I hate to admit it, but I am extremely paranoid about getting a tick on me – to the point where just the sight of one sends me into a total panic mode and makes me do weird and irrational things.
This past summer, after I read an article saying that ticks intensely dislike the smell of rose-geranium, I bought a bottle of the stuff and sprayed it all over myself every time I went outside. Needless to say, I spent the entire summer smelling like my grandmother’s sachet in her underwear drawer.
But now it’s November, with weather cold enough to freeze off any exposed body parts, so I thought I finally would be able relax and not have to worry about ticks any more, even if I happened to venture out on one of the wooded trails near my house.
Apparently, I thought wrong.
The other night I was sitting on the sofa and opened my laptop (appropriately, on my lap). There, crawling up the screen, was a tick the size of a poppy seed, maybe even smaller. Had it not been brightly lit up by the computer screen, I, with my cataract-cultivating eyeballs, never would have seen it.
As a purely reflex action, I tried to squish the tick with my thumb, completely forgetting that ticks virtually are unsquishable...unless you drive over them with something like an SUV.
So the tick didn’t die when I squished it, it just fell off the computer screen and disappeared... somewhere. The thought of having a tick that tiny, able to hide in any of about 15 quadrillion places on the sofa alone, caused me to instantly take leave of my senses. The first thing I did was strip off all of my clothes and toss them into the dryer on the hottest setting. I figured that just in case the tick had landed on me, I would roast him to death. It didn’t matter to me – at least not at the time – that my clothes might shrink down to the size of an American-Girl doll’s.
The next thing I did was grab my vacuum cleaner and put it on turbo-suck, then I vacuumed every inch of the sofa, cushions and carpet in the vicinity of where I had been sitting. But as I was doing that, it dawned on me that if the tick had fallen off my laptop’s screen, it probably still was lurking somewhere in or on the laptop’s keyboard!
I ran out to the kitchen and found my can of compressed air, then picked up my laptop, took it out to the garage and blasted it with the air, hoping the tick would be blown away and out of my computer. It was then that I realized I was standing in my garage and wearing no clothes in 29-degree weather.
Let’s just say that even after I did all of that, I still am not entirely at ease now when I’m sitting on the sofa or using my laptop. For all I know, that tiny tick was just one of a fresh litter of baby ticks that now rapidly are growing into an army of blood-sucking, disease-carrying giant ticks somewhere in my house.
I’m pretty sure I can trace the beginning of my tick paranoia back to an incident that occurred late one night about 12 years ago. My husband had gone to bed, and I was watching a movie on TV. I leaned my head back against the sofa cushion and when I did, I felt a tender spot on the back of my scalp. Curious, I reached up and touched the spot and found a lump there; a small, rubbery, unusual-feeling lump. I knew when I’d washed my hair that morning that the lump hadn’t been there, so I couldn’t imagine how something had sprung up so fast.
I went into the bathroom, grabbed a hand-mirror and, straddling the sink, checked out the back of my head in the medicine-chest mirror. The lump had little black legs sticking out of it!
A tick! I felt my heart begin to race.
I ran to my computer and looked up “tick removal” on the Internet. After scanning through the list of 10,000 potentially fatal diseases a tick can carry, I finally came to the “how-to” section where it said to use tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible, then slowly pull it straight out, making certain not to leave the head underneath the skin. It also said not to squeeze the tick too hard because its innards and toxins would go shooting back into your bloodstream and potentially kill you – or something to that effect.
I’d always heard that putting the tip of a hot match against the tick’s bottom might work just as fast at getting it out, but the website said to NEVER give a tick a hot-seat. It also said to immediately swab your skin with alcohol after the tick was removed.
I dug out my tweezers, then headed back into the bathroom and tried to see the back of my head in the mirror. I couldn’t hold the tweezers and the hand- mirror and try to part my hair to expose the tick all at the same time, so I attempted to do things blindly, by feeling around. Three times, I thought I had the tick in the tweezers...and three times I yanked out a big clump of my hair.
Before I ended up plucking myself bald, I decided to do something that only someone in a truly desperate situation ever would dare to do…I woke up my husband.
There he stood, his eyes squinting against the bathroom light as I shoved the tweezers into his hand. Trusting a half-alseep man to tweeze my scalp was a brave move on my part…very brave.
“You have to grab the tick as close to my skin as possible and pull him straight out,” I instructed. “But don’t squeeze him too hard.”
My husband finally managed to open his eyes wide enough to actually see something. “Are you sure that’s a tick?” he asked, his nose stuck in my hair. “Looks more like a mole to me. I don’t want to yank off a mole!”
I sighed. “Trust me and just yank it out, OK?”
He hesitated, then grabbed the tweezers and pulled. Unintentionally, I jumped. The tweezers produced only the hind end of the tick.
“You didn’t get out all of him!” I whined.
“You jumped!” he accused.
Against my better judgment, I allowed my husband to once again use the tweezers. This time, the tick’s ugly little black head did come out. My husband tossed it into the sink and stared at it. “That thing’s pretty gross looking,” he said. “How did it breathe with its head buried in you like that anyway?”
“The Internet says that ticks breathe through their butts,” I answered as I frantically searched for the bottle of alcohol.
“Funny place to have lungs,” my husband said, mostly to himself.
We had no alcohol, so I grabbed a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and started dousing my hair and scalp with it. My husband stood and silently watched me for several minutes.
“Um,” he finally said quietly when my hair was dripping wet. “I hate to bring this up, but doesn’t peroxide take the color out of your hair? I mean, isn’t that where the expression ‘peroxide blonde’ comes from?”
Ever since that night, I have really, really hated ticks.
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