The Plague of Cicadas & The Senior Prank

locusts, but will have to use it for the cicada blog post

One of my nightmare scenarios came true yesterday when I read the story out of Florida about the gnarly flying cockroach that crawled into a woman’s ear while she was sleeping, and the grotesque details of the procedure and follow up of the removal of this disgusting bug. I can’t tell you how much I loathe cockroaches and want to vomit every time I see even a picture of them.  Those hellish buggers are one of my phobias. You can read about my encounter with these gross creatures and other creepy crawlies in a previous blog post here. Also, if you’re interested in losing your last meal, you can read the nasty news story I mentioned above here.

After reading and grimacing through that news story, it prompted a memory from my teen years.

It was late spring in 1987 in Fairfax, Virginia, and the year of the horde of the 17-year cicadas. They descended upon my city with the audacity of a shameless celebrity, blanketing tree trunks and back porch screen doors, emitting the most haunting, deafening, echoing tunnel humming I’d ever heard. I was a junior at Robinson Secondary School, which housed 7th-12th graders. The juniors alone were a thousand students that year! The main hall that stretched from one side of the enormous building to the other  spanned the area of a football field, at least that’s what it looked like to my teen eyes. The gym was the size of three regular elementary school gyms. I could go on, but you get the point.

So, I avoided going outside as much as humanly possible to shield myself from the black-bodied, red-eyed creatures drilling me in the head or landing on my shoulder. They were around two inches in length and an inch in width. HUGE, ok? Each day, my mother would drive me and pick me up from school, which was just over a mile away.

17-year cicadas

One afternoon after school when the speckles of sunlight shown through the curtain of cicadas on our back porch’s screen door and their humming had become background din, Mom opened the sliding screen slowly, stepping onto the porch in her button-up, long-sleeved shirt and jeans. She grabbed a pair of bush clippers and disappeared on the right side of the house to trim the hedges. Minutes later, she stepped back inside the den where I sat on the couch, cringing.

“I can’t believe you went out there,” I said.

She smiled, smoothing out invisible wrinkles in her jeans. “It’s fine.”

“The cicadas could have crawled all over you.”

“Naw.  Don’t be silly, Dorothy. You’re overreacting.” Still smiling, she shook her head.

A second later, she said, “Oh!” and bent over, pulling on the collar of her shirt and shaking it, until one of those hard-shelled vermin dropped out from her back onto the floor.

I screamed, “Kill it! Kill it!” I stood up on the sofa, about to have a heart attack at 17.

Mom managed to throw it back outside.

During these horrid weeks, a news report surfaced about a man driving in a truck that was attacked by a legion of cicadas that had flown through the driver’s side window, blocking his view of the road, causing him to veer off the road and crash. It was like something out of a horror flick.

The end of the school year was approaching. I gathered my clothes and backpack in the locker room and then crossed the shiny gym floor toward the doors leading to the main hall. Just before I pushed the doors open, a chorus of screams came from outside the gym. I headed toward the mob scene that was the main hall, which was how it always looked during changing classes. I moved toward the two-story 11th and 12th grade sub school straight ahead with its balcony off the second story 12th grade area that faced the main hall. The screams lessened as I fell into the haphazard flow of kids. A few kids (mostly girls) were yelling that the seniors had dumped cicadas from the balcony onto the juniors below them only a few minutes ago. My heart nearly stopped. I saw the evidence of these ugly creatures flitting about and some lying lifeless on the floor, people crunching them under their sneakers or stepping around them squealing. Relief of missing this death-inducing event washed over me.

Some senior prank. They couldn’t have just TP’d the classrooms or punctured the front lawn with a bunch of plastic forks like the seniors did at the local high school in our town here last year? No nasty bugs, just tedious plucking of utensils from the grass for clean up.

forks in lawn

So the rest of the day, the ugly suckers flew up and down the gaping main hall. One fellow student in Spanish class thought he’d be funny and had placed one of the cicadas on my back without my knowledge, of course.

He said, “Hey, Dorothy.”

I turned around to look at him–a little guy who sat behind me.

“Look,” he said, pointing at my back.

I peered over my shoulder and saw two red beady eyes staring at me. Inside I was freaking out, but I stayed calm on the outside knowing if I freaked out, he’d enjoy that too much and prolong the cicada’s lounging on my back.

“Get it off,” I said calmly, smiling as if I got the joke and didn’t care.

The student and his buddy next to him laughed, and he then removed it.

Obviously, I never forgot that day.

Having seen greenish-colored cicadas here in Pennsylvania in smaller size with “regular” eye color (I just know they weren’t red!), they didn’t look so bad.  In retrospect I feel a bit sorry for those cicadas at my high school. They were brought inside unable to do their mating, which is why they had dug themselves out of the ground after 17 years. They had no food sources and died by the next day. I never thought I’d see the day when I’d feel sorry for these bugs, but I do now. Ah, how your perspective changes some thirty years later. 🙂

 

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From Arcade Antics to Estes Escapades

sports balls

If you read my previous blog post, “Two And a Half Years of Foosball Mania,” you’ll know that I grew up a tomboy, and I loved to play soccer, arm wrestle, and at times, get into tussles with boys.  Therefore, from our first blind date until we reached our early forties, my husband, Troy and I have contended with each other in the realm of sports.

On this first date, we met at a mall and after strolling around there and discussing foosball and pool, Troy drove us to a nearby arcade/pool hall to show each other what we were made of.  We both showed our competitive natures in battling on the foosball table, with which I had had previous experience, and Troy had little.  I won.  Then, we moved to the pool table and shot the cue ball around, knocking it off of striped and solid balls.  This time, he had more experience than I did, and he won.

pool table with balls.jpg

In between visiting each other’s churches at the time, we found another opportunity to wrangle with each other at my church’s pool party.  There was a badminton net in the patch of grass by the pool, and the rackets and birdies were there waiting for us.  Mind you, we were twenty-six years old, and puberty in my early teens had feminized me to where I had to shower every day, doll myself up everywhere I went, and attending the pool party was no exception.  But as soon as I picked up the racket and birdie and eyed Troy through the red net, the excitement of playing the game and beating him coursed through my veins.  It was as if the girly in me took a hike, and I was now the powerful, unstoppable badminton freak.  Never mind the diving to the ground for the shuttlecock, sweat pouring out of my head and body, I had to hit that blasted bird over the net!  While I was scurrying around my side of the grassy field, Troy was doing the same, scooping the birdie here, swatting it over there.  At times, though, he missed, and I giggled with glee.  But then I’d actually missed a few, and he snickered from his side.

badmitton rackets and birdie

I’m not sure who won that because we both mirrored our misses and hits, but we came away from that short-winded with grins on our glistening faces…well, one of us was glistening.  Troy always had the genes or advantage (whatever you want to call it) to not perspire in huge, salty drops down his face like I, unfortunately, do.  Let me tell you, I didn’t feel fresh or dry after that game, and it was in the middle of summer in northern Louisiana.  Yuck!

Flip the calendar to the summer of 1998 in Dayton, Ohio, in which we’d been married over a year.  Troy’s son, Stephen, came for a visitation, and we decided to head out to the nearby ball park to play some baseball.  It started out well enough, with each of us taking turns batting and catching and pitching.  By the way, Troy knew I could hit the ball because we’d played baseball in one of our rare non-competitive games while dating.  Stephen was in the infield waiting for the ball to come his way.  Troy threw me a nice underhanded pitch, and I swung the bat, making contact with the ball.  It blazed straight back at him–a line drive.  It slammed him in his chest.  He huffed, the wind knocked out of him, and I froze for a moment, wondering if he was going to keel over and die!  I walked over to him, afraid of what I’d done.  I asked if he was all right, and he nodded while rubbing his sore chest, and managed to say that he was okay.  Well, that ended the game for the day!

Baseball Equipment Laying on Grass

Later on, Troy showed me the round, black, blue, and green spot on his chest where the ball had hit him.  It missed his heart by inches!  Lord, have mercy!  That moment always freaked me out, but any time he would tell that story, he’d relay it with a smile and with pride on how well his wife could hit the baseball!

Another incident of competitive tussling in the same year was around Thanksgiving time when Troy’s mom, sister, and his mom’s boyfriend were visiting.  We were renting a house in a nice neighborhood in Fairborn, Ohio, when Troy was stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.  The house had a basketball pole and net cemented into the end of the driveway to the left of the one-car garage.  Somehow, while we were out there talking with his mother, et. al., the basketball surfaced, and there was immediately the pulling on shirt sleeves and collars and stumbling around the driveway, half dribbling, half committing holding fouls, as we tried to score two-pointers.  I think my mother-in-law thought we were nuts by the look on her face.  After some wrestling with the ball and running out of steam, Troy put the ball away, and we limped inside the house.

basketball and hoop

Between 1998 and 2008, there were skirmishes fought at the local skee ball and basketball hoop machines at fun centers.

Lastly, it was the summer of 2008 in Estes Park, Colorado.  We’d lived in Colorado Springs at that time.  We’d taken a four-day weekend to spend it in the majestic Rocky Mountains.    Our sons, Nicholas, was nine, and Christopher was six at the time.  On one of the afternoons, we all decided to go play miniature golf, ride the go karts, and then take several swings at the batting cages.  When we’d finished the uneventful miniature golf, we climbed into our go karts–Troy and Christopher were in one, Nicholas was in his own, and I was in my own.  This was one sport that we didn’t feel the need to contend, so we drove around the race track with ease, enjoying the experience.

Nicholas rode around the loop like a Sunday driver, relaxed, both hands on the wheel, pleased as punch.  Troy and Christopher rode around with a bit more zip and exhuberance.  I followed this pattern, although I was more concerned with keeping my kart from hitting anybody else’s.  But apparently, I’d accidentally hit the side of the track and someone bumped into my kart’s rear, and the next thing I heard was the PA speaker crackle on, and a male voice tell my kart number to not run into other karts, and if it happened again, I’d have to leave the track!  Well, you can imagine my irritation considering I’d not tried to hit anyone, so I carefully finished the last couple of laps when the male voice droned into the loud speaker that the ride was over.  Good!

mario kart

Troy and the boys climbed out of their karts when I did, and we walked toward the batting cages, in which the boys had zero interest.  Only Troy and I saw it as an opportunity to beat each other’s batting averages.

The boys wandered outside the batting cage, partly watching us gear up and enter ones next to each other, and partly pawing and studying the bats by the fence.  Before we’d put the quarters in to start the pitching machines, we did notice the huge gray storm clouds that had gathered and were looming over us, but that didn’t phase us.  Not even when the lightning, thunder, and rain began to gently come down.  Nicholas walked over to our cages as Troy and I continued to swing, telling each other how many balls we’d hit thus far.  He’d said something like, “Mom, Dad, it’s raining, and look at the lightning!”  We mumbled something back at him like, “Yeah, it’s fine.  We’ve got to finish up our balls the machine is pitching us.”  Nicholas and Christopher took cover under an awning near the batting cages, watching us with frowns.  As we held the “lightning rods,” as Troy likes to say with a laugh in the years that followed, we kept on swinging, twisting, and huffing, our aluminum bats hitting the balls with a loud PING! … until…

…The lightning got closer, the rain fell heavily, and the thunder let out a BOOM next to our cages.  Well, then, we decided we’d better hang it up, call it a day in the hall of fame of batting averages.

lightning 2

If it weren’t for back problems and carpal tunnel issues, we’d still be jostling today.  Cheers to those many years of marital vying in the sports arena!

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Claudia’s Corporate Calling

typist on old typewriter 1

 

In 2015, I wrote a short story called “Claudia’s Corporate Calling,” in which I challenged myself to write a character that is nearly the complete opposite of me.  It is a piece that is meant to be Silly, Humorous, and Fun.

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I coasted through high school with confidence, unaffected by the self-conscious beast or the frenetic of fashion. You can imagine how much freedom I enjoyed in my secondary academic years. No suffering from bellyaches or trembling hands when presenting my history report to a class half asleep and half strangled with boredom. Really, did students give a fig about fleas infected with bubonic plague, flinging themselves upon unsuspecting, scruffy alley cats? I think not. So, I strolled with ease through the school’s huge halls. I possessed a plethora of friends who wished to adopt my indifference.

Boys were inconsequential. Their pathetic courting methods were comical. Who had time to get tangled up in dating when you strived to beat the stuffing out of your field hockey and volleyball opponents? When you had a superb classic novel to dive into in your literature class? Dream world yielded no authentic competition.

But, now in 1987, I had graduated and proceeded to prepare my life for a lucrative career.   I figured my two typing classes in tenth and eleventh grades would propel me to the top of the business world. I only had to attend the neighboring business college for two years to perfect it. My parents were avid supporters of my business education path. They saw me as the next president of the prestigious company, BEST.

In the fall, I started my first semester at the local business college. It had a name that oozed success—Bark Business College. Its double “B” title gave it a level of class.

The school required a dress code. No jeans, t-shirts, sneakers, tank tops, or mini skirts. I had no problem skipping the mini skirts and tank tops, but I struggled with the omission of jeans and sneakers.   I lived in those things. This meant that I had to purchase new clothes, such as dress slacks, dress shoes, or boat shoes, blazers, and skirts.   And not just any skirts or slacks. They needed to have the business look and be the correct colors: navy blue or black. Fortunately, for me, I didn’t have to wrestle with ties, but if I did, the school recommended power red, executive blue, or assertive yellow.

I ambled into the Typing I classroom and took a seat toward the front so I didn’t miss anything. Too easily, one could get discombobulated back there, swallowed up in the recesses of the darkened, cobwebbed corners and one’s own wandering mind.

Other students trickled in, claiming desks left and right. The desks all looked the same, but the typewriters varied in color. They were periwinkle gray, basic black, and classic white. The one on my desk was basic black, and that worked for me.

typewriter

The teacher glided into the room, her features resembling Glenda the Good Witch of the North from The Wizard of Oz. I sighed in relief. How fortuitous I was to have a good witch for my teacher instead of a bad one.

She stood next to her desk as a smile spread across her pink face. “Hello, everyone. This is Typing I, and I’m Ms. Beasley.” She scanned the room, making sure each of us locked eyes with her big blue ones. “We will be doing some timed typing tests to warm up. You should have gotten this book when you registered for the class. Please open it to page five.”

We all fumbled for our books. I set mine on my desk and flipped it open to the correct page. It sat up vertically, in the shape of a triangle, the spiral on top. I skimmed the one-minute timing test showing simple words in a simple paragraph. I already saw myself blazing through this test, leaving smoke rising from the keys.

“Ready? Go!” Ms. Beasley squeaked.

Everyone feverishly pounded on their typewriters—the whole room erupting in a symphony of clicks and clacks with intermittent dings. The constant humming of the machines enhanced my focus on the elementary school-level language in front of me. My fingers went off on their own, letting loose, bouncing over the keys with delight.

A bell rang, and we all immediately stopped. I began calculating my time as instructed. Hot salsa! The results were seventy-five words per minute, with the errors subtracted. That had to be a record. I was a killer typist already. I could only go up from here.

My second class was Shorthand I, and I wanted my writing to soar across the page just as nimbly as my fingers tapped on the keys of the typewriter.

I sat down in one of the desks toward the front. People filtered in, sitting down in various spots, some even daring to set themselves down in the shadowy abyss of the back of the classroom. They had both courage and super sonic hearing.

The teacher walked into the classroom, resembling nobody but herself. She gave us a friendly, buck-toothed grin. “Hello, class. I’m Ms. Betz. This is Shorthand I, and we will be working on learning the short cut method of writing so that you can take dictation quickly from your future bosses,” she explained, bobbing her head like that famous sipping bird from decades ago.

bobbing drinking bird

We jumped right in, studying the strange cryptic marks in our books. No worries, though. I could still see familiar letters in there. By next week, I’d have this all memorized. My memory was phenomenal.

My last class was English. A few folks were already in their chairs when I swept into the room. It was all good because they graciously left me the desk in the front row all the way to the left. My view of the large chalkboard was unobstructed. Written on it in pretty curly letters was the teacher’s name: Ms. Farnsworth. The “F” in her name flowed on the board with such elegance and ornamentation that you could barely take your eyes off of it. It must have been a regulation that all English teachers were required to have exquisite handwriting.   I would never be an English teacher. But what did that matter? I was going to be the fastest typist ever.

Ms. Farnsworth appeared at the door to the room and grinned, wearing large owl glasses an inch thick. She sashayed to the board and pointed to her name. “Hello, class. I’m Ms. Farnsworth, and this is English I. We will be learning all of the basic and not so basic grammar rules to eventually write excellent business letters. Let’s get started by opening our language arts book to page ten.”

We all did as she said, and my eyes glazed over staring at the information on the page. Nothing bored me more than learning for the fifth time, subjects and predicates.

This class passed by about as fast as a turtle crawling across glue. This was all review, and I was happy when it was time to pack up and exit the room.

My first day went exceptionally well. In two years, I’d graduate and be on the rapid path to working as President at BEST.

* * *

The semester sailed by, and I glided on the waves with superior skill. The subsequent semester flew by, and I streamed through the clouds with style and grace. Soon, the final year sped by, and I, too, rode that track with excellence.

Then came graduation day where I paraded to the podium for my fantastic degree, turning toward the enthusiastic crowd, an ocean of smiles. And all those smiles were for me. They knew I was to be the next President of BEST.   I had so much potential.

When it was time for my interview with BEST, the interviewer was awed by my typing prowess, but said she needed something more than what I possessed. There wasn’t anything I lacked for the position, so I traveled to the President’s office and conversed with him. He was surprised to see me, but when I dazzled him with my pristine academic achievements and businesslike acumen, he hired me on the spot.

corporate office building

Three years later, I’d taken the President’s job and fulfilled my destiny.  I had become the perfect President of BEST.

 

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Do you remember the days of typing on an electric typewriter?