In ancient Greek mythology, there’s an unsavory character named Sisyphus, king of Ephra, whose constant, wily plotting for power eventually gets him condemned for crimes against the gods. For these grave infractions he is punished to an eternity of hard labor, which involves rolling a great boulder up a hill that can never – will never – quite reach the summit. Every time Sisyphus manages to huff, puff, and push the boulder up to the top, it simply pauses, teeters, and rolls back down the hill again.
This is the embodiment of insanity.
This is also how I feel every time I walk into my bathroom (kitchen/living space) between the months of November and February, as I watch thousands of little boulders infiltrate my apartment through microscopic cracks I cannot see but that I loathe all the same.
Welcome to Antpocalpyse 2014, ladies and gentleman. You can run. But you can’t hide.
I live in a building that was built in 1922. Most of the time I like to think of her as a dear old lady you want to help with her groceries or hold the door open for. Sometimes her bones creak and her white, wispy hair gets a bit disheveled, but overall she’s tender and kind, and trying her best to keep her 16 unit family safe and snug inside her aging but lovely home.
Then again, sometimes she’s a cranky, old demon whose sole mission is to dementedly scream ungodly profanities while she throws peanuts at you from her wheelchair and cackles like a crinkly little witch.
We’re in one of those stages right now.
Every year during this time, my building surrenders to a seemingly immortal colony of ants that apparently resides in the ground beneath my first floor apartment. Every day, thousands (millions?) of these ubiquitous little f**kers crawl up through the floors, through cracks in the windows. Up through the drains, the faucets, and the showerhead. Onward and away through the heating ducts and out through the radiators. In some places, I honestly think the gods of the underworld have simply willed them to appear out of thin air because why/how the hell else is there a swarming army of ants just hanging out in the middle of my living area for no earthly reason?
Alas, apparently there IS a logical reason. One that has nothing to do with cranky old ladies or malevolent Greek gods. According to the interwebs (an internationally renowned and reputable source of useless information), Alameda County sits on one of California’s premier ant “super-colonies,” which means that at any given time, there are about 10 or 20 million ants just chillin’ in the ground beneath our feet. Grossed out yet? You’re welcome.
When the weather gets yucky and the air grows cold, thousands upon thousands of these little guys march their way up to urbanity the seeking bigger and better opportunities. Evidently even ants are striving for the American dream.
I have ant-proofed nearly every corner of my bathroom. There are traps lining the edges of my radiators and my windows. Cinnamon has been sprinkled in historic ant-highways to deter the advancement of future fronts all around my kitchen. I am single handedly keeping the orange oil industry alive trying to deter these prolific little jerks from advancing any further. And yet?
And yet, every time I seem to overcome them, every time I think I’ve reached the top of that mountain and finally conquered those squirrely minions, they return in earnest and with reinforcements.
My breaking point came one morning last week as I was getting into the shower before work. (As a critical digression here, it is important to note that I have optical powers akin to a mole – when I wake up in the morning everything looks like a knock-off Monet painting. If you left me in the jungle at night without my contacts or glasses – which, true story, someone once threatened to do – I would be puma meat within the hour. Most importantly, I generally do not have any of these optical support mechanisms in or on my face before 8 o’clock in the morning).
So I step into the tub and immediately notice two things: 1) the shower walls and floor look kind of dirty and 2) there is a giant hairball up near the drain.
Only, the dirt is moving. And so is that hairball.
I believe that was the shriek of “MOTHERF**KER” heard round the world.
As I discovered, once I had catapulted myself out of the shower and grabbed my glasses in one utterly ungraceful movement, the “dirt” in the shower was actually ants. Ants coming out of the drain. Ants coming out of the faucets. Ants coming in through the window and swarming up and down the walls, over the shampoo and the soap, happily blanketing every inch of the tub and tiles with swirling blots of moving brown.
And that “hairball”? Oh, that was a giant wolf spider about the size of my big toe who I presume had made his way into the tub because he was hungry and ants are a tasty treat.
Oh my god. Just. No.
Insanity is a girl in a towel, cursing up a storm, throwing cinnamon and orange oil everywhere, trying to vanquish 2,000 ants and the world’s biggest spider out of her bathroom just so she can get dressed and go to work.
CLEARLY, I was all up in arms about this by the time I got into the office that morning, whining about the whole intolerable situation. Pissed off that I was going to have to go home that evening and likely face yet another wave of impervious ant – and now spider – enemies. And then my coworker Mara walks into my office:
Mara: “So the plumber finally figured out what’s up with the water that’s been leaking through my ceiling and walls all month.”
Me: “Oh yeah, what is it?”
Mara: “Poop. It’s poop. From the upstairs neighbor’s toilet.”
…And that’s the story of how my ants and I lived happily ever after.