It’s amazing how frightened humans are of snakes and sharks and alligators.
One time I fell off a paddleboard and into the May River because of some jerks on a boat that yelled “SAWWWY!” after their no-wake-zone-ignoring tsunami knocked me into the perilous abyss.
When I hit the water, and this isn’t a comical exaggeration of my inner workings — this is a fair representation of what happened in my mind — my brain went from “No problem, Liz. You’ll just get back on this board” to “The ravenous mutant son of a bull shark and an alligator is currently below you and wearing a red-checkered napkin around his very thick neck. He is playing rock, paper, scissors with a rogue water moccasin for dibs on your right leg. You are about to leave this earth. Just give up.”
It’s one of maybe two times in my life when I actually thought I was going to die, when an ancient and previously dormant fear of predators sent every cell of my being into flight and fight.
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No, not flight OR fight. I had both instincts happen to me at once, which made for a very adrenaline-fueled, big-eyed and partially upside-down rigor-mortised return to my board.
I launched myself from that murky and wet underworld like a sturgeon and I clung to the board so tightly that I still had it in my hands that night on the couch when I tried to relax with some cocoa and a reunion episode of “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.”
This was my reaction to an imagined threat from a not-real animal.
And yet I never run from mosquitoes.
It makes no sense.
Did you know that mosquitoes are responsible for more than half of all human deaths in history?
Yeah. That’s real.
They are the worst “animal” in the world.
Not snakes. Not sharks. Not alligators. Not shark-alligator hybrids that live in the May River.
Mosquitoes that bite human beings — and not delicious pieces of fruit — do so because they need our blood for their survival.
It’s us or them.
And they are tiny.
They can sink their diseased little needle mouths right into our skin and leave town before we even know what’s happened.
Worse than that, they’ve convinced us that they’re a normal part of our lives. That they’re merely ambient annoyances, which we should tolerate as we do squirrels and ants.
But they are human-culling vampires, and we hardly ever talk about their threat.
Instead we write romance novels about handsome and pale blood-suckers that sneak into our bedrooms at night and who represent true love.
Talk about Stockholm syndrome.
His name was Edward Cullen! Cull-en. “Twilight” was basically mosquito propaganda.
Yet we swoon like fools.
It also floors me that not one of those egomaniacal presidential candidates have mentioned these insect terrorists during any of the 108 debates they’ve had this election season.
Build a wall? Build a metaphorical bridge?
How about build a USA-shaped mosquito tent?
Or at least a Beaufort County-shaped one.
A recent study that appeared in “PLOS Currents: Outbreaks” predicts that Charleston and Savannah will be among the cities visited this summer by the aedes aegypti, the yellow-fever mosquito known for carrying the Zika virus.
We, of course, are not supposed to panic.
This is just a simulated scenario based on data, a model really. Like a hurricane path prediction. Or a chance of rain, we’re told.
Mmm. No. I want to panic just a little.
I should at least be allowed to say “uh oh” without being called a Nervous Nellie.
Now, of course, the Zika virus is not malaria or yellow fever or even dengue. For most, it presents as a rash, joint pain and maybe some reddened eyes.
Let’s not forget those historical “mosquito vs. man” statistics nor the apparent geo-locational desires of this insect.
Plus, we are very delicious people.
We are the pimento cheese of the Charleston-Savannah sandwich.
We are the creamy and baconed yolk of the Charleston-Savannah deviled egg.
We are the plump and salty oyster that lives in the Charleston-Savannah oyster shell.
We are the … well, we live in the middle of them, OK? And we’re just as interesting a people, if not more so, than they are.
Those mosquitoes would love us if they’d just give us a taste. They would find us to be the highlight of their Southern-Americana foodie tour.
We would get two wings-up. Our blood would win tiny James Beard awards.
Maybe they’d love us so much that they’d want to stay here.
I don’t mean that.
See? This is what mosquito propaganda does to us.
This is what a lifetime of not fearing them makes people say.
They still sell Vietnam War-grade bug spray, don’t they?