Tahlequah Daily Press

May 12, 2014

Beetles in the office aren’t up on blocks

Managing Editor

TAHLEQUAH — We have more dead beetles here at the Daily Press office than you can shake a can of Raid at.

Before you rush down to Second Street to view Ringo and Sir Paul lying in state, their souls having joined those of John and George in the afterlife, please note there’s no “a” in the spelling of the word “beetle.” I’m not usually one who has, to paraphrase Daffy Duck, “homonym trouble,” nor do I confuse proper nouns with their common cousins – so you won’t see any Volkswagens up on blocks behind the building, either.

Instead, you’d see legions of shiny, iridescent-green bugs of various sizes. They descended upon us like a biblical plague last week, and there’s no end in sight. Some are tiny, about the size of a toddler’s fingernail. Others seem as big as those dates you can pick up at Reasor’s. I mean the fruit, not a potential romantic partner. If a beetle were to grow to the size of a human being, I would die of fright the instant I saw it lumbering my way. Hopefully I would live long enough to stand up rigidly and extend my arms, like that Rio de Janeiro Jesus statue, so I could fall forward and squash it with my considerable girth.

I would have to be dead to deliberately squash a bug of substantial size. A mosquito or gnat I can dispatch with relative ease, only because they aren’t large enough to produce any visual atrocities – like a jet of greenish goo, which can not only be seen, but might very well find its way onto some part of my body. And that, my friends, is disgusting.

A few years ago, I explained how I considered grasshoppers to be the foulest of the bug lot, with well-fed dog ticks just a few gags behind. My husband, though, has a special hatred for red wasps. I agree they are an abomination, since they can sting, and they don’t have the decency to expire like a bee does – unfortunately, because at least the bee serves a critical purpose. If a wasp has a purpose in life, I am not privy to that information.

That being said, when it comes to my hatred of bugs, size really does matter. The bigger the bug, the more bodily fluids it possesses. For that reason, I find the movie “Starship Troopers” – ironically, my brother’s favorite – to be the most repugnant string of celluloid ever produced. The Jeff Goldblum version of “The Fly” runs a close second.

So the encroachment of the beetle army is not a welcome phenomenon. They scurry to and fro on the carpet, and on the linoleum, their legs make a crispy-fluttering sound. At any moment, about half of the troops are going about whatever business beetles have, and half of them have, as former Staff Writer Bob Gibbins used to put it, “gone tits-up.”  They frantically wave their legs, sometimes spinning slowly on the floor on their backs, like incompetent break-dancers. Clearly these particular platoons are in the business of dying, and I wish them success.

On Thursday, a 2-incher came around the corner at a brisk pace and entered my office. I tried to shoo it away, but it merely went around my waving foot and headed with a purpose toward my computer desk, where it crawled inside and began scrabbling around in a stack of papers. Every time the noise stopped, I’d turn around, and it would be peering out at me – and then, it would quickly retreat into the recesses of the desk. I was wearing slip-on sandals that day, and I had slipped out of one of them while working at my desk. The bug must have seen this, because it made a break for it, and skittered over the top of my bare foot. I suppressed a scream and jerked my foot back, then accidentally stepped on it as it continued on its path. I heard the soft but sickening crunch; the bug lurched drunkenly away, out the door, and into the newsroom, where it likely gave up the ghost under someone’s desk.

Another hefty one was in my office when I arrived around 8 a.m. Friday. I heard the telltale sound of bug-legs scratching against the inside of a cardboard box containing plaques from various contests. I looked into the box, and there it was, trying to desperately trying to extract itself. I withdrew to my work, but the intermittent scraping sound kept interrupting my concentration. It’s humiliating to admit this, but I decided to wait for one of my male co-workers to show up.

Finally, Caleb came in, and I asked him if he was greatly repelled by bugs. He said he wasn’t, and I told him of my predicament. He offered to take the box from the room and set the beetle free outside. I said that was fine, because although I admittedly have entomophobia (as well as whatever they call the fear of swimming pool drains), I don’t particularly want to kill insects – except the ones out to do me harm, like wasps and mosquitoes. Caleb took the box and returned a short time later, saying the bug would bother me no more. I wish he hadn’t also informed me he had crushed one of its legs, because now, I feel sort of sorry for it. He hastened to add that it limped away valiantly.

I also feel sorry for the custodians, who will be doing battle with the hoards this weekend. I hope they bring along a couple of extra bags for the vacuum cleaner. I’m pretty sure one won’t suffice.