Given the chance, any ant will cheerfully skitter up the pants of any Floridian. It has been written. So it was probably only a matter of time before they scurried their way into my column.
On walks around our fair city, I’ve become somewhat inoculated to Floridian ants’ sophisticated feats of engineering. I tend to forget that beneath what looks like puffy mud-balls flung from heaven are lively civilizations where ants work, love and do stuff that I need to watch a few more episodes of National Geographic to catch up on.
I forget until I step on one of their puff mounds of doom.
Recently, I was tasked with setting up goals for a pick-up soccer game. I was in a bit of a haze because I hadn’t slept well, but since it’s Florida, I was also in the literal haze of our regular forecast: “For the next few days and into forever, we’ll be experiencing some blow-torch, black-smithy, heat-hotness lava air.” Ignoring this, I focused all my mental faculties on setting up the goals.
Driving around, you’ve probably seen the semi-circular, pop-up goals kids play with whilst large men yell at them (not the goals, the kids, I assume).
Since I coach soccer for a living, I can set up the let’s-all-yell-at-kids goals no problem. They do exactly as advertised (not the kids, the goals. Dangling modifier dang-a-rangs. However, dang-a-rangs does accurately modify kids). As soon as you slip the goals out of their sleeves, they pop into your face and into place. Then, to pack them up, all you have to do is twist, fold and slide them back. Sometimes that’s true, but whoever makes these goals is evil, for they reverse engineered every third goal to not twist no matter what you do, making you look like a total ignoramus-doofus-dork. This embarrasses me even when no one’s laughing at me.
I think I digressed. This particular day, I was focused on setting up goals with tangle-friendly nets and fancy aluminum frames with spring-pressured buttons designed to rip the tips of your fingers off. So I should be excused from torture. Nope, I live in Florida. Since our soccer field is tirelessly mined by ants, I hadn’t used my special ops training to not get blasted by the fireball that was now shimmying up my leg.
Now in considerable pain, I briefly thought of the pond, but in a moment of Jurassic clairvoyance, I knew that could be a very bad idea. I saw the headline: “Florida Man Flees Ants Into Jaws of Gator.” That title could sum up the perils of living here, but alas, “Sun-Afflicted, Mosquito-Bitten, Florida Man Scutters on Tippy Toes Around Ant Mounds, Spinning His Arms in Futile Attempt to Fend Off Deer Flies, Whilst Belligerent Ants Bury Their Barbed Hindquarters Into Any Flesh to Be Found Until What’s Left of Florida Man Leaps for ‘Safety’ of Pond, Only to Be Chomped By Grinning Gator Who Then Spits Florida Man’s Bones Back to Waiting Turkey Buzzards” is more accurate. Ah, the semi-circle of life.
I don’t really have much more to share with you about ants because, as a rule, I try not to study the subjects of my articles. This helps me to be a truly objective journalist and a resource for real news. But I will say, if you are bitten, try to stay calm, so as to avoid winding up in a news headline.
I stayed calm that day, simply rolling down my socks and carefully picking the little buggers out of my ankles, calves, and yes, between my toes (why always between the toes?!). I maintained my state of calm by screaming at the top of my lungs for my dear, sweet mother who birthed me. I was picked last for soccer. Typical.