Monday, April 29, 2013

BUGGED BY THE BUGS


I must admit I’m enjoying the long-overdue spring weather, but there’s one thing that comes with it I really don’t like.  Bugs.

It seems as if every year there is some new and creepier species to contend with. For example, last summer, these huge bugs with long legs, antennae, and grasshopper-like bodies on steroids suddenly appeared everywhere. I had so many on the outside walls of my house, they looked like some kind of abstract art decoration.  I snapped photos of the ugly invaders and put them on the Internet, asking if anyone could tell me what the heck they were.

“Oh, those are stink bugs,” came several responses.

I’d never heard of such a thing in New Hampshire before. “Why do they call them stink bugs?” I asked, hoping the answer wouldn’t be the obvious.

“Because they stink,” came the obvious.

I wasn’t about to go stick my nose anywhere near one of those creatures to verify that information.

“They kind of smell like armpits when you squash them,” someone else said.

Great, just what I needed – my house to smell like a giant armpit.  It was bad enough I already had two gaseous dogs to deal with. I definitely didn’t need anything else stinky around.

When my friend came to visit from Oregon last fall, she casually said to me on the day she was leaving, “Oh, by the way, there’s been this really ugly bug in my bathroom all week.”

If there’s one word that fills me with fear, it’s “bug.”  And the word “ugly” in front of it makes it about 10 times worse.

“Um, why didn’t you kill it?” I asked her. I had visions of it peering out from the top of the overhead light where no one shorter than 6’5” could reach it.

 I was just about to head for the stepstool when she said, “I don’t believe in killing bugs. They are God’s creatures.”

“So are rattlesnakes, but I wouldn’t want one hanging around in my bathroom!”

“We have black widow spiders in our house,” she said, shrugging. “We don’t kill them. Sometimes we usher them out the door, but usually we just leave them be.”

I made a mental note never to set foot in her house.

I didn’t care about her “don’t kill” policy. And I wasn’t about to usher anything out of the door. I was out for bug blood.

Armed with a flyswatter, I hesitantly ventured into the bathroom. I found the offending creature, a stink bug, perched on my bar of soap in the tub’s soap dish. Well, I thought, at least this one is into cleanliness so it probably won’t stink so much when I squish it.

I was wrong.  Even “Gaseous Gertie” (a.k.a. my dog, Raven) nearly gagged when she got a whiff.

Someone said that stink bugs come out only in the fall, so I figured I wouldn’t have to worry about them for another six months or so. But the other night I found one on the wall in my breezeway.

“It’s only a stray,” I convinced myself. “It’s probably just a leftover from last year and it’s been dormant in the breezeway until now.”

But the next day I found two more crawling up the posts on my front porch.  I no longer could deny the inevitable. The stinkers were back.

So now I’m wondering how to wage war against them.  If I spray them with bug killer, their rotting little corpses probably will attract another batch of stink bugs that think the odor is pretty tantalizing – kind of like the vermin version of Chanel No. 5.

So there’s only one solution.  I’m going to buy a giant can of deodorant and use it on them. After all, it was created to combat armpit odor.
 
 
 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

I SHOULDN'T WATCH HORROR MOVIES


 
Strange things have been happening in my house lately, and I’m starting to feel just a little bit spooked.

For one thing, there was my bath the other night.  I was having a nice relaxing soak, my head resting on the bath pillow, my eyes closed, when all of a sudden, I heard something in the walk-in closet. The closet door was open, so I could see into it from the tub.

Just as I opened my eyes to look, a comforter, still nicely folded, fell off the top shelf and landed on the floor.  I didn’t think too much about it until the next night when I was in the tub and it happened again. This time, however, it was a feather pillow that took the plunge.

Not too long ago I’d watched a horror movie about some psychotic guy who’d broken into a house while the woman was at work and secretly took up residence in her attic. He even drilled peepholes in the attic floor so he could look down and watch her every move.

Well, in my house, the door to the attic is located in the ceiling in the walk-in closet, so I began to wonder if maybe someone was hiding up there and he’d caused the pillow and comforter to fall to the floor.  I mean, the possibility existed that if he was like the guy in the movie and was peering down at me through a peephole, the shock of seeing my naked body in the tub probably had caused him to laugh so hard, the vibration knocked the stuff off the shelf.

But the leaping bed accessories aren’t the only strange thing that has been happening around here. Every time I do the laundry lately, the desk lamp in my office pops on. At first, I didn’t make the connection. I’d see the light on in there and think, “When did I turn that on? And why didn’t I turn if off?  I’m wasting electricity!”

When it continued to happen even when I hadn’t been in the office at all, I started thinking again about a guy hiding in the attic. In my imagination, I pictured him slithering down from the attic whenever I was out, and then snooping around in my office and forgetting to turn off the light.

It didn’t even occur to me that seeing there are no steps or a ladder leading up to the attic door in the ceiling, and there was no sign of a chair or anything else having been moved underneath it, the guy would have to be over seven feet tall to climb up there.

Soon, however, I began to notice that every time I did the laundry and the washer went into the spin cycle, the office lamp popped on. The weird thing is the washer and the lamp aren’t even connected to the same circuit breaker (enter the theme song from “The Twilight Zone” here).

Also lately, the bedroom and bathroom doors in the house suddenly refuse to stay open.  I open them and they slowly move back to about halfway closed. Every time I have to walk by one, I imagine there is someone (like the phantom in the attic) lurking behind it, waiting to pounce on me.  So I bought a bunch of those rubber wedges you stick under doors to keep them propped open. 

Still, when I got up the next morning, two of the doors were nearly closed.  How, I wondered, could they possibly have moved when I’d rammed rubber wedges underneath them?

That’s when I discovered that my dogs really like the taste of rubber wedges.

But the strangest thing of all happened just the other day. Back in November, one of my husband’s favorite TV series ended for the season.

“Gee,” my husband had said after watching it, “I wonder when it’s coming back on again? I really like that show. I’m going to miss it.”

Well, I recently saw an advertisement on TV saying that the show is going to return at the end of April.  I also received a notice telling me that as per my instructions, it would be recorded for me.

I just stared wide-eyed at the TV.  I hadn’t instructed anyone to record the show, and I was pretty certain my husband hadn’t, considering that the maximum time you can schedule a recording is two weeks in advance, and he passed away back in December.

That leaves only one explanation.  It’s the guy in the attic.

But I’ll fix him. I’m going to start walking around the house naked every night. If that doesn’t scare him away, nothing will.

 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

CAMPING OUT IN THE GREETING CARD AISLE



I was shopping the other day when I remembered I had to buy a birthday card for one of my friends.  I wheeled my cart over to the greeting-card aisle, and there, standing in front of the exact section I wanted (humorous birthday), was a man with a little girl who looked about seven.

I pretended to be interested in some anniversary cards as I waited for him to select a card a move on, but too soon I learned I was going to be in for a long wait.

“Daddy!” the little girl whined. “Hurry up!”

“I can’t find the right card,” he said, picking up another one and reading it.

“But you’ve read every one of them!” she protested.

“So, I’m going to read them all over again!” he said.

I decided to do a little more shopping and return.  

Twenty minutes later, I still was circling the card aisle…and the guy and his daughter were still there.  I was beginning to feel like a vulture waiting for something to drop dead.  Finally, I figured I should drop a not-so-subtle hint. I moved right next to the guy and started reaching in front of him, grabbing cards at random.

“I’ve read them all,” he said to me. “Let me show you my favorite!  I guarantee you’ll laugh!”

He handed me a card that said on the front, “Sorry if you don’t like this birthday card,” and on the inside, “but the customer next to me passed gas, so I grabbed the first one I came to and ran!”  (Note: I am being polite here, saying, “passed gas.” The more common street-term was used on the card).

I laughed and handed the card back to him. He turned to the little girl and said, “I think you should give this card to Mommy!”  He read it to her, laughing hysterically as he did.

She, however, didn’t share his enthusiasm. “I don’t want to give Mommy a card with that word on it!” she said, frowning. “It’s nasty!”

The girl grabbed a card and moved toward me. “Can you read this for me?” she asked.

I took the card, which had a bunch of colorful candles, all ablaze, on the front. It said, “Hey, babe, if you want to have a really hot time on your birthday, just wait until I get there!”

“I like it!” the little girl fairly squealed with delight. “That’s the one I’m getting for Mommy!  She’s 33 today!”

“Um…” I said, “I don’t think this is the kind of card you want to give to your mother.”

“Yes it is!” she insisted. “I want to give her that one!”

Her father snatched the card out of my hand. “No. You’re not giving this one to Mommy.”

“It might be a good one for you to give to her, though,” I said to him, smiling, thinking he might finally make a decision.

“No, that wouldn’t work,” he said. “I’m a single parent.”

So much for that idea.

“Nobody likes the cards I pick out!” The girl now was in tears. “I want the one with the pretty candles on it!”

Her father actually moved away from his permanent perch in the humor section to check out the cards specifically for mothers. I suppressed the urge to fling myself across the card rack and claim a spot before he returned.

Within seconds he was back with a cute card that said, “Happy Birthday, Mommy” on the front.  He handed it to his daughter. “Here, give her this one.”

The girl wasn’t impressed. “I don’t like it!  I want to give her mine!”

“Too bad. We’re going to be late. You’re taking this one.”

Finally, they left.  By then I also was running late. I had to get to the post office before it closed in 10 minutes. So I grabbed a card and rushed to the register.

And now I feel I really must apologize to my friend Laura…for sending her a birthday card about passing gas.

 

 

 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

TOO HOT TO HANDLE


 

The other night I was craving homemade soup, so I spent a half-hour chopping vegetables and chicken into neat little cubes. Then I put them into a pot, added some seasoning, water and broth, and let everything simmer.

While waiting for the soup, I curled up on the sofa to watch TV.  That’s the last thing I remember until the smoke detectors – all seven of them – blasted me awake.

The detectors in my house are hooked up so that when one goes off, they all do. The combined noise is so loud, I’m pretty sure people up in Canada can hear it.

When my heart stopped pounding somewhere up around my eyeballs, I rushed out to the kitchen and turned off the burner.  Nothing in my soup pot was recognizable. In fact, the contents looked as if they’d just been dredged up from the bottom of the La Brea Tar Pits.

A whole box of steel-wool pads later, I still couldn’t get the pot clean, so I checked the Internet for a solution. The general consensus was to put a little dishwashing liquid into the pot, add water and then bring it to a boil on the stove. The soap would make all of the burnt stuff loosen up, according to the information.

So I squirted some dishwashing liquid into the pot, added water and then set it on the stove to boil.

That’s when one of my friends called. We chatted for about 15 minutes and then I returned to the stove…which was covered with soap suds. It looked as if all of the burners were taking a bubble bath.

At least the smoke detectors didn’t go off again.

My husband always used to nag me to get a whistling teakettle because too often I’d put a pot of water on the stove for tea and then get distracted. It wasn’t  until I’d hear the pot making crackling and popping noises (because all of the water had boiled out) that I’d remember my tea.

“You’re going to burn down the house one of these days,” he’d scold me.

“Not with all of these smoke detectors,” I’d answer. “I can’t even eat hot peppers without them going off!”

“Just humor me and get a whistling teakettle!”

“But I hate those annoying things! They make me jump when they whistle. Don’t they sell ones that play catchy little show tunes?”

He glared at me.

So I bought a whistling kettle. The first time it whistled, it sounded like the noise fireworks make when they’re shot into the sky. My dogs, who are terrified of fireworks, ran into the bedroom and hid.

That did it. I removed the whistling part of the kettle and turned it into a silent one. My husband was less than pleased when he discovered that the kettle’s voice box had been surgically removed. So once again, I had to endure a lecture.

“Every time you put something on the stove,” he said, “I want you to set the oven timer. That way, it will ding and remind you that you’re cooking.”

“That wimpy little ding?” I said, rolling my eyes. “I’d have to be sitting on the kitchen counter to hear it!”

“Well, I’ve seen you standing right next to the stove and still forget you were cooking something,” he said. “So I’d say any ding is better than no ding at all.”

He had a point.

So now, especially since the charcoaled-soup incident, I try to remember to set the oven timer whenever I have something on the stove. And when I recently adjusted the clocks for daylight savings, I made sure to put fresh batteries in all of the smoke detectors. I even bought a new fire extinguisher for the kitchen, and I’ve been heating up my tea water in the microwave so I won’t have to use any kettle at all.

Then, just to be safe, I put the fire department on speed dial (even though I’m pretty sure that if all my smoke detectors do go off again, firefighters from here to Canada will hear them anyway).