With the massive brood of cicadas in full swing here in Tennessee and environs, I thought I would pull out an old blog about a bizarre experience I had on a first date during the last invasion…
Annie was a lovely lass that I had thought was fetching for quite some time, and after a lot of patience and planning, things finally worked out that we could go on a first date. She had some work that brought her to my side of town, and we rendezvoused at my place on a warm May evening. After some fun pleasantries, we decided to walk over to Bosco’s, a local eatery, for dinner.
As some of you may recall, the spring of ’98 marked the return of the of the thirteen year cicada across the Mid South. This odd occurrence can transform normally peaceful, spring days in Nashville into a buzz saw of chattering mating calls from literally tens of millions (perhaps even billions?) of a benign sort of locust. They have been gestating in underground cocoons for a baker’s dozen of summers, and now they ooze to the surface, and crawl up the nearest tree where they grow to around two inches in size, molting along the way, and fairly screaming their ear splitting love songs in attempts of “hooking up.” Once the females have been impregnated, they implant eggs in the bark of trees, which in turn hatch a few days later and drop to the ground, and they somehow burrow inward for the process to begin all over again. Meanwhile, the mature brownish green bugs, with their red “eyes” and translucent wings, flutter about for a few days of “gettin’ it on” before dying relatively quick deaths. When Tom Petty wrote “The Waiting is the Hardest Part,” I wonder if he had these crazed caeliferas in mind.
What can not be emphasized enough, for those of you not familiar with this phenomenon, is the preponderance of these critters. They are everywhere—especially dominating neighborhoods with trees, covering nearly every square inch of bark, making the trunks look like they are undulating with movement. Flying about recklessly (and harmlessly), they can be particularly irritating to those with long hair. I’ve seen more than one woman freak out from one getting entangled in her locks.
Lawnmowers are attractive to these hovering grasshoppers due to the vibration and noise. So, as you cut your yard, you have to swat thousands of these away, and sometimes even have to clean out the rotary encasement from the gizzard goo that accumulates around the shaft and blades. They also wreak havoc on cars, splattering by the dozens on grilles and windshields with every errand you run. Sales of window-washing fluid skyrocket during these months. I had one sneak into the interior of my Chevy Cavalier once, wedging itself into the air vents of my dashboard. For several days I had to endure its mournful squeals every time I turned on the AC.
As Annie and I strolled through my heavily wooded neighborhood towards the restaurant, we recounted some of our run-ins with these winged creatures, being serenaded by the massive swells of volume as they harmonize in their mating song. It was so loud at times, it rendered conversation almost useless. We couldn’t help but have several crunchy moments underfoot, too, as the husks of evolving bugs were scattered thickly along our path. We just laughed, and batted a few away as they came near us, or occasionally landed on us---you get used to them pretty quickly.
With this being our first date and all, I was trying to play things particularly cool. So, when I felt one of these fellows land on my neck, I calmly tried to flick it away. However, it slid down the back of my shirt instead, fluttering about in the bunching fabric down near my belt. Being somewhat ticklish, I began to giggle. I thought I would try to hold out until we got to the restaurant and I would then eradicate the winged thumper while cleaning up in the men’s room. After about a block further of striding towards our destination, the bug’s hyperactivity got the best of me, and I finally decided to admit my ordeal to Annie. She stood in a mixture amusement and amazement at my calm as I pulled out my shirt tale and shook it. For all intents and purposes, I should’ve been caterwauling about the sidewalk having a conniption fit. But, with the confident demeanor of James Bond under extreme duress, I defused the tickling time bomb. It was hard to tell if I set the spittlebug free, because there was so many others darting about in the air and on the ground.
Once we were seated at Bosco’s, I sensed something was amiss. You see, the sport shirt I was wearing was of medium length, and so as not to have the tail popping out from my waist continually, I had tucked it into the top edge of my boxers underneath—a common practice employed by a fair amount of guys when necessary. Well, it appeared that in the process of pulling the shirt out a few minutes earlier, I had actually created a ramp for the pest to slide snuggly down towards the inner sanctum of my undies. The leaf hopper sought after a space where it wouldn’t be squashed, and once I was seated it found such sanctuary in the upper crevasse between my glutal cheeks— the northern end of my butt crack, as it were. At first I thought it might be a just the discarded exoskeleton of the intruder, as there was just an awareness of a foreign object. But when said entity began to migrate towards more space, I realized I was in trouble. He was alive, irritated, and on the march.
Annie was regaling me with a fun story about her youth in Kansas City, and I had been enamored with her dancing blue eyes, lilting laugh, and just charmed out of my gourd with her simple beauty. But I was quickly becoming duplicitous in my agenda. While trying to stay engaged with our repartee, I simultaneously was “negotiating” with this groping grasshopper.
Here was my plan: I began shifting weight back and forth on my haunches trying to move the foreigner away from the center, where I would then, in my warped reasoning of the moment, crush the life out of it with one of my bums. This, however, proved problematic…for the more I squirmed (very surreptitiously, I might add, so as not to alarm Annie), the more the katydid burrowed towards any free space.
In about half a minute, it had worked its way to the most nether region. I now felt it fidgeting around my---how do I say this delicately---scrotum. The sensation made certain very personal probes during annual physical exams seem like a walk in the park in comparison.
It would be hilarious to see what my facial expressions were during this torment. On one hand I was being so debonair with Annie, trying desperately to be affirming and involved with her childhood story, while simultaneously avoiding gritting my teeth and grimacing from the sordid sensations emanating from my crotch.
My male pride wouldn’t allow me to come clean about it at this juncture, since I had already used up my “quirky equity” when I tried to discard the bug out on the street. And I didn’t want to cut her off in mid-story for fear of it appearing rude. I was just going to wait for closure to her tale, then excuse myself to wash up. Annie was none the wiser, and she kept chatting away.
As I would be nodding my head and chuckling along with her commentary, I’m sure I made responses along the lines of “uh-huh…yea…OHH! (eyes suddenly widening)...uh-huh…(chuckle)…I see..EEEEeee (jaw tightening as my body would spasm ever so slightly)…well, of course you should haaaAAAAAVE.”
After another minute or two of this (seemed more like a fortnight), Annie could sense something was not up to par. She interrupted her train of thought with a concerned “are you alright?” At that juncture I think the bush cricket decided to try a double summersault into a full gainer somewhere near my “taint” and I blurted out “well, remem-BERRR (sharp breath) that cicada in my-YYYYYY shirt a few minutes AAAAgo?”
Her eyes gleamed and she said “yeah….?” as a smile began to break across her lovely face.
“Well, he’s taken up residence iii-IIIIIII-n my drawers, and seems to be-eEEEE trying out some M.C. Ha-ha-ha-HAAAAmmer moves down there. Do you mind if I-YI-YI-YI excuse myself?!”
We couldn’t help but burst out in laughter. She said “Oh my God—go NOW!”
Once again, trying to maintain a cool exterior, I got up from the table and tried walking with my butt cheeks clenched, even though my little passenger was vibrating to beat the band. After sauntering about twenty-five feet across the main floor, I turned out of her sight and into the hallway leading to the restrooms, and sprinted the final five yards.
Once inside I furiously unbuckled and “dropped trow” as I tried to eradicate the chirping interloper. Two other gentlemen glared at me with awkward bemusement as I tried to explain my ordeal while simultaneously slapping and clawing away at my exposed daddy-parts. They kind of leaned up against the wall so as to not get too close, chortling at my predicament. I’m sure they had some lovely table talk at my expense when they returned to their dates…but who could blame them?
I dispatched my lil’ French tickler and brought his short life to an even hastier demise with a firm squash of my right penny loafer. Turns out it was one of the newly hatched cicadas, a teneral, that was a bit smaller, still whitish in color and a bit dopey in the early stages of its short life. I didn’t want this to take too long, but it seemed to take forever trying to clean up. I kept worrying that Annie would think I was a total spazzoid.
Eventually, I made it back out to her. She was such a sweetheart about the whole thing, and we tittered about it on and off through the rest of our dinner.
So, if you ever see me acting out of sorts and wonder what my deal is, I can safely attest that I have indeed had a “bug up my ass” on at least one occasion, and have a pretty good idea what that’s all about. Therefore, you may have to use another term to question what my problem might be. One thing’s for sure, thinking back on it helps me not take too many other strange things that befall me too seriously now.