Tick Time

About a month ago, a dear friend who shall remain nameless asked if I wanted to take a look at the contents of his garage. He was feeling the need to sell off a few things following an incident where a tower of rattan furniture toppled over on him.

I wasn’t surprised. His old wooden garage was packed to the rafters. There were chairs on top of chests and chests on top of chairs, and meandering through it all was a little path along which he moved quickly and generally with few incidents. It was a masterful assembly, the like of which I’d never seen up close in real life.

Most of the furniture in the garage was a tad formal, even for him. And, I just couldn’t picture an Empire sofa or an English linen press in my cottage. However, there was a round oak pedestal table way in the back that caught my eye. Oak furniture often tends to be very Mission or very Country. This table was the exception, looking more like something you’d see in a kitchen in Provence than in a breakfast nook in Country Club Estates. I bought it.

Shortly after the table arrived so too did the first tick. He climbed onto my white MacBook and tip toed across the number keys. Tick two was smaller and quicker. She disappeared beneath my Tab key. Tick number three showed up on the Style section of the Sunday New York Times.

They were — quite literally — coming out of the woodwork.

Back when I was growing up, ticks didn’t concern us. But then neither did drinking and driving or excessive sun tanning. Today we know ticks carry a host of diseases, including cat scratch fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and Lyme disease, one of the fastest growing infectious diseases in the country.

The deer tick, aka the black-legged tick, is the primary culprit responsible for spreading the disease. I had no idea if my ticks were dog ticks or deer ticks or one of the eighty other species native to the United States. Supposedly you can recognize a tick by its distinctive shield (that area just behind the mouth). Nature’s own heraldic symbol, so to speak. Of course, it’s nearly impossible to identify a tick after it’s been smashed.

Ticks are very patient creatures. They don’t travel very far on their own, preferring to hitch a ride on a host. I’ve always envisioned them waiting in the grasses and woods to jump a hot blooded meal. But, they often live near the foundations of houses and garages, lurking in the crevices of siding and below porches. It’s not unusual for the small arachnids to sneak into the house and hide behind baseboards, window casings, bookcases, curtains, inside upholstered furniture, and under the edges of rugs. Also, apparently, beneath oak pedestal tables.

I had no idea ticks could go for as long as two hundred days without a blood meal or that their sensory organs are so complex they can detect live, warm-blooded prey just from the carbon dioxide it gives off.

One night, not too far removed from my initial encounter with the ticks, I was certain more of the hungry, heat-seeking missiles had tracked me to the bedroom. You know how sometimes you wake up in the middle of the night convinced something is crawling on you? It was like that. On my foot. On my forehead. After tearing the bed apart not a tick was uncovered. I did, however, discover an old Xanax under the mattress, so I popped it. Just to take the edge off.

The moral of the story, dear readers, is that ticks love fashionable coastal resorts. The Hamptons, I hear, are riddled with them, as is Cape Cod.
Delaware annually ranks among the top ten states for Lyme disease. One in five full-time residents of Martha’s Vineyard has reported having a tick borne illness.

I’ve actually witnessed Vineyarders nonchalantly flicking ticks off their arms and legs during cocktail parties. Without spilling their drinks, of course.

So as you enjoy the eye candy returning to Rehoboth this season, please remember to keep your eyes peeled for ticks. May to August is their season too, and they’re thirsting for a cocktail.

As for me, I shall remain vigilant, with a can of spray by my side and a bottle of pills by my bed.

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