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My Room in Sermide / The Mosquito

By on February 25, 2014 in Italia! with No Comments

In a recent trip to Italy I stayed in a quaint, little hotel in the small Italian town of Sermide, on the Po River. It had been over 40 years since my last visit to Italy. I was just getting unpacked and wandered into the bathroom. Though the bedroom was fairly small, the bathroom was very spacious, almost cavernous.

The BidetIn one corner there was a toilet and right next to it, a bidet, which intrigued me. I’ve never used one yet I must admit that the whole concept is very civilized. It seemed much better to use a gentle spray of water to cleanse my bottom than the toilet paper provided which had the texture of fine sandpaper. I just couldn’t figure out how to use the damn thing. There were no instructions by it. I knelt next to it so I could study it closer. The spray nozzle could be aimed at about a 45 degree angle at its highest and would shoot all over the floor if you didn’t have your bum to block it. That was the conundrum – which direction to face and how to position oneself over it. I really made a valiant attempt, as I backed over it and then held my butt above it in a sort of suspended nesting position. I turned the spray on and shot water all over my butt AND all over the bathroom floor. “This can’t be right” I thought. “Maybe I’m supposed to fill it up like a sits bath.” That didn’t seem very sanitary to me so I abandoned the idea. I think  I’d have more success with the the remote controlled, programmable, warm water spray bidet toilet seats from Japan. I could go for that.

At the opposite corner of the bathroom was a shower which couldn’t have been more than 2 ft. x 2 ft.  I couldn’t figure out why, in such a huge bathroom, they would make a shower stall so small that I literally could not pick up a bar of soap if I dropped it on the floor. I’d have to raise my arms to turn around to wash my hair. I also couldn’t figure out what this long cord coming from above the shower to about 4 feet above the floor was for. Van, a friend of mine that was sharing the room had no clue. I tried pulling the cord and the church bells start chiming at a nearby church…really. At one point I asked the chambermaid what it is for and she told me that it was there in case I fell and needed immediate help. That puzzled me more seeing that A – I was pulling the cord repeatedly earlier and nobody came up to check on me and B – If I actually had fallen on the floor I couldn’t reach the end of the cord to pull it because the end was 4 feet above the floor. I later noticed that they had the same kind of cord at a friend’s house and at a hotel in Florence, so it must be some kind of an Italian building ordinance….kind of like smoke alarms in the US.

There are two windows in the suite, both of which have a type of heavy-duty metal blind that covers them. It appeared almost bullet proof. To move it up or down, you had to pull on a looped cord that incrementally moved the blind up or down. It was just like raising the iron gate of a castle. It was very loud and painfully slow; not something to do late at night. It would wake everybody on the block. Another problem was that there was no screen on the window in the bathroom. I’m sure that’s how that bitch got into my room.

The Mosquito

hI can’t sleep if I know that there is a mosquito in the room. The slightest buzz betraying her presence instantly propels me into a stealth predatory mode that emanates from deep within my DNA. Yes, I did say “HER”. I read long ago that it’s only the female mosquitoes that bite humans so they can obtain blood for their little eggs. The males feed on fruit and other non-animal foods. I harbor no ill will to the males, they are vegans and harmless pacifists. It’s the females that I despise.

I know her tricks. I’ve seen them all. She will attempt a stealth landing in the dark, but usually her unmistakable, insidious buzz will give her presence away, thus causing you to reflexively swat yourself in the ear, which is always too late. Its only effect is to render you temporarily deaf due to the buzzing in your head from whacking your own ear. She will then return completely undetected. It’s genius if you think about it. If you turn the light on she will hide motionless on a wall or ceiling in a shaded area or behind a headboard or ceiling beam.

After whacking myself in the ear, I will immediately turn the light on, grab a pillow, and seek her out. I will scan all the surfaces in the entire room looking for her. Usually I find her and give her the pillow. In the unlikely event that I don’t find her than I’ll keep the light on and lie down and wait … giving her time to be lulled into a false sense of security where her blood lust will drive her back to me. It may take up to fifteen minutes or so but she always returns. This time I’ll see her for just a second, but long enough to follow her flight. I have great concentration when I’m on the hunt. She will tire and then I will give her the pillow. I’m very good at it.

I read that fairly recently, there had been an invasion of Tiger Mosquitoes into Italy, from Africa. These ferocious pests bite both by night AND day. I had been told that being spring, I didn’t have to worry about them until the weather warmed up in summer. Nevertheless, on the first night sleeping in the hotel I woke up to the unmistakable sound of a mosquito flying by my ear. I reflexively, gave my head a quick whack with my hand and told myself that I got it. After not sleeping for almost 24 hours, from my multitude of flights to Italy, I could sleep through almost anything and my judgement was compromised. In the morning, I woke up with about a dozen bites on my ankle, legs, knees and arms. They were pretty swollen and itched like crazy.

The following night, I again woke up to hear the unmistakable buzz from that bitch mosquito strafing my head and again, I slapped myself on the ear. But this time I went into full attack mode. I knew that she would be a formidable adversary. I immediately turned the light on and scanned the room. There were 12 foot ceilings in this room so she definitely had the height advantage on me. I couldn’t see clearly because I hadn’t thought to put my glasses on right away, a rookie mistake. My ear was still ringing from swatting myself.  I’m sure that she thought that she had me.

After scanning every inch of the room, in vain, I decided to play asleep to lure her back. I lay back down on my back looking up and waited. I waited for what seemed like hours, but finally, as they always do, she returned to finish me off. That’s when I first saw her. She flew right by my face and like the strike of a rattlesnake; I slapped my hands together in her flight path barely missing her. She sped off and up. This time I had my glasses on and scanned the ceiling again. Aha! There she was! I saw her way up there, motionless, with her legs raised, on the ceiling. I, very slowly, grabbed my pillow and climbed onto the bed like a Tai Chi master, never taking my eyes off of my prey. I moved directly underneath her and without hesitation, flung the pillow straight up 12 feet flat against the ceiling. Wham! There was no mistaking the success of my assault. This was evidenced by the red splatter mark, (my blood), that was left on the ceiling. I hoped that it would dissuade any others from venturing into my territory. I wasn’t bothered by mosquitoes any more.

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