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Words and pixels by M. Scott Smith

From the Less Mature Files: Bug Assault on my Apartment 🔗

As an undergraduate at Drexel University in the mid-90's, I served as a columnist, contributing weekly bits of satire in an effort to amuse others or at least myself. I'm dusting off some of those columns and reprinting them here, in raw, unedited form.

After spending 3 years in the dorms, I finally moved out and rented my own apartment. Of course, bugs and rodents in cities such as Philadelphia are attracted to apartments like magnets to, well, magnets; and I was amused each evening as some type of insect made its way across the wall. This column reflected on that, and deftly moved from bugs to cereal in a seamless fashion. (This was something I tried to do in most all of my columns: change the subject on the reader at least two times before the column was over.)

Read on to enjoy..




Ah, summer. The warmth accelerates strange and unexplicable chemical reactions in the Schulykil River, while bugs, rested from the long winter, gear up for their annual trek across my apartment.

This past winter, I spent all of my free time skiing locally and in Colorado. While I was carving S's and enjoying myself, bugs from all around Philadelphia were holding conventions where they busily planned their assault against my apartment. This year, their conventions were also open to small rodents.

One small rodent, a mouse, volunteered to pay the highest price for the cause, by committing suicide in my apartment even before I moved into it. Shortly after moving into my apartment this spring, I noticed a slight smell that seemed to grow with each passing day. But I couldn't determine the source. I thought jokingly to myself that a rodent had probably died behind a major appliance. Sadly, empirical evidence soon suggested that this was exactly what had happened, and I spent a Saturday night pulling the refrigerator from the wall and remedying the unpleasant situation behind it.

The score so far is bugs/rodents 1, Scott 0. But research from last year has yielded a new arsenal of weapons that are ready for my disposal: common household cleaners. Oh, sure, you can buy products like Raid - or Roach Motels - but why bother when Palmolive does the job just hokey-pokey - and leaves your hands feeling soft with the fresh scent of lemons?

I've discovered that Windex works fairly well on small insects, but nothing can touch Dow Disinfectant Bathroom Cleaner (you know, the one with scrubbing bubbles!) Any product by Dow Chemical - the company that "lets you do good things" - is something to be respected, and never to be used in coffee as a sweetener or as a French toast topping.

Dow Bathroom Cleaner is particularly well-suited for larger insects. For example, one night last year, a centipede with several dozen legs made his way across my wall. The Windex merely fazed the creature. A few cans of Dow Bathroom Cleaner not only cleaned the centipede, but disinfected it as well.

It is not uncommon that my apartment smells like Ammonia-D. This year, thanks to revolutionary breakthroughs at the Windex company, I am looking forward to my apartment smelling like the new and improved Ammonia-D. It's really quite amazing what they've done with Ammonia-D. You can now get yellow Windex, the traditional blue Windex, Potpourri Pink Windex, Kato Kaelin Windex, and clear Windex, which is not to be confused with Crystal Clear Pepsi, although both make effective glass cleaners and leave no streaks behind. I have not yet determined which color is most effective in disabling insects, but I've theorized that insects are colorblind, so I recommend buying whatever's cheapest, or whatever color matches best with whatever else is inside the cabinet under your sink.

In an odd sort of way, this all reminds me of that Cheerios commercial. You know, the one where they're talking about other cereals. The announcer asks a lady how much she really knows about her cereal.

Naturally, she smugly says she knows everything. This lady is a bona fide cereal expert, you see. If one could receive a doctoral degree in cerealcology, she'd be first in line. Heck, she'd be handing them out.

The announcer, whose voice seems to be emanating from the kitchen ceiling, presumably causing the lady to think that a supernatural force is attempting to discuss breakfast cereal with her, asks in a booming voice, "did you know they added salt?"

The lady crinkles her nose in disgust and asks "salt?" She looks down at her cereal, bewildered, as if she just realized she was consuming low-octane diesel fuel with her balanced breakfast of toast and orange juice.

The commercial continues with other cereal eaters being rudely awakened as they're told by an unseen authoritative voice that their cereal contains fat, sugar, pesticides, fingernails, and, well, centipede legs. At this point, the initial lady, who at one point seemed so composed, has broken down and is running around her kitchen in a fit of rage, tossing Cheerios up in the air while singing the "Honey Nut Cheerios" theme song, causing the housecat to flee in terror from the kitchen.

Of course, Mueslix cereal eaters have happily eaten their cereal, knowing all along that it contained salt, sugar, and fingernails, along with tree bark, pine needles, small pebbles, and parts of any forest critters that were unfortunate enough to be around when the Kelloggs company scraped the ground in search of the high-fiber constituents of Mueslix.

It's actually rather unfortunate that thousands of acres of rainforests are cleared each day simply to make a cereal that no one really likes, except older retired couples, who only buy it because it's on sale and they have a coupon, and who would break their dentures if they tried eating it anyway.

The best cereals are those ones that are essentially concentrated sugar. These can be spotted by searching the "Nutritional Facts" labels. These labels tend to say "this product contains no nutrition," or sometimes "what are you, kidding?"

To make up for the lack of nutrition, these cereals often come with "free" toys which shouldn't be used by children under 3, without parental supervision. Some of the newer cereals are coming with "free" parents to eliminate this shortcoming.

But all in all, I'm pleased with the cereal industry. They're actually able to magnify their products without making them disgusting. For example, the pictures of cereal on cereal box covers tend to have the message "enlarged to show texture," since texture is a very important characteristic of any high-quality cereal. If you enlarged pictures of the insects that are currently training for their next assault against my apartment, and placed these pictures on cereal boxes, I think a lot of rainforests could be saved.

M. Scott Smith is a junior majoring in computer science. There are actually more bugs in the computer programs he writes than in his apartment.

- By M. Scott Smith, May 31, 1995. All rights reserved.

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