They say that we – as privileged American consumer people – tend to accumulate many more “things” than we actually need to be happy and function in life; we buy progressively larger homes and then immediately fill every nook and cranny with thigh-masters, seasonal candles, matchless socks, school projects, taxidermy, half-empty containers of weed killer and motor oil, and – in my case – incomplete socket sets. And then, when every storage space in our homes is loaded to the gills, they go and invent the Shake Weight, and the trend continues. It is for this reason that I’m considering burning my house to the ground and starting from scratch. Also, the termites.
The latter is a saga that began earlier this month when my wife, visibly nervous, drug me out of bed to take a closer look at something that she’d noticed and immediately sprinted away from.
“What is it?”, I asked as I stumbled after her.
“It’s in the laundry room”
“What IS it??”
“It’s on the floor”
“WHAT IS… nevermind.”
At this point I was as concerned about my wife’s English comprehension as I was about whatever I had been summoned to investigate… “There!”, she pointed from the threshold of the laundry room before backing deep into the kitchen, willingly sacrificing me to save herself. I approached slowly – barefoot and defenseless, and also blind without contacts – and there on the floor, exploring the laundry room like a tiny scouting party, were a handful of blurry ants alongside some larvae-looking things and sawdust – or it could’ve been dryer lint – again, no contacts. Whatever it was did not seem particularly threatening at the time. “They’re definitely some kind of bugs” I said, delving deep into my well of accumulated homeowner expertise. Then – and I don’t like to brag – I felt the district tingle of manly instincts kicking in (or possibly just gas), and responded with swift action, grabbing the Raid and spraying with laser-like precision until the insects had all drowned in an ankle-deep pool of chemicals, and afterwards heading straight back to sleep. This solution was less permanent than my wife had hoped for, but that’s what you get you drag me out of bed for a pile of ants. The next day we had someone come out to investigate and were told that the interlopers were termites, and that spraying them was essentially the worst thing you can do. Clearly the exterminator lacked my level of instincts. (I did ask about building a wall to protect the borders of my home, but apparently they’d just eat it, sooooo…) He also indicated that we would likely see another “swarming” event in the coming weeks as this is the time of year when termites branch out looking to colonize new areas, such as your cabinets, shoes, and pillowcases. None of that left my wife – who was already looking into real-estate in North Dakota at this point – with much of a warm-fuzzy. The other interesting thing the exterminator commented on was the fact that he’d been called out almost exactly a year before by the previous owners, who declined his estimate for termite control. That was particularly enlightening because they had indicated NO KNOWLEDGE of termites or other burrowing insects on the disclosure they signed less than a month later! Crazy!
Civil lawsuits aside, it was clear I needed to move quickly to prevent immediate divorce, so I did the other thing good protectors do and gave the exterminator my credit card on the spot without so much as considering a second opinion, while practically begging them install feeders immediately. “Look!” I said to my wife, “Problem solved! No need to move now!”. (All for the bargain basement price of $850 plus $250/yr for annual maintenance). And for several days it seemed that might actually be the case… but then the real swarming started. About a week later we found another 10 or 12 of the larger ants in the laundry room again, which we killed (without Raid) and said “Okay, no big deal; they warned us about this and it should be over now…” Such blissful ignorance did not last long; as we returned home the next evening to a scene that could’ve been ripped from the pages of a Steven King novel; literally HUNDREDS of dead or dying termites covering the laundry room floor – some even making their way into the kitchen before keeling over – and the house hunt began anew. My wife called the exterminator again while barking orders at the children to stay away from the kitchen forever. I grabbed the vacuum cleaner and got to work clearing the field of fallen insects, thinking that the feeders must be working and killing the bugs off, but no! “Nah, they just die when they’re above ground for long” said the exterminator, destroying what little confidence we had left in their long-term solution. “Well can’t you spray or something? We’ll leave for a week while you tent the place…” we offered, but no, they claimed they’d done all they could and that it was just a waiting game. Meanwhile, my wife’s health was starting to deteriorate from lying awake at night with a baseball bat and blowtorch clutched tightly to her chest…
Reassured that we had done everything we could, we told ourselves it couldn’t last forever, and did our best to settle back into a normal routine. Several days went by with no more sightings, and the hair on the back of my wife’s neck was just beginning to lay down again, when suddenly she came running into the house from the garage, abandoning groceries in the trunk, and nervously hugging herself just as she had that first night; “There are termites all over the driveway!”. Going outside to investigate, I found WAVES of horrid little demon bugs bursting forth from the seam in the driveway and pouring towards the street like some sort biblical exodus – many flittering into the air in search of a new home, hopefully far away from mine. This time I called the exterminator myself, concerned that they could potentially find their way into other areas of my home and set up new colonies away from the installed boxes, though I was once again assured that the treatments would be enough to solve the problem if I would just be patient – something I’ve never been particularly known for. So I thanked the man, and then calmly siphoned several gallons of gas from my car while my wife took the kids to the store for a box of matches. I’ve heard North Dakota is lovely this time of year, and I bet we can get by with only a couple of suitcases – I just need to grab the PlayStation quick…