Tuesday, September 03, 2002

Your Mantis Style is No Match for My Ancient Kung Fu Broom Style!

I nearly jumped out of my fucking skin today at the gas pump. There I was, pumping my gas, letting my eyes wander around in a bored daze-like stupor, and then my brain finally registered what it was that I had been staring at.

A Praying Mantis was just sitting there on the cement curb under the pump hoses in front of the pump. Instant Goosebumps the Size of Mt. Everest. After the initial shock wore off, I immediately called Liz to tell her of the shocking news. I had yet to see a Praying Mantis here in Illinois, and I've lived here for 31 years, mostly.

She told me that they're actually very polite, nice creatures. And she was dead on. I sat there, amazed, as the Mantis watched me walk back and forth in front of it; its arms curled in front of it and head cocked to the side in an almost inquisitive "hey, whatcha doin'?" pose. It looked like it was going to follow me. I guess it's because their head is very large and noticeable, and it's fairly articulated in that it can turn much like a human head can, making it easier for us to identify with.

So I started feeling sorry for it, because it really seriously looked like a lost child there in front of the gas pump like that. Not a whole lot of insects for it to eat, or branches for it to perch on. Luckily for it, my gas purchase seemed to have a problem with it, so I went inside to verify that it was indeed paid for, and to retrieve a receipt.

While inside, I asked the woman behind the counter if they had a broom or some stick-like object with which I could try and move the Mantis with. Thankfully, she didn't think I was a nutjob (Ha! Fooled her!) and gave me a broom from in back.

Back outside, Manty (his new nickname) didn't seem to want to get on the bristles of the broom. I can't say I blame him (actually it was a "her" since she was quite large) as that broom was nasty. The poor thing was showing humanly recognizable signs of panic as I tried presenting the broom for it to crawl on. "Sweet zombie Jesus! What the fuck is this thing and why is it attacking me?!? Why lord, WHY?!?!" So I had to resort to plan B: try and scare the little guy to move toward the bushes.

I learned something new today about Praying Mantises: THE FUCKERS CAN FLY. Twice in ten minutes this guy had gotten me to jump out of my skin now. They never show the damn things flying on the nature documentaries! Screw you, Mutual of Omaha! After it had fallen down onto the ground and was trying to skedaddle away from my Impending Doom Broom, it decided that I was not someone to be trusted (honestly, it kept looking back at me as if to ask me why I was doing this to it), and took flight. Twice. Wow. Just wow. The wings are as long as its rear abdomen section, which made for about a six to eight inch wingspan. So we're talking about the size of a small bird here. Fortunately for my skin (lest it completely leap from my body), it can't really fly so much as it can desperately glide in one direction much like some grasshoppers.

In the end, it finally made it into one of the bushes on the other side of the parking lot. I must have looked like a complete weirdo to everyone else: the guy sweeping some giant rodent of a bug into a bush.

But I just couldn't leave it there. I knew for sure it would have been squashed to smithereens by some panicky mom in a mini-van later that day, and it really was cute, even though it was as big as my hand. When I went to return the broom I looked around to see if it had any friends, because I seemed to remember from my time in North Carolina that whenever I saw one there, there were others. Much like cockroaches; when you see one Mantis, there are usually more nearby.

Sure enough, there was one squished on top of one of the bags of road salt stacked inbetween the gas pumps. So I guess I did the right thing in scaring the little guy to safety.

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