The day I did the ant dance

That day the parcel in my mailbox had me dancing all over in my car

Back in the day, not so far ago [1990s], I was a rural letter carrier for the United States Postal Service [USPS]. This was one of those jobs where the general public felt it necessary to toss out their opinions on my career of choice. I would often hear comments referring to how easy my job was: “Oh, it must be nice to just ride around all day” and “I wish I got paid to do nothing all day.” Little did they know that I was taking my life in my hands each day as I reached into each of the 450 mailboxes on my mail route.

The job trained me well to be prepared for whatever may be lurking within the mailboxes. Yes, that is right… lurking! I once opened a box to find a tiny black kitten meowing inside it. I thought for sure I was the victim of a witch’s spell, or that the animal rights activists were sending some kind of message to me; perhaps I had been inadvertently delivering inappropriate ‘animail.’ It was pretty routine to find bugs of many varieties waiting for me in the boxes; ants, spiders, earwigs [those little pincher bugs] and flying insects of many varieties [bees and wasps]; oh and sometimes even birds.

I learned to avoid getting stung or bitten, and was always pleasantly surprised when a raised red flag [the sign that there was outgoing mail to pick up] was really up because the customer has left me a candy bar, cookies or some other home-made yumminess. One might think that the skills I learned on the mail route—to be on the lookout for creepy crawlies in the mail box—would automatically stay with me for the rest of my life; umm—NO, not quite!

One morning when I was in a rush to get to work [this can be pretty typical] I swung up to our mailbox with my car to pick up the previous day’s mail. I reached in, not paying attention to the mail box’s surroundings, grabbed the mail, placed it on my lap, closed the mailbox door and drove away. I had planned to check out the mail when I got to a stop sign at the bottom of our road. Yes, I know—a really bad practice! Unfortunately, someone or something had other plans for me that morning. About one hundred feet down the road, something was amiss.

I looked down and saw a pile of black dots on my lap, and they were moving very quickly. On a closer look, it was quite obvious they were tiny black ants. I wanted to freak out, right there in the driver’s seat of my car. I started to swipe at the little critters as they were now on a mission, crawling every which way. I halted the car [pretty much in the middle of the dirt road] jumped out and stripped my long coat off as fast as I could.

dwayna-395x350I began the ‘ant dance’—flailing my arms about, shaking my head and every body part to be sure that each one of the crawling little pests had found its way to the ground. I took a peek in the car and was flabbergasted. There were ants everywhere; and I mean everywhere! They were crawling up the doors, across the seats, and up the dash board. It was like they were trying to find me!

As the hundreds of ants rushed towards their path of freedom, I went into tactical mode.  I removed all the floor mats from the car—taking with me a good bunch of the ants.  I can only imagine what the passing drivers thought as they caught sight of me. When I figured I had removed enough of the tiny invaders from the car to avoid being attacked, I drove the car home. Once back in the safety of my door yard, I began to remove everything from the car [now this was a sight, as my car always looks like I live out of it].

My next mission was to break out the bug spray—I would not be driving to work with ants crawling on me. I had truly turned into some crazed maniac who acted as if she had never seen an ant before. As I finished up the job of cleaning up my car, I felt pure relief that I had not driven off the road that morning. Yet, I also felt rather silly that the lessons learned during my years with the USPS had fallen out of my head. A true sign of middle age!

I made it to work that morning unscathed, and as I stood at the desk of a colleague telling her my drama-driven story, a little black ant ran across my shoulder. We screeched, laughed and squirmed and it was pretty clear that no matter how hard we humans try; sometimes nature has its own ideas of fun at our expense.

This was first published in the October 2013 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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