Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Crickets in the Microwave Vent and Other First-World Problems

Just in case you are not friends with me on Facebook and/or have not been paying attention to my periodic rants, you might not be aware that the Pilot and I have been suffering, by various degrees at various times over the past month, of a cricket invasion of the Humble Abode (our name for our two-bedroom apartment.) It began with me finding a single, mostly-dead cricket next to the Pilot's shorts on our bedroom floor. Horrified, I clapped a glass over the twitching insect so that the Pilot could dispose of it when he got home. I didn't even know what it was at the time. I had seen a cricket perhaps twice before in my whole life. To me, crickets were nothing more than a serene serenade on summer evenings that could escort me to dreamland.

Fast-forward to the present moment, and this very evening I declared passionately to my friend Ashley that I don't ever want to hear another cricket chirp again. The twitching cricket underneath the glass became four or five dead crickets in the entryway every morning, then six or seven spreading into our dining area and kitchen, then a dozen or so, and then they stopped being dead and started slinking through the cracks and crevices to invade our peace in all their hopping, squirming, wriggling, malevolent life.

I grew up reading A Pocketful of Cricket, a children's story-book about a little boy named Jay who finds a cricket that becomes his friend, and he keeps it in his pocket, and under a tea-strainer at night, and bounces on his bed with it, and takes it to school in his pocket. It's an adorable book. I highly recommend it– only keep in mind that that cute little black squiggle in the pictures is nothing like these jointy, leggy Orthoptera that give you the nastiest kind of shock when they fall out of your bathroom light fixture, or confront you perched on top of your laundry basket right next to your favorite sundress. One night I found a cricket antennae in our bed. My husband confessed that he had found a cricket there and killed it and tried to dispose of the remains so as not to freak me out. Out of appreciation for his kind efforts, I did my best not to freak out. But I did wash the sheets.

And now, there's one in our microwave. Or rather, it's somewhere in the microwave vents: who knows how or why it chose to hide there, but apparently the microwave fan doesn't bother it. It chirps every now and then as if to let us know it's still there. (By the way, I think chirp is the wrong word to be attached to the sound a cricket makes. It's far too sociable and cheerful a word; when you have crickets in your house, it strikes you as an irritating, monotonous sound, and threatening too in that it is a mating call and thus reminds you that these creatures want to reproduce and perpetually inflict themselves on you.)

I have now taken four rather melodramatic paragraphs to describe what is an extremely first-world problem. By this I mean problems that only people who live in first-world countries will encounter: countries where people can take it for granted that when they turn on their kitchen taps, the water that comes out won't kill them. Or that when they need toothpaste, they will have twenty-seven different kinds to choose from at Walmart or Target. (Or even that they can know that somewhere close by there is a Walmart or Target.) Another example of a first-world problem that the Pilot and I commonly encounter is our Netflix movie loading slowly because of the less-than-stellar connection our internet provider gives us. These are the kinds of problems that only people who don't have to think about where the next meal is going to come from have time to think about. Only people like us, who take for granted that we have a home with four walls (lots more than that, actually) and a roof and insulation and indoor plumbing and a firm believe that nothing can or at least should venture across our threshold without our approval, have time to worry about crickets.

This is the quandary I'm in: I can remind myself all day that my loathing of crickets in our home is a first-world problem, and I can be grateful that I don't have bigger things, such as malaria-laden mosquitoes or bacteria in the drinking water, to worry about. But I still hate the crickets. I still wish they would go away. They still make me start, freeze, and shudder when I come across one, and then either call the Pilot if he's home, or make a beeline for the bug spray or the nearest flip-flop, if he's not. At one point when the invasion was at its pinnacle, I told my husband rather petulantly that I didn't care if it was selfish to ask God to make the crickets disappear, I was going to anyway. I wish I could say that all the crickets in the state of Texas were instantly consumed into nothingness like little puffs of smoke. They weren't. Our cricket-in-house problem did ease up for about a week, and now, whether because of humidity or a second hatching or something, it's been worsening again. The Pilot went on a killing spree last night around the outside of our apartment, armed with a flashlight and bug spray, and I don't even want to open the front door because I know that there's a dozen mangled cricket carcasses strewn over the battlefield.

Is there any point to all of this?

Well– I have to believe that there is. Not just a silver lining in the cloud, not just a lesson, but a spiritual angle, a thread of grace. It sounds silly, I admit. Why bother looking for grace in cricket carcasses? Or in any obviously first-world problem?

It's because if there's one thing that I've been learning lately in this crazy up-and-down roller-coaster called life, it's that there's always a spiritual angle. Every circumstance is an opportunity to look for grace. If I ignore that opportunity, I am left with a string of happenstance, a jumble of meaningless events, but look for the hand of God even in something seemingly ridiculous like crickets and you can start seeing divine fingerprints all over the place.

So is there grace among the cricket-inspired shudders? How about this– this situation has given my husband repeated opportunities to love me and serve me by rescuing me from the crickets over and over. In fact I told him just how much it makes me feel loved when he dashes to dispose of a cricket without laughing at me or grumbling at my phobia. He is a perfect gentlemen about it. When we were dating we talked about dragon-slaying together; he never guessed he'd become the dauntless cricket-slayer!

Now, I'm ransacking my brain trying to come up with more examples of how the crickets are making me more sanctified or drawing me closer to God, and to be honest, I can't. I don't see that they're making me anything other than jumpy and undignified. But I can't help but be convinced that even something as silly and small (and gross) as crickets in the house can be used by the Creator of everything (including– sigh– crickets) for good.

God is always at work.

Even when I can't see it.

Even in something as weird and skin-prickling as crickets.

P.S. The first part of this post was written last night, to the sound of the cricket in the microwave vent. Later, I heard a rustling sound and looked into the kitchen to see a cricket skittering along the counter. The Pilot had just come in from the killing spree and the blood-wrath was still in his eyes. He vengefully smashed the cricket with my flip flop and I cleansed the counter with soap and water. I am choosing to believe that this was, in fact, the cricket that was in the microwave vent, since we have not heard it since. 

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