Scary spring encounter

Spring is, without question, my favourite season.

The snow is gone; the sun is out; the trees start to bloom and, over all, it is just a wonderful time to be alive.

There is, however, one small drawback to spring: the return of bugs.

The winter months, while cold, are a bug-free environment, devoid of the nasty, little critters that go into stasis until it is time to re-awaken and scare the snot out of me once again.

During the winter, I forget what it is like to have a creepy, buzzing, insect fly into my hair (what little of it I have) and twist around to get free.

This instantly and without fail causes me to thrash wildly as I try to get the vermin off my head lest I do something in my trousers I have not done since I was a small child.

In case you haven't guessed, I don't like bugs.

When I was a young lad, bugs did not bother me a bit. I used to catch them, hold them in my hands and, in general, I was at one with the insect. But the older I got, the less I liked them.

My first bug encounter of this year involved some sort of flying beast.

It was a cross between an ant and a pterodactyl, only bigger and scarier.

It landed on the back of my neck and threatened to work its way down the back of my shirt.

Without thinking, my ninja-like reflexes grabbed the winged horror. It squirmed between my finger and thumb and I almost – almost – screamed like a small, frightened girl.

As soon as I clamped down on the unholy abomination, my mind started to race.

First, I was amazed at how big this thing was. Shouldn't it just be a tiny little insect at this time of year?

This monstrosity was a full grown bug.

And whenever there is an encounter with a bug of any kind, the question looms: what kind of bug is it?

If you ask entomologists, they will say there are millions of types of bugs out there. I am not a bug expert, but I can tell you that there are only two types of bugs in the this world – ones that will hurt you and ones that won't.

I did not know what type of bug this was.

Was it the kind with a giant stinger, or pincers, or a knife — or a gun? Who knows?

Or was it one of those friendly, Disney type bugs that instead of hurting you becomes your adorable little friend?

I did not know and as I felt the beast try to get free from my grasp I waited for the pain. The searing, instant pain that only an evil bug can deliver.

All these thoughts tore through my semi-panicked mind in a nano-second. Time slows down when you are in great peril and holding some form of nasty bug between my fingers was great peril indeed.

As I pulled my hand away from my neck I looked at the critter and saw this brownish-red head with huge eyes looking at me.

However, there was no pain, so either I had it in such a hold it could not unleash its insect fury or it was one of those friendly bugs.

With reflexes that would make Chuck Norris look like a sloth on Valium, I threw the offending beast to the ground only to watch it spread it massive wings and soar away, blocking the sun as it passed.

I still don't know what kind of bug it was, and to tell you the truth I don't really care.

I survived my first up-close-and-personal contact of 2017 with an insect.

But if this is a sign of things to come, it's going to be a long summer.


It was different back then

Every year, my parents would go on a two-week vacation that typically involved a marathon road trip somewhere in the United States.

We would all pile into the station wagon with the fake wood grain finish and head out on the open road while towing a tent trailer that would be our home for the next 14 days or so.

My parents would, of course, sit in the front, my two sisters in the back seat and my brother and I would lie down in the back with some pillows.

Seatbelts? We don’t need no stinking seatbelts.

We would wave at police as they went by and sometimes the police would wave back. No one gave it a second thought that we did not have any seatbelts and the only thing keeping us back there was gravity.

We were kids; we never thought of the possible dangers. What did we care if in the event of an accident we would rocket through the air like little, pink missiles. We had the back of the family wagon to ourselves and it was sweet.

It was a different world back then. We would drive at 60 miles an hour for hours on end and the only safety device my brother and I had were the pillows that would hopefully pile up at the windshield before we did, thus cushioning the blow as our young selves hurled around the interior of the car.

Other kids would be sitting in the back of their cars waving at us. It was like a rolling convoy of kiddie carnage just waiting to be unleashed.

When dad had to slam on the brakes, we would go sliding up against the back seat, books would be flying around, pens, pencils and what ever else we had back there with us would projectile to the front of the car.

A sharp corner had a similar effect only in a lateral manner rather than back to front.

It was kind of like a home-made rollercoaster, except there were no seatbelts.

We never thought of the possible hazards, nor did our parents, the police, the government or anyone else.

Now days, everyone has to wear a seatbelt, which is a good thing. You are also supposed to wear a helmet when riding a bike – another good thing.

As a young lad, I learned to ride a bike with no protective gear whatsoever.

Helmets? Those were for motorcycles. No one needed them on a pedal bike.

These days, when most parents send their kids out their bikes they have:

  • helmets
  • knee pads
  • elbow pads
  • a full suit of armour
  • home-made airbags on the handlebars

An still, some over-protective parent will run beside their child with a large pillow to throw beneath them should they have an unplanned dismount from their metal steed.

Of course, no child should be sent out without being completely encased in bubble wrap. That way, when junior crashes, all there will be is a multitude of popping noises as the child bounces down the street.

Crash – pop, pop, pop – bounce – pop, pop, pop.

“I’m OK.”

The kid will look like the Michelin Man, but the new mantra is safety first, so there can be no such thing as too much gear.

One area where safety has not penetrated is the world of skateboarders. You will see the occasional helmet, but, in general, the only thing between a skater’s melon and the cold, hard concrete is a hat or some goofy hair.

I guess it’s not ‘cool’ to be wear a helmet, but one good whack on the bean and you are eating Jello and playing with crayons for the rest of your life.

I am sure eventually the skater safety attitude will change and soon everyone on a skateboard will be covered in a titanium suit that could stop a speeding freight train.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world will already be several steps ahead in safety and all cars will come with dozens of airbags, all occupants must wear complete hockey gear – football gear would be an acceptable substitute for our American cousins – and, of course, the car, the driver and the passengers will be completely encased in bubble wrap.

Remember kids, safety first.

Conspiracy of great gravity

OK, something is wrong here.

Over the winter, I took up snowshoeing and encountered a worrisome situation: it seems Earth's gravitational pull is increasing.

How else can you explain how hard it was snowshoeing up a hill?

For some reason, trudging through the woodland realm in the middle of winter was challenging and the only thing I can think of is an increase in gravitational pull.

Has no one else noticed this?

It can't be me, because I am a in shape — the shape happens to be round, but it is still a shape.

I do exercise on a regular basis. No. Really. I do.

I go on my treadmill at least six days a week for up to an hour per session.

I used to do martial arts until Father Time slapped me around too much and I could no longer keep up with the young whippersnappers.

I also don't heal as fast as I used to, so it was time to hang up the gloves, but I still keep active.

That is why I couldn't believe how hard it was to go for a mountain bike ride.

I bought a new bike a few days ago and couldn't wait to go for a nice, long ride.

The bike is decent, not a high-end $10,000 bike, but a decent two-wheeled roller ideal for an old-ish guy like me.

Besides, if I had 10-grand to spend on a bike, it would come with a motor.

The last bike I bought was 22 years ago. It was fairly high-end and thanks to a buddy who ran the bike shop, I got a pretty darn good deal.

I put a lot of hours on that bike both on the street and cross-country trails.

I was doing martial arts back then as well, so I was in decent shape.

It has been a few years since I have used pedal power as a form of exercise, but it was always something I enjoyed, so I decided to dig out my old bike, which, after being used by friends of my teenage son, had seen better days.

I didn't mind as I figured I was due for a new bike anyway — buying a new steed every two decades is acceptable. I bought a new, shiny, black bike and as soon as I got home, I grabbed my shiny, new, black helmet and took off for what I knew would be an epic ride.

And it was, for the first few blocks. The epic transitioned into exhausting, especially when I hit the first hill. Half way up, I did the stop-and-get-off-the-bike-and-look-at-the-gears-like-something-is-wrong-so-I-can-catch-my-breath routine.

I was stunned at how out of shape I was.

This can't be right. I do a run/walk/lean on the treadmill for at least an hour a day. every day, so why was this so hard?

I used to rip up hills on my mountain bike like I had a jet pack strapped to my butt. Sure, I have not been on a bike for a few years, but this can't right. It should not be this hard.

Could it be that my middle-aged, somewhat flabby physique was that bad?

I was once a mighty athlete. OK, I was once an athlete. OK, OK, I attempted to play sports when I was younger, but now I could barely ride up a little hill.

Was I getting that old and out of shape?

Then, it hit me. Memories of the snowy climb that left me gasping for air flooded my mind, the sweat, the sore muscles, the gasping for air (I know I mentioned that once already, but I feel it was important enough to list twice) and I knew what the truth was.

I knew why things were so much harder: Earth's gravitational pull had increased even more since the winter.

I knew there had to be a logical explanation.


Film's bald conspiracy

So what is the big deal about hair loss?
What’s wrong with showing a little scalp?

As you may have guessed I am of the forehead enhanced group and I don’t have a problem with it.

But some people do. They arrange their hair in goofy configurations – known throughout the land as a comb over – to cover their shame.

There are advertisements for laser hair therapy, or LHT for those in the know, and a whole truck load of ways to make the locks last longer.

There are even clubs for bald guys who wish they were hair guys.

I don’t get it.

Like with so many other woes of society – such as every movie Steven Seagal has ever made – Hollywood is to blame.

You will notice there are no bald people in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

More than 200 hours worth of movie and there is barely a scalp to be seen in all of Middle Earth. Oh, sure, there is one bald Hobbit in the opening and closing scenes, but that’s it.

Other than that, the only ones without hair are the Orcs.

Is Hollywood saying losing your hair is akin to being some hideous creature with bad teeth and a skin condition that really should be looked at?

What if Frodo were bald? Would that be so bad? Instead, the main characters have more hair than a 1980s rock band.

The monstrous '90s hit Jurassic Park did have a few hair-challenged characters, but they were all eaten by dinosaurs.

The balding lawyer was the first to go – chomped by a T Rex.

The balding computer technician played by Samuel L. Jackson was also a dino pate when he was set upon by a flock of velociraptors, which obviously preferred a hairless meal because they also ate the balding big game hunter.

So who survived? People with hair. All the heroes with their lovely locks lived to be part of the sequel. So once again Hollywood is screwing the bald man.

Do people with hair know how tough it is to be bald? Do they appreciate the hell we must endure on a rainy day and we don’t have a hat?

Do they know what it’s like to feel that great, big freezing drop of water fall from the eves of a building and land with a smack on an uncovered cranium?

No, they don’t because they have a little helmet of hair between them and that Volkswagen-size drop of water.

On TV, it’s the same story. People with hair are running around being the hero and saving the damsel in distress while the bald guy waits in the wings and is treated like the drunk uncle nobody talks about.

“OK. The script says it’s time for someone to get killed, quick, send in the bald guy.”

And the bald guy shows up just in time to get munched on by a dinosaur with an eating disorder or to get splatted by a falling piano.

There are a few exceptions to the rule. Take Bruce Willis for example. True, he may have started his career with hair, but he is now one of us – a brother of the scalp.

Fortunately shaving your head bald is en vogue, so he can get away with it.

The trend of shaving one’s head is proof that deep down inside, hair people want to be bald people.
But the ratio of bald actors to hairy ones remains seriously lopsided. It’s an attempt by Hollywood to keep the bald man down.

It’s like Hollywood is terrified some sort of weird hair leprosy will strike them down if they associate with the follicle diminished.

So it’s time for baldies to unite. Stand tall and stand proud. And when one of the hair people comes close, reflect the sun off your forehead and blind them.

It won’t give you any more hair, but you might feel better knowing you have just fried their retinas.

More The Shoebox articles

About the Author

Darren Handschuh has been working as a writer and photographer in the media industry for the past 25 years. He is married, has three children, a dog and two cats (although he is not completely sure how that part happened).

He takes a humourous look at life, and has often said, “I might as well laugh at myself, everyone else does.” 

His writings have been compared to a collection of words from the English language assembled in a somewhat coherent manner. High praise indeed.

Life gives Darren plenty of material for his column, and no one is safe from his musings – especially himself. 

He regularly writes to his blog www.therudemonkey.blogspot.ca.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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