overkill

Last summer, Lisa and I invited her family over to our house.  It was our turn to host one of the quarterly birthday celebrations.  Lisa’s family is large, and they work really hard to get together a few times a year to spend time as a family.

We have a wooded back yard, with a fairly large deck just outside the back door.  Last summer we were plagued by tiny biting gnats apparently living under the deck.  It was such that we simply avoided spending time out there after July.  When we tried to eat dinner, or have a drink out at the table, we’d find little chigger like welts all over our legs about 24 hours later.  These gnats were relentless!  This was our first summer in the house, and we hope it’s not a yearly occurrence.

So anyway, when we decided to have her family over we knew that we would have to utilize the deck.  There simply isn’t room in the house for her large family to gather comfortably. We made plans for food, plans for seating, plans for activities, and then a few days before the event we decided we had to make plans for the gnats.  How could we in good conscience set her family loose on the deck to be devoured by our plague of biting gnats.   What hospitality!  Though I’m not all about entertaining, I know you are supposed to send your guests home with no more injuries than they had upon arrival.  I can just hear it, five years later at the Thanksgiving gathering, “I’m thankful that we are here and not at Marg and Lisa’s being devoured by the horrible gnats.”

So as Lisa was doing some final cleaning (probably dusting, I tend to make myself scarce when the swiffer comes out least I be drafted to participate in this, my least favorite task) I got in the car and headed to Lowe’s to buy something for the gnats.

Now you must understand that we are very tollerant of most insects.  Spiders and beetles and bugs of all sorts are gently relocated should they end up in our house, or if their webs threaten to entangle people walking through doorways.  Even the really big ones are carefully stalked, trapped (usually by Lisa, I have my limits) and moved.  But we don’t similarly embrace the mosquitos, fleas and biting gnats.  We are of the opinion that they are dangerous, and so we don’t lose any sleep over stopping them from doing harm, which unfortunatly usually involves killing them. 

At Lowe’s, I looked at one brightly colored plastic bottle after another. There was bug fogger, bug spray, bug dust, one type of bug killer after another.  I read the labels looking for something that would only kill the gnats, with as little collateral damage as possible.  But what I found was that everything I could buy to kill the gnats would also kill just about every living thing under the deck.  Even the insects that might be already be on our side of this conflict would be harmed. Seemed like the definition of overkill to me.

I left empty handed.  When Lisa asked why I didn’t buy anything I explained that I couldn’t stomach slaughtering every living thing under our deck just because a few of them were causing trouble.  Just couldn’t do it.  She said she understood and was glad I had made that decision.

So we ended up simply making a little request of the gnats that day. Asking them to please take the day off, you know, skip the family picnic. When people came over we offered them our “all natural” bug spray and explained the problem. In the end nobody even noticed the gnats.  Maybe they were on their best gnat behavior, maybe there were enough people on the deck wearing bug spray that the gnats decided it was better to stay away.

But both of Lisa and I were glad not to have been responsible for hurting thousands of innocent creatures. 

I wonder how Ehud Olmert feels.

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