My workplace is located conveniently close to Valley Forge Park, so I typically head out for a lunchtime hike. I’ve walked the trails for quite a few years and have had a number of Aldo Leopold moments: an immense swarm of ants executing a slave raid against another nest; a daddy long-legs feasting on a still-twitching beetle; two fawns nursing at their mother’s teat.
Pennsylvania is tick country, and after each hike I try to remember to perform the requisite self-examination, making sure nothing has latched onto my pants or socks. I’ve never actually seen a tick while doing this, but I’m a responsible guy and it’s just part of the drill, right?
Today, I was caught in a drenching downpour when I was a good half-mile out in the woods, and I was thoroughly soaked by the time I slogged back to the car. A bit later, sitting in my cubicle, I reach up to rub my forehead, and something falls, something arachnoid that scuttles under my laptop. Yergh. A tick.
Looking underneath the machine does not reveal it, as it had quickly scuppered off somewhere amongst the cables and papers. I’m not particularly squeamish about insects or spiders, but I have to admit to the newly-discovered fact that ticks give me the willies. A careful check of my trousers, legs and arms revealed no further hangers-on. The tick emerges from a pile of papers, so I trap it in a plastic container. It’s a big, perhaps a bit larger than a pencil eraser, so I’m relieved that it’s probably not a Lyme-infested deer tick.
A bit later, I rub my neck and find a lump, something that feels a bit like a mole. In full acarophobe mode, I find a mirror and, yes, around the back quadrant of my neck a large tick has attached itself, nearly out of sight. YERGH. One should never pull out a tick with one’s fingers, so I vibrate in my seat during the fifteen minute drive over to to visit the company infirmary, remaining CALM, because it doesn’t matter that I have a PARASITE embedded in my flesh.
Later, back at my desk, I find there’s something crawling across the lens of my glasses. Taking them off to look more closely, I find a third tick. Thoroughly creeped out, I put it in the plastic container with the first and check myself again. No ticks, but that’s not particularly reassuring by this point.
Now, one thing I’m a bit worried about is my hair. Once I pass my Ph.D. candidacy exam, I expect I’ll be required to join the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists (the club for scientists who have, or believe they have, luxuriant flowing hair). Flowing, perhaps, but could it be a haven for vermin?
In short, yes. Upon returning home, M—— checked my scalp and, sure enough, a fourth tick had embedded itself in my left temple. YERGH! Was the rain knocking them off the trees?
I think it’s time to buy a new hat.
CC-licensed image of a wood tick courtesy of bogdogmax, as I didn’t have my camera and didn’t really feel like keeping my specimens around for purposes of nostalgia.