Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Life in Paradise

I think that Australia is an excellent argument for creationism.  Set your religious beliefs aside for a minute and just appreciate the beautiful logic of Australia: all the scary things… they are trapped on an island.  Seriously, it seems like everything there can kill you. The pests of North America look cuddly in comparison. 

Unfortunately, now I live on an Island with my very own set of scary things.  Hawaii may be a paradise free of snakes, bears, or huge spiders, but it does have centipedes. 

I have heard these centipedes are aggressive – they even chase down their victims like tiny kamikazes.

I have heard that centipedes are super common here.

I have heard that their bites are horrifically painful and can be comparable to a gunshot wound with minimal effective treatment apart from warm compresses that slightly accelerate the breakdown of the venom. 

I have heard lots of scary things in my life and many of them have turned out to be urban legends.  I was more than happy to convince myself that centipedes fell under that banner.  Sure, they’re out there, they’re scary and mean but kind of like terrorists, the odds are slim that I would ever encounter one in person.

As usual, I was wrong. 

To be fair, I was wrong about the terrorists too, if you count the MS-13 or the Taliban, but that’s tangential to the story I’m trying to tell here.

Around 6:00 PM local time, I was sitting on the couch, watching Netflix and enjoying the last half of my dinner (a peanut butter sandwich, milk and a nectarine – because sometimes you just want to eat like a 4-year old) when I realized I could potentially be productive if I walked all the way upstairs to retrieve my laptop from its hiding place under my bed.

At 6:00 PM local time it is thankfully still light out.  Despite the torrential rains of the past 24 hours that triggered multiple flash flood warnings, the natural light in my house was still enough to see by.  I climbed the stairs, made the sharp right turn to the loft and happened to glance at the yoga mat next to the window.  The yoga mat has lived there since I moved in and has never really caught my eye previously; it is plain black rubber and despite its humble appearance, its purpose has been largely ‘decorative’ since I got pregnant. 

Because the centipede was also dark in color and sitting very still, I didn’t notice him until I almost stepped on him.

I panicked and ran away.  Luckily, his yoga practice had left him in a very zen state so he did not pursue me down the stairs. 

My plan of action was ill formed, but I knew that I needed shoes.  Not just shoes, boots.

For those of you that have not had the immense pleasure of wearing army boots, I’ll simulate the experience for you: put on the most rigid uncomfortable shoes you own – ideally with no gel cushioning in the sole.  If these shoes go only up to your ankle or below, you will need to find some way to compress the bottom part of your calf as tightly as possible with a lace-up rigid fabric – like the ankle braces worn for MMA practice.  Of course, you should be wearing wool socks underneath these shoes, and you will need to tuck your pants into the laced up compression devices.  For the full effect, the circumference of the pants should be 4-5x the circumference of your leg so that when you tuck it in the fabric bunches and leaves you with visible marks in your skin when you take it off.  Lastly, strap 7-10 pound ankle weights on top of the contraption you’ve created for yourself.  Clomp around for awhile and feel the burn.  Congratulations, you are now experiencing part of what it is like to be a soldier!   I will admit, putting on these boots is not my favorite thing to do in the morning, but what they lack in desirable weight, comfort, and breathability they more than make up for in durability.  After I put them on, my feet feel 100% protected.  I could step on a spider if I wanted to!

I took several deep breaths (read: I cried) as I laced up my boots and dialed my trusty sidekick who is now halfway around the world and can offer nothing beyond moral support.  “Together” we climbed the stairs and once again stared down the intruder. 

After half a second and two steps further, I decided that army boots were inadequate preparation.  They certainly increased protection to the foot, but they did not ensure that Mr. C could not escape. I needed more surface area. I explained this to Trusty Sidekick who suggested I wrap a T-shirt or fabric around my hand to use as an added smashing appendage.  … Yeah, risking more appendages seemed like a great idea.  T.S. could not see what I was dealing with and I was in no shape for face time.

I retreated to the basement, flinching and panicking every time my hair brushed my shoulder or face.  I prayed that Mr. C was not currently thrilled that I had fallen directly into his plan as he scuttled off to hide beneath my bed or between my sheets.  

From the random closet that holds everything that I cannot find a better location for, I selected a 4’x1’x1” shelf.   At some point earlier in its life it may have held things or served some boring purpose, but today it was destined for glory. 

Three flights of stairs, a pounding heart and a little more crying later, I was once again in a stare-down with Mr. C.  He had not moved.  I was thrilled to discover that I was the only one of us with a plan.  By this point, I was joined by trusty dog who had finally deciphered that I was bothered by something and because of her canine obligations as ‘man’s best friend’ she begrudgingly followed me up the stairs.  “Together” T.S., trusty dog and I approached Mr. C. I wielded my shelf in front of me, lest he get any wild ideas. 

I set the short edge of the shelf down about a foot away from Mr. C.  I would like to believe that I could have gotten closer, but its also entirely possible that my mind would have simply shut down in a self-protective attempt had I tried and I would have just died on the spot in a small burst of adrenaline and African fabric. Always better to err on the side of caution. 

 After that, I tipped the shelf, waited for the crash, and then, for good measure, jumped up and down on it for several minutes. 

When I convinced myself that he could not have survived the barrage of pregnant woman jumping up and down on top of a slab of wood on top of him (thankfully this baby weight is good for something)  I summoned the courage to look.

He lie there, 4 ½ inches of pure terror with far more legs than necessary.   He was partially crushed and surrounded by some shiny brown fluid. His legs and jaws still twitched.

Not on my watch.  I returned the shelf to its attack position and gave it several more jumps. It was then that the downside of a jumping attack immediately after eating dinner became evident but I did not have time to throw up – there were more far more pressing matters at hand.

After the second wave, all movement was gone. It was the moment in the horror movie when the hostages escape the cell the sociopath has been holding them in, they emerge into the sunlight to see police and family and the music swells and you know everything is going to be okay. They get wrapped in blankets and hug their dad or kiss their boyfriend and everyone lives happily ever after.

I planned to leave the shelf on top of him until I moved out of the house or it burned down.  

T.S. on the phone ruined my flawless plan as he began to Google.  Suddenly he was a fount of terrifying information – centipedes like to come inside when it rains, centipedes tend to follow cockroaches, centipedes may not be killed by stepping on them, the scent of a dead centipede may attract more centipedes, chickens eat centipedes.

Okay, that last one wasn’t terrifying, but I have new appreciation for the chickens that are everywhere here.  I suppose I should stop threatening the overzealous 3AM rooster with a conversion to carnivorism.

The idea that the scent of a dead centipede bringing its family members to a wake in my bedroom was more than I could handle: how was I supposed to know that Mr. C was part of the mob and his terrorist family would hunt me down?  I needed to move the body.

Moving the corpse to its final resting place would obviously require some further preparations. Army boots and shelves were tactical weapons that were no longer indicated.  At this point we needed clean-up and hazmat gear.  The best I had was rubber dishwashing gloves, a simple green spray bottle, broom, dust-pan and especially thick plastic bag. 

The corpse was retrieved from ground zero with the broom and dustpan, placed in the plastic bag (which was firmly knotted shut lest Mr. C entertain any resurrection fantasies).  The area was de-scented with simple green and then it was time for the processional to the dumpster.   

Trusty Sidekick had not yet been released from his obligation to listen to my panic, so he continued to share helpful facts such as “centipedes live under leaves and rocks and like dark, damp, places” which is not consoling when you live in a tropical rain forest and need to walk through the dark rainy night to the trash. 

Trusty Dog had come completely around from her original position of ambivalence to completely thrilled once she realized that the quest involved travel beyond the front door.  Obviously, I couldn’t risk leaving her behind with the family of Mr. C possibly bearing down on my homestead seeking retribution of the blood I had shed.

So off we went.

Typically I don’t see any of my neighbors very often.  It’s surprising for a condo community, but people just aren’t out and about that much. 

It figures that when I venture out wearing Africa pants tucked into army boots, an XXL Dos Equis muscle shirt, pink elbow length dishwashing gloves and holding a plastic bag at arms length like it contains a bomb while pinching a phone between my shoulder and face and trying to maintain control of 65 pounds of overly excited pit-bull, I happen to encounter the entire community.  Apparently I chose the trash-goin’ time.   Who knew I was missing out on such excitement and camaraderie? 

Trusty Sidekick continued to divulge methods to combat centipedes and Trusty Dog was not ready for adventure to be over so quickly, so off we went to the local hardware store (where I look out of place even when I’m dressed like a normal human being) to buy centipede poison.

We returned home and deployed the poison.  Trusty sidekick agreed to stop telling me scary things and now it is two hours later and I have yet to see another centipede.

Like the end of the horror movie, the only thing remaining to fix is my psyche.  And, like the end of most horror movies it is entirely possible that I just may never sleep again. 

Anyone interested in buying a house in Hawaii?  I’ll give you a good price.