The Tick Whisperer

At my first in-person interview for my camp job, my soon-to-be-bosses asked me if I was okay with handling bugs and slimy things and such. “Oh sure,” I said. “No problem.” Cue laugh track.

As my husband and my sister Cho will gladly tell you, if there is a crawly thing of any sort in my personal space, it takes me about one-tenth of a second to be up on the furniture screeching for somebody else to kill it quickly. I am not actually okay with handling bugs and slimy things and such. Not that I meant to lie in the interview, but you know how interviews can be. Sometimes you’re so eager for a job that you start playing the yes-man and don’t realize until it’s too late to backtrack what you just said about yourself.

The blessing about this situation is that I’m discovering a capacity for growth in myself. Also, there’s a reason they invented sticks and kids. There’s not really any reason for me to ever touch anything vile. Kids love picking up frogs and crickets–most other bugs can be persuaded to hang out on a stick while we pass it around. On the first day of camp, we actually found and identified a female dog tick. Ticks of any sort are one of the worst for me to deal with: they fill up like a darn balloon with sucked blood, for pete’s sake, and if you’re not careful about removing them you can end up with a head embedded in your body, spreading infection. If that’s not creepy, I don’t know what is. And yet, I found myself coaxing the tick onto a stick so I could show her off to my fascinated little group.

On Monday, as we were getting our shoes on after swimming, my kids all started pointing at me and exclaiming, “Melissa, there’s a bug on you!” It was on my back–that is definitely in my space–and the kids thought it was a tick. The mark of my growth is that the kids experience this:

instead of this:

The bug (which was a shiny gold beetle, not a tick–the kids think all unfamiliar bugs are ticks) lived to tell the tale, believe it or not, because I’m trying to encourage them to respect nature. We’re are guests in the homes of the spiders, the beetles, and the ticks; it is permissible to pick the bugs up and examine them, but only if we do it gently for short periods of time before returning them to the place we found them. We kill nothing, except perhaps for mosquitoes, primarily because if I let them kill anything, they’d kill everything, up to and possibly including each other. Bugs receive mercy outside.

To all you insects and bugs who may be reading this, let me clarify: this rule holds true only in the great outdoors. If you invade my home and bite me or eat my food, I will take no quarter. You will die a horrible death by crushing, most likely at the hand of someone else while I stand at a safe distance and squeal.

6 thoughts on “The Tick Whisperer

  1. Very, very amusing, Melissa. You make me laugh out loud. The only other writer who can do that is David Sedaris. Sometimes your writing is really similar….creating a comic scene. Love you


  2. Do you remember having to remove the tick from me? That was a classic moment for both of us! Don’t think for a moment that inside I was not doing what you wished to be doing with that beetle on you!!! Being an adult can be such a bummer can’t it?


    1. How could I forget? (Shudder) I wasn’t a kid then either – that was only a few years ago. If I had been a kid, I think I would have called 911 before I took that thing off you.


  3. Melissa , you are a trip and a half!!!! How could you be calm about the bugs with the kids. I take my hat off to you. Love,


    1. Thanks, Grammy! I’m finding that calm is a lot easier to pull off when you’re keenly aware that a lack of calm could cause a firestorm of chaos and panic.


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