Sunday, July 13, 2008

Where do you think they keep their beepers?

Went for a walk yesterday to clear my head (I know, 'in his case, what are we talking about here? Ten to fifteen steps at most? Hardly worthwhile putting shoes on.' You're right, not to mention the trousers as well) and in the course of the aimless wander (I never get lost, even when I don't know where I am, because so many folks tell me where to go; but I'm never dressed coolly enough for the suggestion), I looked down on the sidewalk and there was a HUGE swarm of ants.

I was never one of these kids who used to set them on fire with a magnifying glass (if you thought my math skills were marginal, you should see the rest of the Mr. Science Guy repertoire) mainly because I didn't have a magnifying glass and I think it would have bothered me. And, just to prove I am nearly a Renaissance Man, I don't eat them dipped in chocolate, either. (and hope they would return the courtesy if circumstances warranted.)

I have a dim memory (at my age, most memories are, I suppose) of Art Baker on the original "You Asked for It!" TV show with a story on an ant war. The show was, with all respect to Real World, generally thought of as the original 'unscripted' real-life show, the genuine article and Real Deal. I don't remember how old I was when the episode aired or who wrote in and asked for it, but I was still in short pants (which isn't especially helpful as I'm often still in short pants to this day--mostly at the request of the neighbors and as a condition of release by the court) and more than amazed at how the TV guys built this very elaborate ant farm with a glass wall so we at home could see everything that went on below ground.

It must've taken weeks to construct and to let the ants wander around in this biosphere, terrarium or whatever it was called, getting acclimated to their new home and then came the day the TV folks put down a drinking straw (I think it was) that stretched from this stand-alone ant colony to another colony they had built and stocked with ants, really big ants (I now know the camera adds ten pounds-back then, all we had was black and white so I don't know how much was added at the time) and the cameras waited until an ant from one colony wandered through his drinking straw and found a Whiter Shade of Pale, more or less.

It was total war as I remember it--and it was fascinating to watch. Bear in mind, I was born less than a decade AFTER the end of World War II and the Korean War was still a hot war in my infancy, but it was the Ant War that most impressed me, even to this day. The carnage and the chaos over the decades and through the mists of the years are as vivid now as they were then. The realization that they, the ants, so much resemble us, the bipeds with the big brains, only came in the latter years.

Back at the sidewalk, practically beneath my feet, I watched them roil and writhe as if they were a single living thing and not tens of thousands of tiny creatures, all of whom (I assume) were oblivious to my existence and interest. I confess to shooting a glance upwards every once in awhile just to reassure myself no one was staring down on me. Although, come to think of it, the sun did seem to feel a lot warmer than weather conditions should have permitted. And I still don't know what to make of those giant chocolate chips I saw around the corner.
-bill kenny

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