Saturday, May 25, 2013

Attack Of The FLY!

I was reminded of a story recently as I went to my cousin Kim's house for her son's confirmation party.  No, they were not confirming that he was their son...this isn't Jerry Springer.  Get your mind out of the TV.  It was a nice event and I was happy that we could attend.  I was also happy that we weren't attacked by flies like we had been at another one of their parties.  Whenever we get together, the flies are mentioned.  It was really something.  There were hundreds of flies that had decided to enter their kitchen and land on the ceiling while we talked.  I am not exaggerating.  I DO NOT exaggerate!  (Even though I am accused of it a billion times a day!)   They were managed due to numerous fly strips that Dan, Kim's husband, ran to the store to buy. The flies, and their sudden appearance, were eerie. We were one scary soundtrack away from being in a horror movie!  We were all OK ..except that one guy who decided to go down into the basement, ALONE, to find out what that noise was.  We never saw him again.

Anyway, that is not what I was going to write about today.  I had another fly in mind.  The Mediterranean Fruit Fly!  Dun Dun Dunnnnnnnnnn!

That's right, our little neck of the woods was plagued by this particular bug, affectionately called The MedFly, a few decades ago, with momentous consequences...all because of my friend.  But I'll get back to that.  What I won't do is tell you his name.  There are probably hundreds of people who would love to know  the real story and his life (or the finish on his car) might be in jeopardy.

If you are not from the San Francisco bay area then it is conceivable that you have never even heard of this particular pest.  I would say that even fewer of you know that their arrival on the scene caused a great amount of concern among farmers and even greater concern among politicians.  I would also say that if you didn't know those two facts, then you most likely didn't know that there was a controversy surrounding the way that this little bug was handled.  And finally, an infinitesimal amount of you have ever seen one of these winged trouble makers...but I have.

In the early 80's there were crop failures galore.  That was bad enough!  But we were also getting ready for the coming ice age that the government was warning us about so we were all a little on edge.  (and you know that when the government warns you about a global weather disaster they are correct one hundred percent of the time.  ahem...coughBScough...coughINCANDESCENTlightBULBSareWAYbetterTHANthoseDUMBcurlyCUEthingsAREcough...coughBUYaHUMMERcough)  But I digress...must have been something that they are trying to feed to me.

The way it worked was they wanted to spray insecticide all over the areas that could be affected.  This was disconcerting to many, problematic to some, and the worst thing that could ever happen in the whole world to others.  Debate got heated.  People on both sides were very passionate about what to do. One politician B.T. "I Grew a Third Nipple!" Collins is remembered as the guy who, during all of the hearings on the spraying of malathion, drank a glass of the stuff to prove that it wasn't harmful.  The entire debate was academic since the Medfly had been found in crops but hadn't been seen in the cities...yet.  This whole thing about the spraying was being thought of as a preventative measure to keep things from getting out of control on the fruit trees of the cities.

And then my friend came into the picture.  No he didn't lobby congress.  He didn't address the city council.  He didn't even write an article about it for the school newspaper.  He was, as far as I remember, as apolitical as they come.  We were high school students.  I vividly remember saying, "They said that if they start spraying one of the side effects could be that the poison might cause little pits in the paint on cars."  Crops are dying.  No problem.  Food supply in jeopardy.  Yawn.  They are going to spray poison on the entire population with black helicopters like we all had the plague or something.  Whatever.  Your buffing towel might not slide all the way across the hood of your car and fall to the ground because the mirror finish has been diminished ever so slightly.  NOW WAIT JUST A GOSH DARN MINUTE!!! Yes, I was that guy. (was, being the operative word)  My friend did the one little thing that changed the course of history.

Following all the debate, everyone said, "Fine!  Prove to us that the Medfly is, in fact, in this area!"  And here came the troops.  Dozens of workers came around putting up hundreds of little bug catchers in people's trees.  They put these little rectangular shaped glue traps with lime green A-framed roofs all over the cities of the bay area trying to capture the elusive fly.  Don't try to figure out why a fruit fly would fly into a cardboard longhouse instead of landing on the delicious fruit right next to'll only give you a headache.  And the truth is, they didn't.  Not one fly was trapped in one of these contraptions...ever...until...

We were sitting out in front of my friend's house when he looked at the very shiny hood of his Mazda 626.  There was something on it.  A bug.  But it wasn't just any bug...dun dun was the dreaded Medfly!  We had all been seeing pictures of this thing warning us that it was armed and dangerous and that we should avoid eye contact at all costs.  I think that it was such a troublemaker because it had these odd shaped triangular wings and it was picked on by all the other bugs in bug school. But maybe that's just me.

My buddy saw that thing, picked it up, walked over to the trap that he had hanging in the tree in front of his house, and threw it in.  Then we continued to talk about important things like pranks we could play on our science teacher Mr. Patton and exciting things that happened during the latest Roman themed spirit day assembly.  In other words, we forgot about the bug...until the end of the week.

The headline in the paper was something like, "THE SPRAYING WILL BEGIN!"  It seems that we would soon have helicopters hovering over our houses and we were about to have our cars assaulted (oh yeah, there was something else about poison) but here is the kicker.  They basically said that there were no bugs found anywhere in the whole region except for one trap on my friend's street!  They described what trap it was, where it was, how far away it was from the pathway to the junior high school... it was my friend's trap!  There was no question!  He, and the bug he threw in, was the reason that hundreds of people could be seen washing their cars in the middle of the night for months after that.  The onslaught had begun, and my friend had fired the first shot.

 I'm sure there was some bureaucrat somewhere who was patting himself on the back saying, "See!  I told you they would like lime green cardboard!"  In true governmental efficiency it seems that they decided to spray every three months...and the Medfly reproduced every two they never really got a handle on this infestation.  Eventually the Medfly news stories, and the spraying, faded away...much like the time it takes to maintain a mirror finish on my car.  And suddenly I have a hankering for a nice juicy orange..hold the Medfly.

The Garage Door.

Just submitted this story to KLOV radio.  They are making a new book with inspirational stories and were asking for help.  When I hit submit it said, "Unfortunately not every story can be published."  Wanna bet?  I have a blog!  So here you go.  It's short on purpose...They asked for stories to be less than 250 words.  Don't bother's 250 (exactly).  Yeah, I'm OCD like that.

Very late one night I opened the sectional garage door to take out the garbage. Pick up was early the next morning and I had forgotten to do it earlier. When I went to close the automatic door I heard a horrible noise that I was sure would awaken the family, and quite possibly the neighbors. The door got twisted from its track and the roller nearest the top of the door fell off, leaving the door dangling precariously on one side. 
No matter what I did, I couldn't fix it. In fact, everything I did made matters worse...much worse! Now two rollers had fallen off and the door looked as if it was ready to just crash to the ground since the cable connected to the spring had unwound violently! 
We don't live in a horrible neighborhood but I would really feel unsafe leaving the door like it was for fear that people would either steal our possessions or, worse, come in to harm my family. I couldn't wake my wife, it was past 11:30, no one was around, and I could think of nothing I could do. I was beyond desperate. 
I sat down on the step that led to the garage, I put my head in my hands, and prayed aloud, "Lord, I cannot do this myself. I need your help." As I lifted my head from my hands, my mechanically gifted neighbor walked up and said, "Do you need some help?"