They disembarked at my shores like a storm with no warning, escalating the possibility of war…
After getting settled in my studio apartment in Thailand, and following weeks of mindless harvest of enjoyable (and totally unhealthy) street food, I was ready to prepare my first meal at home: tuna salad with chopped vegetables, spread on rye bread, topped with cheddar cheese, and warmed in the toaster oven.
Keeping my MacBook closed, I-phone in my pocket, book on the shelf, I resolved to eat my dinner in silence. I placed my tuna sandwich on my newly purchased Japanese-style plate, and then tenderly positioned it in the center of my brand new IKEA table. I sat down and wistfully gazed at my food, musing about the naked simplicity of this present moment: me, sandwich, silence. No plans for the future or memories of the past. No worries, gripes, or hang-ups. I took the first bite and felt my brain deliver sweet accolades of euphoria through my body.
However, my solitude was soon to be interrupted by the visitors. I first noticed them when they marched past my plate. They were 5 strong, filling the my the room with an air of menacing fidelity – a deep devotion to feed their master – The Queen. One could only guess when the contingents landed on the shores of my apartment Room 8406; could have been days, months, even years before my settling there.
They were dressed in matching black armor and moved in unison. Indeed, they were born and raised as loyal clones, bred to follow all orders even in the face of the most perilous circumstance – the encounter with humans.
They’re here! I thought to myself unnervingly. The ants disembarked to claim their stake on their land…which I now occupied…Room 8406. I knew right away that my waging war on the colony would not only be futile, but it would be inhumane – kind of like when in real life countries invade other countries with no resolution and regard for human life. Yes. There would have to be another way to face my fate: to offer diplomacy and request peaceful co-existence.
Meanwhile, the scouting division of five ants ceased its advance and froze to assess the viability of the situation. I watched their antennae waving in the air like leaves in a storm. They must have been using a cryptic ant language to discuss the situation before them. They were probably saying, “Hmmm, what shall we report to her Majesty: deploy troops to R8406 or continue the search for other options?” The ants continued the procession past my food to the other side of the table, down the table leg, and across the floor toward the nearest corner. Then they disappeared out of site – for a while.
I imagined the ants reporting the epic news: “Your majesty! Your majesty! We have located a human occupier in your kingdom! He cooks his own food every day. And…and….and he leaves crumbs…EVERYWHERE! Your highness, we have on our hands a pure-breed draggletail messy-eating – S-L-O-B!
The Queen would nod her head in stoic approval and order immediate construction of a Food-Gathering Formicidae Military Base in between the walls of my room.
And they did just that. Here’s a list of the ways that the Ant Colony of R8406 has workred for the sake of my well-being:
– I am now extremely mindful of how well I clean up after myself
– My apartment is free of dirty dishes
– My floor and counters are free of crumbs
– If I do leave any trace of food, the ants come out of the woodwork to help me with cleanup. Once all the food is gone, they disappear.
– The ants have challenged my ego in many ways. If you really think about it, is it right to say that the ants are disturbing my peace and my space? Who was here first? The ants! In fact it is I who is disturbing the ants, if anything.
– It’s actually pretty cool to share the apartment with the ants. We’ve um, uh, kinda become friends. I like their company. And I’m pretty sure they like my food.
I can’t wait for an opportunity to share this story with my students at school; to share my opinion that Ants – just like people, just like anybody and everything – are good teachers for us.
And to the ants I dedicate this pithy poem:
Mad Gratitude for changing my mood
And deep apologies for my maybe being rude (before)
Thanks for helping me clean up my mess
You and your Queen are totally the best!
 Formicidae is the family that ants belong to. And just in case you were wondering they also reside in the same insect family as wasps – the Hymenoptera. Cooooooool!