An Alaskan Story

Have I talked about the mosquitoes here yet?

Because I feel the need to tell you about them.

When we first moved to Alaska, it was wintertime, therefore we had no way to measure the truth against the rumor.  It was -50 with the windchill and all we cared about was not freezing to death.

As the winter months turned warmer and spring loomed ahead, people warned us of the “bug problem.”  Working in retail, we received ridiculous amounts of bug dope and every kind of mosquito repelling garment known to man.  Howard and I would just look at each other, while building an end cap display, with a look of skepticism like “Surely, the mosquitoes are not that bad.”

We grew up in the south for God’s sake.  We knew about mosquitos.  It was commonplace to run around bare-legged in the summertime with your knees and ankles speckled with bug bites.  It was also commonplace to smell like bug repellant on a regular basis.  We’d been there, done that.  Clearly, we were not worried about the mosquito problem.  We poo poo’ed the whole notion.

Then came our first Alaskan summer.  And I don’t have to tell you how much we were proven wrong.  In the village we lived in at the time, there were not only mosquitos; there were “White Socks” and “No-See-Ums.”  And they all came at the same time.  We couldn’t step foot outdoors without a halo of bugs hovering over our heads.  God forbid we actually try to hold a conversation outside lest we get a mouthful of protein.

They were every bit as bad as people warned us.  We were very much humbled.

The company we worked for, transferred us before the next bug season.  This time we were overly cautious.  We happily filled a display with every kind of bug repellant known to man.  People in the village would tell us the bug problem really wasn’t as bad as other places.  Again, we poo poo’ed their notions and stocked up.  We’d BEEN THERE and DONE THAT and weren’t about to get caught with our pants down again.

Of course this means that because we lived in a coastal community where the wind is almost constantly blowing, naturally, the bug problem was indeed “not that bad.”  We were relieved to be proven wrong, in fact; but were happy we were proactive anyway.

Two summers later, we were living in another village (the company we worked for often moved managers around…A LOT) on the North Slope.

And let me just get right to the point.  NOTHING could have prepared us for the mosquito problem there.

They were the size of house cats and slow moving and NOTHING could kill them.  I often expected to come home and find one lounging on my couch when I got home with the remote in hand.  I imagined I’d walk in the door and it would wave its tentacle at me and say “How was your day?  You’re out of milk…..Oh and by the way, I ate the dog and the cat.”

Or when I made a mad dash to the car, trying to elude them, it would not have shocked me to find one sitting in the driver’s seat offering to drive me to work.

I am not kidding.  They really were that bad.

So, when we moved to our current village, we were relieved that the bug problem was not as bad as the previous one or the first one but not as tolerable as the coastal community.

We’d found a happy medium.  We could live with that.

Then came the beginning of Summer of 2009.  The summer coming off a record snowfall of over 12 feet which means that most of the ground is still soggy and wet from the big melt.  It doesn’t take a smart person to understand that mosquitos are attracted to water and in fact, make their babies in it.

In Alaska, we have a product known commonly as “Purge.”  It’s a powerful bug repellent that can be placed in a battery operated contraption designed to periodically spray every few hours keeping your house mosquito and bug free. 

Trust me when I say that YES, no matter how many screens you have, no matter how much sealant you put around cracks in the doorway and windows,  Alaska mosquitos will ALWAYS find their way into your home.  No, I’m not kidding. 

Last week, Howard was out of town, and I mistakenly believed that the mosquito problem wasn’t “bad enough” to invest in a bottle of Purge (can you say 30 bucks per bottle?).

When I was awakened at 2am by the familiar sound buzzing my ear and was suddenly attacked by an entire swarm of them, I immediately regretted my poor judgment.  I turned on the fan, but it wasn’t powerful enough to keep them away from me.  I tried swatting at them, shutting all the windows, and hiding my entire body under the covers.  After about 20 bites on my arms, my neck, my face, my legs…I was frustrated and not a little irritated.  I ran through the options in my head.

“The store isn’t open, so I can’t run down there and buy a bottle.”

“Everyone is asleep….and though Dusty does a lot for me…a 2am call crying over mosquitos may just be a deal breaker.”

(Howard was out of town on business)

And finally I remembered that there was a big bottle at my office.

Which, thankfully, was right across the street.

I threw the covers off of me, slipped on pj pants and my flip flops and headed out the door.

If you’ve ever seen Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds”, you can appreciate the visual on what happened next.

I’d barely stepped out my front door when I was pelted with mosquitos.  I walked swiftly while swatting and swearing at the little bastards who-by the way are attracted to motion.

Oh my God, that was the longest walk of my entire life.  Running was not an option for me.  I was in flip flops and I am the biggest klutz in the universe.  It was either walk swiftly and swat or have road rash on my face.  Tell me, which one would you choose?  On second thought, don’t answer that.

There I was in mismatching pj top and bottoms, flip flops, and a bad case of bed head, swatting and swearing and dodging god damn mosquitos. 

At 2am in the morning.  Have I mentioned that the sun never sets in the summertime?


So, anyway, I made it to the clinic, grabbed the bottle of “Purge” and swatted and swore my way back over to my house.

I sprayed every single room, rubbed alcohol on my bites, and dove under the covers with the cat and the dog.

And laughed myself to sleep on the visual and the lesson that I cannot EVER seem to learn.

2 Responses

  1. Heather Says:

    Up here on the “north” coast (beside Lake Erie in Ohio) we have what they call muckleheads (or muffleheads). they are really bad this year which they say is good b/c then the lake is clean. They are just like mosquitos except they don’t bite and aren’t as big as your mosquitos get. So keep stocked up on Purge and wear light colored clothes. Hopefully you will get a really good dry spell and they will all die. :)

  2. Dusty Says:

    I LOVE this post! I laugh so hard I nearly pee my pants every time I read it! You looked crazed the next morning at the office!!! Great one!

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