for Heather – who requested the ant story I wrote for the wedding last weekend
Earlier this week on one of those perfectly lovely sunny fall days we have in Southern California, I ate my lunch in the Museum garden. I was able to enjoy the peace and quiet for only a few minutes before the bees found me. Or rather, they found my meatloaf, kale and steamed beans. It’s uncanny how they smell food – especially meat. Even though I put the lid on my lunch box, and my napkin over that, and tried to catch quick bites before covering it all up, the one bee soon became half a dozen, which were all dive-bombing me.
It was scary, especially as I’m allergic to bee stings, but didn’t have any antihistamines with me.
I couldn’t eat in a stuffy, noisy break-room, when the sun was “calling my name”! I packed everything away, moved to another bench on the other side of the garden, where the bees found me in less than three minutes. Three minutes!
At this time of the year, when it starts getting cold at night, I’ve noticed that the bees become more aggressive at lunch time, but I’ve never had so many buzzing around me like that.
I know we need the bees. If they disappeared, we’d have to pollinate all our fruit and nut trees by hand as they’re doing in parts of China, which is why I’ve tried to reach an understanding with the bees: I’ll leave them be, if they don’t bother me…
“Nah-nah-nah” they said as they buzzed around my head. I had to move again, but this time I was clever: I remained standing. Taking huge bites of food, slamming the lid quickly, then covering it all with my cloth napkin, and jumping about when one approached, I scarfed down the delicious meatloaf my Mr. F made for me.
The bees definitely won that round: I ate so quickly that I ended up with a belly ache.
Over the years I’ve worked at the Museum I’ve eaten many meals with bees, a few with hummingbirds, but only one with ants. On a Friday in October about 7 or 8 years ago, I brought a piece of Trader Joes, ‘Cranberry and Pumpkin loaf ’ for my recess snack, but when I took it out my lunch container, ants crawled out the plastic bag. My growling belly told me I needed to eat something, and fast, so I stared, in the hope that the ants would somehow disappear, but about half a dozen of them were soon exploring the picnic table.
I must explain this was the year I went swimming every Friday before work, and although the exercise in the pool made me hungry, I couldn’t eat more than a small bowl of cereal at breakfast, so on swim days I’d try to remember to bring an extra snack to eat in the car on my way to work, but on that particular morning I forgot to bring something. Breakfast at 7 am, swimming for an hour, my break, at a quarter past twelve, was late, no wonder I was starving, with a capital ‘H‘.
Why didn’t I eat my lunch you ask? There wasn’t enough time to go down to the break room to heat-‘n-eat in a fifteen minute recess.
Looking at the cake brought back memories of my high school history teacher, Miss G-. Truthfully none of us liked her, or the way she marched up and down the classroom banging her ruler on our desks, but every year the rest of the school looked on with envy when the Form One pupils had their lesson on the French Revolution, because she’d bring a slice of cake to the classroom – usually her famous Black Forest Chocolate Layer Cake – which she’d divide into 20 or so pieces for the pupils in the room, as she explained Marie Antoinette’s, “If there’s no bread for the poor, let them eat cake.”
My blood sugar was so low my hands were shaking, and the thought of going to the coffee cart in the courtyard to buy something, didn’t enter my mind. I could only think of *f*o*o*d*. And right now! …. I flicked the ants off, and ate the cake.
I wished my late father were still alive and could’ve seen me eating that piece of cake. It would’ve made him a happy man. He was always frustrated with us children when something fell on the floor, and we refused to eat it. “Nothing the matter with it. Put it under the tap.” he’d say. We’d just laugh at him.
After a few bites I sighed contentedly, and looked up to see Edith staring at me, her eyes as big as saucers, her food still untouched. Did I mention that Edith, Jolly and I all worked at the Museum? Most days the two sweethearts ate their meals together, but Jolly wasn’t with us that morning.
“Would you like a bite?” I asked Edith
“NO thank you!” she said…
“Hey listen,” I said, “Ants aren’t dirty. Believe me, if there were flies in my cake I wouldn’t have carried on eating…”
You know I have the feeling that Edith’s a teeny bit sorry she didn’t have a bite of my cake that day, because she asked me to bring a desert to her wedding. I won’t tell you which cake I brought, you’ll have to look for the ants.