Insect Radio

Greets and salutations to you, Constant Listener here on KTRT 97 point 5, The Root. This is Billy Christmas, errant and wayward Perspectivist, reporting in from the break room of a factory out in the hills that has been dedicated solely to the production of decorative and non-functioning fly-swatters.

Well friends, it seemed like only yesterday that our chief concerns as local motorists were the icy conditions of the road and the ever-present population of our fender-curious deer neighbors. Those are, of course, our winter driving conditions. But it is Winter no longer, and, perhaps then you can imagine my surprise as I found myself hauling up highway 20, when along came a pop against my windshield, followed quite suddenly by the expansion of an off-yellow splotch.

It calls to my mind a joke: What is the last thing that goes through a bug’s head when it hits the windshield of a moving car? Well, if you haven’t heard that one yet, then I don’t think it would be kind of me to spoil the punchline for you. Better to let one of your closest friends or perhaps some elementary-school acquaintance perform that honor.

But all to the point that it has become Spring. That much is unequivocal, now, that most of the snow is gone from the valley floor, that the birds are out in great attendance of their avian choirs, and that trees are just beginning to pop out their latest seasonal fashions. It is unavoidable, then, that the coming of Spring also heralds the coming of insects: moths, mosquitos, and mayflies, hornets, honeybees, yellow-jackets and all of their stinging kin; then of course, those idiot bugs that find their way into crevices that you find all season, despite any foul and chilling coldness. Spiders are not insects, but I think they share the same mailing address, and those eight-legged wonders are out in force, too. Things that fly, things that crawl, things that burrow and lay papery egg-sacks; well, my advice to you is that you try not to let it all bug you.

Oopf, I’ll see myself out after that one, but not just yet.

For some reason, our species has an uneasy relationship with insects, despite the fact that they are everywhere, all the time, every day. Did you know that 90% of life on earth is made up by insects? Do you know that there is only one recorded mass-extinction of insects, during the Permian Extinction, which took place some two-hundred and fifty million years ago? Did you know that during that troublesome epoch, it took a combination of multiple major meteor impact events and a few million years of the earth covered in magma to put a dent in our little insect friends’ global population?

Let’s give them credit, where credit is due, and at the very least, let us console ourselves with the fact that battering a few of their number into paste with the passage of our automobiles is really unlikely to slow them down.

But that’s not to say that insects don’t have their every-day problems, just like the rest of us:

I heard a story as told by the somewhat infamous comedian Norm MacDonald about a moth that goes into a podiatrist’s office. I’ll tell it here for you now, slightly modified for the context of our little air-wave chat:

A moth goes into a podiatrist’s office, and the podiatrist asks, “well, uh, what seems to be the problem, mister moth?”

The moth says, “What’s the problem? Where do I even begin? I’ll tell you, I go to work every day, and I work all day long, and I work hard, and honestly, doc, I don’t even know what I’m doing anymore. I don’t think even my boss knows, but he knows that he has power over me, and that seems to bring him some sick kind of happiness.

“But I don’t know, I wake up in a malaise, and I walk here and there…”
“Oh, really?” asks the doc.
“Yeah, well I walk around, I can’t sleep, and when I do sleep, I – I sometimes wake up and turn to the old lady in my bed who is sleeping there on my arm, a lady with whom I was once in love, but now, I don’t recognize her, and I just don’t know where to turn.

“But it gets worse. My youngest daughter, she fell in the cold of last winter. The cold took her down, doc, like it did so many of us. And my other boy, he — it’s a hard pill to swallow,” the moth says, “but- but the truth is that I no longer love him. As much as it pains me to say it, when I look in his eyes, it is with a grim sense of horror that all I see is the same cowardice that I – that I catch when I glimpse my own face in the bathroom mirror.

“And I can’t help but think that if only I were not such a coward myself, then perhaps, perhaps I could finally bring myself to fly out and splatter myself against some windshield to end this hellish facade once and for all… doctor, sometimes I feel as though I am a spider, even though I know I am a moth, but I feel like a spider who is just barely hanging on to my web, and there’s this huge and everlasting fire burning beneath me, singeing me, all the time.

“I just have to say that I’m not feeling good, Doc, I’m not feeling good at all.”

And so the doctor puts one of the arms of his seeing eye glasses in his mouth and chews idly at the tip, and he says, “Moth, look, man, you’re troubled. You should be seeing a psychiatrist, a, a psychologist, but me, I’m a podiatrist. A foot doctor, and you don’t even have feet like I know how to treat. All that I can ask is why on earth did you come in here? Why did you come into my office”

“Well,” says the moth, “because the light was on.”