They say Albert Schweitzer fed the ants in his house because he had a reverence for life. I say he had Stockholm Syndrome. Still, as a graduate of Schweitzer Elementary, it’s always with a vague sense of guilt that I wipe away those first few ants of the rainy season.
For some reason, every year I think those first few will be the only ones. Then the next day I think, “No big deal, I can wipe up ten every morning. At least they’re not getting to the food.”
But this year, as with every year, soon there were fifty each morning. We bought traps for outside and pet safe orange peel spray for inside. Our house smelled orangey fresh. It was almost a good thing we had ants. It smelled like we were riding Soarin’ Over California in Disneyland. Yes. Except for the time the spray ricocheted off a doorframe and into my eye, it was exactly like going to Disneyland.
Gradually everything we owned made its way to the refrigerator. Do ants like coffee beans? I don’t know, but the beans went into the fridge just in case. We started to have avalanches every time we tried to get something to eat, but at least the ants weren’t getting to the food.
One morning I took an open bag of Reese’s Pieces out of the fridge, shoved the avalanche back in (was that a baseball glove?) and set my candy on the counter to thaw while I got ready for work. Twenty minutes later I threw the bag on the passenger seat and munched on peanut buttery goodness all the way down Stony Point Road. Then, sitting at a red light, I saw it. One single ant crawling its way out of the bag and across the seat. Slowly, I brought the bag closer and peered in.
How to describe the feeling you get when you see movement among your Reese’s Pieces. Repulsion? Horror? Anger? When I got home eight hours later, the kitchen was as bad as I feared. They were everywhere.
And that’s when I lost it. “What if I build you a little fairy house outside and put sugar cubes in it? No, the neighbors would be mad if I invited every ant in town.” Yes, I was talking to the ants. Nothing was ever going to stop them. I was a captive in my own house.
No! Not a captive! A humanitarian. I was like Albert Schweitzer. “I suppose you may as well make yourselves comfortable,” I told them. I wasn’t crazy. It was a triumph of the soul.