Barbarella
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There are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them. — Andre Gide

I sensed that the status was definitely not quo, even before I noticed the reddish-brown spot that had appeared on my left sleeve. From its copper coloring and wide, many-legged stance, my best guess was that the Mini M&M–sized creature on my arm was a baby crab. After all, I’d spent the morning at the beach, helping David scout a location for his interview with Plum TV (a station for resort locales such as Aspen, the Hamptons, and Martha’s Vineyard).

As the logical portion of my brain sought to deduce how such a pest might have made its way onto my arm, the segment of gray matter that controls my motor functions was fast at work, forcing my throat to yelp, my right arm to swat wildly at the intruder, and then, when the slapping proved ineffective, I screamed for David to help “Get this thing off of me!”

For one who can envision a thousand dreadful outcomes for any given scenario, especially where bugs are concerned, it’s no simple thing to admit that I hadn’t seen this coming. As much as I may long to possess a super power such as teleportation, it seems the only super gift I’ve been given is ISP (insect sensory perception). Without my glasses, I can barely make out the words on my computer screen, yet my eyes have been known to pop open in the middle of the night and lock on to a wispy mosquito traipsing across the ceiling.

I rose to my feet and glared at the sleeve of my sweater as David used the heavy handle of a knife to crush the critter on the wooden block by the sink. The terrible truth of its identity became suddenly apparent. “Was that a tick?” I shrieked. David nodded.

“Everything okay?” David’s mother Ency had followed the ruckus into the kitchen.

“Yeah, I guess, if you call finding a tick on your arm to be okay,” I said, allowing the willies to send shivers through my body. Ency’s eyes met David’s for a mother-son roll at my expense; I could almost hear them thinking, It’s just a bug, Barb.

“Did it latch on?” Ency asked. I shuddered at the idea and shook my head. “Oh, then that’s nothing,” she said. “But if one does — “

“One won’t,” I snapped.

“Well, if one does,” Ency continued in a calm tone, “you can’t just pull it out. I tried that once, and pieces of it broke off and stayed in my body.” The mental image of this created a knot in my belly. Oblivious to my anguish, Ency continued. “The tick breathes through its sides, so you just need to cover it in Vaseline or soap and water, to suffocate it, and it will fall right off.”

“Okay, ew,” I said. “Now I know where they get all those horrific ideas for alien movies. I’ll never let it get to that point.” I stood, fidgeting and scratching at the itchiness manifesting itself all over my skin. “You don’t think there would be another one, do you?” I waited for David to shake his head at the improbability of a second tick before returning to my seat at the kitchen table, where my temporary office (my laptop and iPhone) was set up.

I let my hair down and compulsively ran my fingers along my scalp (a childhood spent on the East Coast had taught me that a fur-covered noggin is tick mecca). Allowing my left hand to continue its inspection, I used my right to publish the horrific experience on Twitter and Facebook, finger-pecking my eloquent reaction to the episode: “T to the muthafuckin’ ICK.”

I was in the midst of responding to comments and replies when my digits alighted upon something foreign, something hard and small on my neck — one of my skin’s most sacred and sensitive areas. This time, the logical part of my brain didn’t have a chance — I was all reptilian response.

After executing a combination maneuver of scream, grip, and fling, I left David to collect the armored parasite from the table and kill it with his makeshift hammer while I sprinted upstairs to wrest free of my clothing. For the next 20 minutes, my eyes wide with alarm, I scrutinized every millimeter of my clothing and body. When David eventually joined me, I was standing naked before the mirror in our room, running a comb through my frizzed-out hair for the 400th time. I must have looked like the bride of Frankenstein, only with bigger hair.

David reached for my sweater, which I’d tossed onto a chair. “Don’t touch that, it’s quarantined,” I said. The month of June had been unseasonably cold and wet on the island, which is why I’d been wearing the long, flowing tick magnet in the first place.

“I’m just going to check it out for you,” David said, figuring correctly that if he didn’t clear the garment, I would never wear it again. “You’re shaking, you know.” He sounded more annoyed than concerned. David, who was originally attracted to me in part because of my indomitable attitude, had been dismayed when he learned that something so small could transform me into an inept nincompoop.

“Need I remind you that I mostly grew up in a bug-free zone? Bugs don’t exist in San Diego — not the crazy, latch-on-and-suck-your-blood kind, at least, and if they do, they’re loners, not members of some swarmy squad.”

David gave me his “get over it” look. It’s impossible to explain something as illogical as my fear of paltry pests to my Spock-like husband. I like to think that, although he doesn’t quite understand, he makes an effort to be understanding. But when I said there was no way in hell I was returning to Tickville, David became a cliff, laughing off my excuses as though they were merely waves tickling his feet.

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Comments

mrbios July 15, 2009 @ 4:53 p.m.

I'm from CT and I didn't realize how bad they are on MV. I always avoid tall or any grass. If I have to go through it I wear light or white cloths and tuck my pants into my shoes.

Can also wear high boots and apply heavy-duty clothing-only tick replant. Better then getting Lime diease.

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David Dodd July 16, 2009 @ 12:38 a.m.

Next trip, take along a little kerosene. They fall right off.

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AnneinSanDiego July 16, 2009 @ 9:59 a.m.

Hi Barbarella and friends, May I STRONGLY recommend you go watch the movie UNDER OUR SKIN! It ran for 3 weeks, but TODAY is the LAST day, THURSDAY, JULY 16th at 430pm, 655pm and 930pm at the GASLAMP 15 downtown. It is the only theater in San Diego showing it.

View Trailer at

Winning BEST DOCUMENTARY at NUMEROUS film festivals. This movie will show you the real truth about TICKS and LYME DISEASE which can be FATAL if you are not properly educated. You are just one tick bite away!

AND YES TICKS ARE HERE IN SAN DIEGO, ask the over 100 members in the local support group for Lyme Disease! You can go to the KPBS website to see a movie review written by Beth Accomando where there are many local comments. http://www.kpbs.org/news/2009/jul/07/food-inc-and-under-our-skin/#c380

PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD...and GO SEE THIS AMAZING MOVIE...TONIGHT!

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Barbarella Fokos July 16, 2009 @ 10:25 a.m.

Mrbios, tucking pants into socks would have been a good idea, after four seconds, some of the crew found ticks halfway up the INSIDE of their pant legs? David also found one on the inside. Fortunately, I didn't experience that horror, but honestly, mine was bad enough.

And Anne, thanks for the info. So many people I encountered on MV said they'd had lyme disease and that it was no big deal (if you catch it in time). My friend Steve had it twice. I think it's a huge deal, but over there, in tick-ville, they shrug it off like it's no big. I'll look up Beth's story and learn more.

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AnneinSanDiego July 16, 2009 @ 12:16 p.m.

Hi Barbarella. I just wanted to thank you soooooo much for writing this article.

Yes, IF caught early....and IF you are lucky to find a Lyme Literate Medical Doctor to PROPERLY treat you (MOST doctors are mis-informed-see movie!)...you MAY be fine. BUT, many people don't even know they got bit. Only 30-60% get the stereotypical bulls eye rash or other early symptoms. You may wake up years later...sicker than sick.

For those out there that think a tick bite is NO BIG DEAL...trust me...GO SEE THE MOVIE I mentioned above...then we will talk.

OR just ask our local newscaster Brooke Landau if it is a big deal. Click on this article to see her story. http://www.sandiego6.com/news/local/story/Brooke-Landaus-Fight-Against-Lyme-Disease/QMBmVnhANkKk48gFY59hCA.cspx

NO BIG DEAL....Trust me, I should know...I suffer EVERYDAY with chronic, late stage lyme disease. And it is a BIG $%#@!! DEAL. Honestly, I would rather have cancer.

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Aimz July 16, 2009 @ 12:30 p.m.

YUCK! T to the muthaf---in’ ICK indeed! Very amusing article though. :o)

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towelheadedcameljockey July 16, 2009 @ 1:11 p.m.

"Honestly, I would rather have cancer." This comment disgusts me. I know what you're trying to imply, but seriously think about what you're saying.

Barbarella, I recently heard on a SD talk show that we're having an incredibly irregular amount of mosquitoes are infesting our finest city this summer so we may be joining the masses as far as the blood suckers go. Which is too bad, I'm with you where being in a bug free zone has always been one of our plusses. Except those ants of course....

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magicsfive July 16, 2009 @ 1:45 p.m.

i don't understand why it's ok for the authors of these blogs to say the f word but we as commentators can't.... and who is the idiot who said they would rather have cancer?????? i am disgusted as well.

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magicsfive July 16, 2009 @ 2:05 p.m.

oh, i see. i didn't bother to read up. i am sorry you suffer from lyme disease. it IS a big deal. but i seriously doubt you would prefer to live with cancer. i would rather you suffer from neither, as i have had many patients in the past who suffer from both diseases, only a few with lyme, but the majority with end stage cancer. i can't speak for you though.

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AnneinSanDiego July 16, 2009 @ 3:12 p.m.

Sorry to upset people with my comment about cancer. I was just trying to make a point...that none of you would understand unless you actually have been diagnosed with Late Stage Chronic Lyme Disease! AGAIN...GO SEE THE MOVIE...Under Our Skin...showing tonight ONLY at the Gaslamp 15 downtown. Then, we can have an educated discussion here.

Yes, you are right I would rather not have any illness whatsoever!! But, at least with cancer, there is no big debate going on. At least with cancer you can get proper diagnosis and treatment. Your loved ones, community and medical doctors take you seriously.

It is bad enough feeling AWFUL everyday of my life with chronic pain, flu symptoms, etc. (long, long list) Taking hundred of pills. Knowing I may feel this bad for the rest of my life...AND then on top of that we have to battle the fact that our health insurance companies will not cover treatment, there are very few doctors to treat us, etc.

Don't get me wrong. I am grateful for my life and have become a better person because of what I have been through. But, I am just trying to help others become better educated about a sometimes debilitating, if not fatal, disease caused by a TINY little tick!

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towelheadedcameljockey July 16, 2009 @ 3:44 p.m.

"But, at least with cancer, there is no big debate going on. At least with cancer you can get proper diagnosis and treatment." Actually, my mother had cancer which was untreatable. She was never diagnosed properly even though she went to the doctor countless times with pain until she woke up one morning with bright yellow eyeballs, literally. It was her 4th round of battle with cancer that I saw her go through in my 17 years of life with her and this time she lost. We had found possible treatment about one month after being diagnosed, but it wasn't covered by any type of insurance so we had to try to come up with several grand to start it off. By the 2nd month of even trying to figure out how we're going to do this my mom had to move into a convalescent home because she had to have 24 hour care, and all thoughts of any treatment came to hault. Unfortunately, a convalescent home was the only place her insurance covered this type of care. Seeing my mother die in a place where pretty much everyone was around 70 years plus while she was much younger was heartbreaking for me. I get that this something very important for you and Lyme disease is definitely something many know nothing about beyond "you get that from ticks, don't ya?". Just please try to express yourself a little more wisely and with some compassion next time. Because it seems to me it's not about who's disease is worse, better or which you'd rather have, it's just about getting the word out, educating and letting people know the need for help.

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AnneinSanDiego July 16, 2009 @ 3:45 p.m.

Be informed before you comment!!!

View Under Our Skin movie trailer at

See the whole movie...TONIGHT ONLY... at Gaslamp 15 theaters downtown 430pm, 655pm & 930pm

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magicsfive July 16, 2009 @ 3:52 p.m.

actually this is a public forum and we can comment freely. being a nurse i have seen people suffer with lyme disease. it is miserable, i feel for you. i take every patient with every disease seriously. i understand your frustration, at least as well as i can without having the disease myself. i wish you comfort.

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towelheadedcameljockey July 16, 2009 @ 4:17 p.m.

"Be informed before you comment!!!" - Ah, so it's a "me, me, me" world. I get it. Once you're diagnosed with something horrendous maybe that's the only road to take, can't judge. Well, best of luck to you and getting the word out there. Hopefully you registered that there was no attack on you more so then just a "take a bit of time and think about what you're saying before you speak". But, with something so huge running your life, I guess it can be hard to do that when you're passionate about the subject. I'm not speaking for me, but choosing words more wisely, and less spazzmatic, may draw more of a crowd in.

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AnneinSanDiego July 16, 2009 @ 5:03 p.m.

Hey towelheadedcameljockey...relax...I just now saw your posting about your mom...our postings must have crossed in cyber space. My last posting was certainly not my response to that!? I AM VERY SORRY TO HEAR ABOUT YOUR MOM...that sounds terrible! I am personally a cancer survivor myself and I have many loved ones who have suffered and died from cancer and it IS an AWFUL disease. NOT my intent to compare diseases in this way...BOTH cause tremendous suffering. I was speaking of political climate only of the disease.

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johnandflo July 16, 2009 @ 10:35 p.m.

This article has really latched on to people. I moved up to Elizabeth Lake (up the mountain from Magic Mountain) about a year ago. My dog Florence (hence the name johnandflo) has recently been getting a lot of ticks in the wild out here. I got one on my knee and I freaked a bit myself. No shame in that. We have plenty of room for the dog to run free here but, I have to keep her on leash because of those nasty little buggers. Oh, and when they are full of blood they are much nastier. One popped like a zit when I tried to get it off my dog. Well, think I'll go eat now.

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Rom828 July 18, 2009 @ 9:50 a.m.

I was diagnosed on 6/1/09 with Lyme Disease. I got bitten a year 1/2 ago in the beautiful community of San Elijo Hills which is in North county San Diego. I did not realize at the time that I had been bitten by a tick. I thought maybe I had been bitten by a poisonous spider. Recently, I mentioned one of my multiple symptoms to someone and they asked me if I had ever been tested for Lyme. I realized the moment I saw the pictures of the tick bite on the internet that that was what I had. After my test came back positive, I thought, thank God! I now know what I am dealing with and Thank God it's not cancer! One would think it's just a bacteria that you can wipe out like all other bacterium. Even my boyfriend as a physician thought this. I have to admit that since my diagnosis of Lyme I too have made the comment about having cancer instead of Lyme. I immediately thought after saying it that many people would be offended by that statement. My Mother and Father and Uncle all died of cancer. I have seen many people suffer with this horrible disease (cancer). I think the point being made is not that one disease is more painful than the other. It's the fact that even though Lyme disease in the later stages is so powerful that it can shut down your entire system (as cancer can) people look at you as if you are not sick. It's difficult to get time off of work even though you can't get out of bed. Your health insurance won't cover the medication. The people you tell think that it is not a serious illness.

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