The Last Laugh: Ants in the Kitchen

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ILLUSTRATION: FARIDA ZAMAN
No table top is secure when there are ants in the kitchen.

If you’ve never had ants in the kitchen, it’s only a matter of time. People have fed ants such an assortment of delicacies and
condiments over the year that they have developed very educated taste
buds.

We should stop encouraging them. We should remember
that ants are fickle.

Just the other day, I visited friends
and I could barely reach the doorbell because they had an
inch-wide trail of pepper before the door that was supposed
to keep ants away.

Whatever happened to doormats that say,
“Welcome”?

I’m not sure, because I didn’t have my glasses on, but I
think the ants marching around held little placards saying
they were going to call in reinforcements from an ant
colony with a pepper culture that would eat right through
it. Or maybe they said they were negotiating for the pepper
to be topped with pork rinds.

It doesn’t matter. When ants
start carrying signs you know they’re serious.

One man I
know unloads a box of kosher salt around his sink. He says
kosher salt reminds the ants of mountain climbing, and
apparently most of them are into it in a big way, because
they keep climbing up and down over the chunks and leave
his food alone.

Another friend tries to ward them off by
putting slices of cucumber all over the place.

There are over three thousand different kinds of ants, and
there have been times when I think they all called a
convention in my kitchen.

Once I tried to annihilate an
army of ants by sticking cloves in every crevice of the
house. That got rid of them for one season. However, the
very next year those ants developed a taste for cloves.
They ate them up like appetizers on the way to raid my
cupboards.

Mary Ellen’s BestofHelpfulHints suggests using a chalk line to keep the ants
away. She doesn’t really tell you that it works. She simply
tells you to see for yourself.

Heloise says to sprinkle
talcum powder about, if you want your crop of ants to
disappear.

When you have such an assortment of ants coming to dinner,
it’s like inviting vegetarians and cattle ranchers to the
same spread. You can’t please them all or discourage them
all.

There’s no one thing that will send all ants off to
ant heaven, and you can’t just put them all into a blender
and have them come out with a common appetite.

Some folks
say you can pour boiling water over an ant hill, and it’s
supposed to kill them.

I went and borrowed three more tea
kettles from neighbors and boiled water on four burners one
day. Then I poured it over ant hills.

The next day, I found
all the ants in my part of the country had gathered
together to mourn the victims. They had taken up permanent
residence in the homes of the deceased.

Of course, for all I know, I had just drowned out the most
obvious ant motels and had missed some elegant ant haven in
the woods. Ant hills aren’t easy to find.

“Go to the ant, O
sluggard,” says the Bible, Proverbs: 6:6. “Consider her
ways and be wise.”

They’ve had us buying ant farms and
studying them for years.

We’ve found out that they greet
one another with a pat of their antennae and talk to each
other. When I see a whole string of ants on the counter, I
figure they must have been exchanging favorable comments on
the kind of food we serve.

A young friend who has an ant
farm can’t see why anyone would try to get rid of ants.

“They’re a lot cleaner than Peter is,” she said, looking
down at her little brother. “Peter never washes his face or
his hands or anything. Ants clean their antennae all the
time. I’ll bet if you don’t keep your kitchen clean that an
ant wouldn’t even want to come in.”

I laughed. “You mean if
I put enough dirt and jam around, ants wouldn’t want to
come in?”

Her expression grew wise. “Ants clean and brush
themselves with their antennae when they leave, because
they know that houses have sticky boys like Peter. It’s
weird stuff that keeps them away.

“Like what?” I asked.

“Only the ants know,” she whispered, going out the door.

Lately I’ve realized my ants have gone away. It might have
had something to do with the fact that about two months
ago, I squirted caulk into every crevice I could find.

On
the other hand, maybe I better spruce the place up. If ants
don’t come in, there might be something eerie lurking
about.

Perhaps a bit of poison is slowly killing us all.
Maybe radioactive dust that only an ant’s antennae can
discover is filtering in, doing us harm.

Where are those
ants that made me know that my kitchen had food in it that
was safe to eat?

There’s something about ants in the
kitchen that gives me peace of mind!