune by some folks already, I think this will push them over the edge...

Suldog said...

Michelle - Yes. It was entitled simply "Bugs". Maybe it will make an appearance for a coda to this

Suldog said...

Buck - This is why I like you so much. I know this is the antithesis of your way of thinking about these things, but you're willing to see the other guy's viewpoint and not deride it completely. Would that more people, on any side of an issue, were as thoughtful.

Hilary said...

ANTithesis. ;)

Red Hamster said...

Charming morality tale. I'm not sure mankind is any smarter than ant...we say one thing and do another. We're told not to do something that will have horrific consequences...and yet we do it anyway.

Great writing. We get ants in our shower in the summer, but I'm sure I could not do a charming take on an ant crawling out of the shower drain and looking up my ***.

Suldog said...

Dear Red:

I don't know. Sounds like funny material to me.

(Not that your ass is funny. Maybe it is - I don't know. I've never seen your ass.)

(Of course, that's assuming - HAH! ASSuming! - that *** means "ass". It might mean "gnu", and, if so, what the hell is one of those doing in your shower with you? You are one sick lady!)

Disgustedly,

Jim

P.S. When in doubt, remember: no gnus is good gnus!

slommler said...

We get those very same black ants. I used to try to save them but no more. I had an apple pie which they literally took over one morning and that began the war. Now I trap, bait and poison to my hearts' content. They asked for it. That pie was expensive!!!!!
Hugs
SueAnn

Maggie May said...

You have a brilliant sense of humour and a vivid imagination. This was a wonderful read! I thought it was a good follow up to your mouse problem.
Now wouldn't it have been kinder to stamp on Adam Ant in the first place! Now you have a conscience about it because it is being delayed all the time....... just like being on death row!
Ha ha ha!
Maggie X

Nuts in May

Angela Christensen said...

When the re-runs are good, you never mind watching them again. This one reminds me of my East Tennessee grandmother, who used to be intermittently afflicted with the tiny critters which in East Tennessee inflection are called "sugar aints". As ever, a great read!

Ruth and Glen said...

Another good re-run Jim. Enjoyed it this time as much as the first. We immediately thought about your bug post like Michelle did. The one with the little humane vacuum/trapper gadget that you use to catch insects.

Barbara Shallue said...

What a great post! I'm so glad you offered it as a re-run. I'm like you - if at all possible, I'll scoop and deposit outside. Except for cockroaches, and then it's DIE!!!

i beati said...

Here I was looking for a story on how much candy you consumed on Valentine's Day

Boom Boom Larew said...

Silly ants... they should know better than to choose the Ant Cups. In all fairness, though, they probably confused them with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

Michael Kerpan said...

We had ants of all sizes this past year -- especially in late autumn/early winter. We even had some giant ones (some winged) come burrowing through the wood paneling in our front room. Most of our ant problems, however, were kitchen-centered.

The big and medium sized ones eventually disappeared -- after several exterminator visits. But this was followed by the roving bands of micro ants -- not much bigger than a speck of dust -- which would materialize out of nowhere if crumbs (or peanut butter or jelly) got left on a counter or in the sink. After a foray, these would disappear -- to no trackable location.

These were almost too tiny to crush (if one wanted to be so brutal). We tried ant poison traps -- but they seem to have pretty much ignored these (maybe these were scaled too large for these ninuscule ants). Finally, when it got REALLY cold out, we stopped seeing the micro-ants -- at least for now....

lime said...

i squash ants because the ones we get around here are carpenter ants who will actually do damage akin to a termite's damage.

in trinidad we had tiny little ants you'd think would be harmless but they bit HARD. after our baby was born we had to put the crib feet in dishes of water to keep the ants out of her crib becasue one night she woke up screaming because hordes of them had crawled in her crib after her drool. they also used to congregate in electrical outlets and short them out during the year we lived there we had to replace every single outlet at some point or another because a zillion ants had crawled into an outlet and the moisture of their bodies shorted it out.

Ericka said...

in chicago, the tiny black ants in my bathroom in february were a harbinger of spring. i rejoiced to see them! and they were gone in two or three days, not to be seen until the next february.

in nc, the ants were a determined foe that engulfed my kitchen. then a friend introduced me to terra. great stuff! also, i don't think available in the north.

the lesson i learned? don't trust mysterious food from above.