Wednesday, December 16, 2009

the wages of hubris

For nine months, I have been quite smug when the topic of home invaders comes up.

Sure, I have been fending off ants, cockroaches, land crabs, assassin bugs, spiders the size of dinner plates, biting flies, biting gnats, mosquitoes, crickets, bees, bats, swallows, geckos, lizards, and snakes (OK. Snake.).

But I always amaze my neighbors when I say I have never seen a scorpion in the house. In fact, I have never seen one in Mexico.

Well, ¨had¨ never seen.

When I was a boy scout, we would visit a fossil bed in central Oregon for weekend camping. It was the perfect boy spot. Open spaces. Heat. Lots of rocks to crack open. Cliffs to scramble across. And a cool river for a swim at the end of the day.

If I was in a non-social mood, I would slip away from the camp fire and wander off to look at the night sky or, in my fondest dreams, to catch a glimpse of a coyote loping across the desert.

On one of those adventures, I crept up to a ridge, lying down at the crest, to see if I could spot any wildlife. I was Cochise on the hunt.

But there was nothing. The moon lit up the valley as bright as any stage, but nothing moved.

Then I felt something on my right hand. A scorpion. I had never seen one before. This one was small. Dark. Perhaps because of the moonlight, it looked menacing and fascinating.

Sensing that I was neither a good meal or even a hint of imminent danger, it scampered off in search of something to eat -- something to keep it alive for just one more day at a time.

I thought of that incident when I spotted my first Mexican scorpion this week. I was on my way out the door to shake a rug when I saw a small brown object on the floor.

I immediately knew what it was. We seem to be hard-wired to recognize some dangers.

It was probably the shape. Nothing has that chunky rectangular shape topped off by an inquiring question mark tail.

I nudged it with my foot to see if I had a corpse on my hands. It was so still, it could easily have been dead.

It wasn't. It started an evasive scamper.

For one brief shining moment, I considered the life option. I had not killed the scorpion on my first encounter: why kill this one? After all, it was headed right toward the door.

Hard-wiring won out over compassion.

For all of their fearsome appearance, scorpions die easily. But not without retaining the hope for venomous revenge. When I picked up the carcass, the tail was still moving slowly in the small hope of scoring a point against my own goal.

For nine months, I have walked barefoot in the house. Common sense tells me there is a reason to modify that practice.

Unless I want to ante up on another hubris lesson.


Felipe Zapata said...

Near-lethal bugs, salty air eating your computer connections, hurricanes, oppressive heat and humidity much of the year . . . boy, that coastal life sounds grrrrreat!

Rosas Clan in Tulum said...

Wow- You managed to go a really long time with out seeing one.

I think I know what fossil bed area you are talking about. I remember going their once I think.

I have found a few scorpians in my house- there was no compassion at all. I will let anything live when I am outside. after all that is their house- but inside... that is my house!

Most of them are pretty small but at my friends house 19 km into down the road- they live IN the jungle. I have seen scorpians that where as long as my face. Luckily my friend is a jungle boy so he just grabed it- took off the stinger and everyone (except me) played with it/.

- Mexican Trailrunner said...

Hah! Funny post. I never saw a scorpion the whole year I lived in Sayulita, I believe it was due to the vast number of roaming chickens and roosters to whom a scorpion is a tasty and crunchy morsel.
Here in the highlands. . .entirely another story. At one time I had them pouring in, nestling under my pillow even. Then I discovered their route of entry was broken grouting between the tiles in the living room and bedroom and that was soon remedied. Now I'm down to the odd, once in a blue moon scorpion. Whew.
So, did your narrow escape happen at the John Day Fossil Beds?
Great to meet you Steve, so much more fun reading you now that I have a face to imagine.

Anonymous said...

According to my Mexican friends, Hell is inhabited by scorpions just as in our own iconography it is inhabited by bats.

Frankly, I find scorpions a whole lot more scary than bats, which I actually kind of like.

But I'm a big believer in just getting bugs out of the house without killing them.

Perhaps it's my quasi-Buddhist leanings.


Kim G
Boston, MA
Where the climate manages to kill off most nasties at least once a year. Except for all the centipedes in the basement.

Anonymous said...

Now the moral devolution begins.

A. N. Moose

VisitLaManzanilla said...

A few weeks ago we had some gravel moved and within 2 days we had 3 huge scorpions in the house. We killed all 3!