I wrote the following while living in Myanmar. It was a glorious time but it was not without its challenges. This was the first story I ever wrote that just came out of me. It was the story that just had to be written. It isn’t great literature. It isn’t any great epiphany. For some it might not be that entertaining. But it was there and it needed to get out.
Ants in the Air Con
So let’s start at the beginning. The beginning being when we moved to the Dominican Republic (DR). In the DR there were ants. And when I say ants I mean the, “Oops, I dropped the tiniest, bittiest little bit of chicken (substitute any food that attracts ants) and now there are 200 ants surrounding it and calling all the neighboring colonies within a 20 meter radius to join in the pickins’.” I have lived with ants. I know ants.
In the DR I picked up this wonderful product from China called Zebra Chalk…Non-Toxic it said in nice friendly letters, which of course, I have come to realize means it might kill you or it just might work. Thankfully, as far as I know, it was the latter. You would take this chalk and lay a line down where you knew the ants were coming in and you would have a slaughter on your hands within the hour. One time I put it in a hole in our bathroom (to rid your house of termites you must drill holes down through the tile into the ground below the foundation. This makes for a great entrance for ants once the termites have been killed off.) Within 45 minutes the floor went from pure white to speckled with black dots: the dead remains of some 2 or 3 hundred ants that had built a home in this hole and were looking for a great escape. Thankfully, although not for the minor Buddhist in me, that was the end of that nest of ants. I bought this product by the case and shared it with everyone I knew. Please, don’t let me return as an ant in my next life. We also learned that the father from My Big Fat Greek Wedding was right. Windex works wonders and is an instant ant killer. It was our ‘go to’ attack method. The ants came from everywhere. We would sometimes follow trails of ants out of our apartment, up stairs and right to the door frame of our neighbor’s apartment, leaving a wake of dead ants in our path. Love the Windex.
So now you have a little prospective of where my obsession with ants comes from. We spent hours ridding the house of them and making our home safe for falling food. (I will digress and say that the mice soon found a way into our home to pick up the slack. I considered getting a Chihuahua to chase them off but heard it from reliable sources that they just stick their noses up at them and won’t even bark and let you know the mice are there. Hence, we still have no dog.)
So now we are in Myanmar. The ants here are like the melding pot of the United States. You have the itty-bitty ants that seem so harmless, but will swarm anything that is dropped nearly before it actually hits the floor. They are also notorious for being everywhere in the house; couches, bedrooms, sinks, on toothbrushes, etc. Most mornings during my morning infusion of coffee I need to swipe a few that are working their way around the couch and up my arm– thank you Maeve for you inability to get the crumbs into your mouth but rather around the general seating area we commonly share. Ants everywhere.
You have the mid-sized ant. It is usually found near the kitchen sink and is looking for that one dish that wasn’t pre-rinsed enough to sit in the sink for more than ten minutes. They usually run or are usually around at the time of year when water is scarce. They create long lines of, “Hey, look what I got. Quick, call the troops. Let’s make good work of this, “ sort. Hello, Windex!
But there are also these larger red ants. Normally, red ants are of the kind that you run from rather than be attacked by them, but those aren’t the ones that are seeking free handouts and living conditions in my house. These are the celery of ants; mostly made of water. They, kind of, pop when you kill them. But thankfully, these are not the ones we are finding presently in our humble home.
Lastly, there are the big, black ants. They are very similar to ones we find up at the cottage. They are big. They are looking for food and they are easily stomped on although they’re rather resilient. These are the ants that are the main characters in the story I am about to share.
So it is hot in Myanmar now. Not like the one week we get in central New York where you wish you had air-conditioning but know it is really not all that cost effective and you are going to rip it out of your window after using it four times all summer, hot. This is a constant flow of humid heat that sends you running for cooler air. It makes me fully forget the ozone, global warming and the cost of natural gas, altogether. As yet another digression, Myanmar gets lots of energy from its hydroelectric plants, but since we haven’t seen rain since late October, I hope you can grasp magnitude of how precious power is right now. Hence, the ants come to visit to see if we will provide them with the water they so desire.
Why are you talking about hydroelectric plants and ants, you ask? I will tell you why. I live with guilt. I do. I feel guilty that we run two air conditioners in our house to cool down three people so we might all have a restful nights sleep. Damn, I am a selfish, electricity-sucking bitch. So on occasion, to help alleviate a bit of the guilt, we will pull the extra mattress into our room and have Miss M sleep at the end of our bed. There, one less energy-consuming appliance to deal with.
So this is where our story starts. On a Friday night, Miss M is invited to spend the night at a friend’s house. Hallelujah, a little alone time for Tonya since Dr. J is off in Bali suffering through a conference about how to plan for next year’s sports programs. The pains he goes through… NOT! Plus, one less air conditioner to run. Saturday night, Miss M’s friend spends the night at our house. They decide they need to sleep in my room with me because…who knows. They are little girls and get scared by the wind. Sunday night Dr. J is home and Miss M is missing her father so the mattress is once again at the foot of the bed. Before she finally falls off into a deep slumber I let Miss M know that Mommy and Daddy will be sleeping alone tomorrow and she will be back in her own room.
“No, Mommy, I have dibs on sleeping in your room for the rest of the school year.”
So Monday night finally rolls around. We go through the usual battle of getting pajamas on, brushing teeth, finding a book, closing closet doors and underwear drawers and finally settle down to read in Miss M’s bed.
The air conditioner in Miss M’s room is connected to a power converter that protects it from power surges. Once you turn the surge protector on there is a two-minute lag time before the actual air conditioner turns on.
Miss M got her book. I had my Kindle. We were both part way into our reading when the air conditioner kicks in. At first it sounds like tiny pebbles are being raked through the air con’s ‘whirly-thing’ that shoots the cool freshness that we delight in. I shake if off as it has not been used on a few days. It will balance itself out in a minute.
The pebbles going through a fan sound continues. Hmmm? Curious.
Now I feel something on my leg.
Shit, it is one of those big ants from the kitchen. What the heck is it doing up here? I swipe him away and go back to reading my book and think nothing of it.
Twenty seconds later I feel another one crawling on me. This time it has my attention and I am annoyed. I sit up and look down where I feel this creepy crawler and notice that not only is there another ant crawling on my leg, there are now twenty or so other ants just passed my feet at the end of the bed.
Being the brilliant person you are, you see where this is going. THERE ARE ANTS IN THE AIR CONDITIONER. And now that I have turned it on they are being catapulted out of the air con, with a cute little ‘ping’ sound and landing at the foot of Miss M’s bed.
Did I mention that 8-year-old girls can be scared by the wind? Well, ants flying out of their air conditioner is like that multiplied by a gah-jillion. So she gets shuffled off to sit in Mom’s bed while mom works out how to clean these critters up.
I must mention that these ants are not of the garden variety that you give them a little smack and they die. No these are the ones that you smash, they seem dead and then they are like something out the terminator and restructure their exoskeletons and keep moving.
Windex. Broom. Dust pan. Tissue paper. I have my tools of destruction and I am ready to take on this task.
Twenty-five minutes and four toilet flushes later the ants are still popping out of the air con at a rate of twenty or thirty a minute. You have the big ones, the winged ones and, of course, the eggs pelting out of the projectile air conditioning unit that used to give such joy. I give up. I turn the AC off and head to my own room to let Miss M know she can sleep with us again. I have been defeated by ants.
The following day our housekeeper attempted to do what I was unable to do…rid the air con of the ants. She, too, is met by defeat.
We call in the resources of the maintenance workers at school. They use their manly wiles to release the air con from its hole in the wall and take it outside for inspection. Some hours later they are awed and frustrated by the opportunism of these stealthily creatures. It takes them a good part of the day to rid the air con of the final ants and the eggs.
Miss M is once again restored in her room with an air conditioner that will allow her to sleep in her own bed in peace.
But the story doesn’t end there. After two full nights of sleeping in her own bed, disaster of another sort strikes. An underground, grounding wire for our neighborhood’s electrical supply has been severed and we are living by generator power alone. Hello, Guilt. Miss M is back at the end of the bed. The generator has been living on a three hours on-one hour off cycle four over 24 hours now and I just know that the ants are working their way back into the vacate space that is…Miss M’s air conditioner.
Epilogue to the Epilogue
I will never fear ants again! I, with the help of Pinterest, have found the cure to all my ant problems. I know I am still in trouble with the Buddhist ways, but since I don’t see the carnage, I try not to think about it.