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Hi. Welcome to the podcast, “A Thousand Words.” Today’s Friday, November 23rd.
One good thing about the end of summer and the cooler days of autumn is that all those mosquitoes and wasps aren’t flying into my apartment anymore. Spiders are slowly stepping in, but they don’t bother me as much as the flying insects. It’s funny which bugs  bother people and which don’t.
One afternoon last summer, I was having lunch with a friend outside at an Italian restaurant when a wasp flew to the table. Wasps aren’t known for their good table manners , and this one was no different. It was aggressive and buzzed  my head, my friend’s head, and the glasses of ice tea between us on the table.
I don’t like wasps, or bees, or mosquitoes, or anything that flies around my head and makes that buzzing noise. It’s not that I’m afraid of these things, because they seldom bite or sting, and I’m not allergic to them. But it’s the noise that their fast moving wings make that bothers  me.
And I know when it all started.
When I was about eight years old, I shared a bedroom with my two sisters. In our room we had both a stereo and a TV. They liked music. I was crazy about TV. One of my favorite shows was The Hardy Boys, two detectives who had to solve  new crimes every week. Usually the boys solved the crimes by the end of every show. But the week before, they couldn’t do it – it was just too difficult. So I needed to wait a whole week for the second part. In our room, both the TV and the stereo sat side by side on our dresser . And behind the dresser, low on the wall, was a single socket  for both the TV and the stereo power cables to go into. So each time one of us wanted to watch something or listen to something, we had to stretch our arm behind the heavy dresser and pull out one cable and plug in  the other. And this wasn’t easy to do, because there wasn’t much space between the wall and the dresser, and the dresser was too heavy to move.
In the US, most hour-long TV shows start exactly at the full hour. It was almost 7 o’clock, time for The Hardy Boys, and I needed to see the show from the very beginning. But I had trouble, as always, unplugging the stereo. I could only get it out halfway. In a panic, I looked around the room to find something to help. And the first thing I saw was the metal spoon for the ice cream I was eating. Yes; I actually used a metal spoon on a metal plug halfway in an electric socket.
The next thing I knew I was lying on my bed. The room was dark and my father came running in: “What the hell happened! Why’s the whole house suddenly dark?” The wall behind the TV was black, and my sisters said they watched me fly across the room and land on my bed. All I remember was the loud electric buzz. To this day, the sound of insect wings sends me back to this.
So. The Italian restaurant and the wasp. The wasp was buzzing the table. I started waving my hands, but my friend told me to sit like Buddha and do nothing. But the wasp kept circling  our heads. When the waitress came by, she said we could do one of two things – take a table inside or just sit and tolerate it.
But there was a third thing we could do – kill it!
Now… can you kill a wasp? I don’t think there are any laws  against killing wasps in Switzerland. In Germany, I hear you can be fined  up to 50,000 euros for killing a wasp. But in Zürich? I don’t think it’s the same.
What about bees? You can’t kill a bee, right? They’re productive, they make honey, and they have names like Maja and Willi. And they’re disappearing . Didn’t Einstein say if bees disappear, we humans have only four years to live? Well, Einstein didn’t know everything. In California, you can only kill bees and wasps if they’re in a large swarm or in their hive . You can’t just whack  them dead if they’re alone flying from flower to flower, or if they’re close to your swimming pool or barbeque. If they’re doing what they normally do, and they’re not with a lot of their colleagues, then you or a professional can’t kill them. That’s the law there.
But law or no law, there are some people who kill both wasps and bees without even blinking . There are some who don’t kill bees but only kill wasps. And then there are some who even wear masks to cover their mouths and noses so they don’t accidentally breathe in any insects. I’ve even seen some who carry around brushes and clean seats before they sit down so they won’t kill any. But most people aren’t like that. Most people have a mental moral list when it comes to insects – like a Roman emperor - thumbs  up, live… thumbs down, die.
So I sat at the outdoor table thinking about my own list. Which insects live and which insects don’t?
A fly ? Is it okay to kill a fly? Most people kill flies, if they’re fast enough to hit them. What about fruit flies? They’re even smaller. Is it okay to fill a small glass of water and put some vinegar  and soap in it so they fly in but not out?
And what about mosquitoes? I don’t know anyone who won’t try to kill a mosquito. I only want to kill the ones that want to bite me – the females. Trouble is, I can’t see the difference between them. They all look the same.
What about butterflies? Never! They’re so beautiful! How could you kill anything in nature so beautiful? And the work they go through to become butterflies! But moths? Moths that make holes in your clothes? They usually kill themselves when they fly into hot lamps that burn their body. And what about stink bugs, that fly into your room at night and crash into the walls? Do you escort them out and hope they don’t come back in? Or do you kill them?
Ladybugs  and dragonflies ? They’re almost as beautiful as butterflies. And who do they bother, really? Ladybugs are lucky in Switzerland. You get them as chocolate for your birthday. I don’t know about dragonflies.
What about ants ? They don’t all have wings, but some come into your home, into your kitchen, into your cupboards and go after your food. What about them? And cockroaches ? Most people think cockroaches are dirty. Which side of the list are they on? Thumbs up? Thumbs down?
Spiders? Spiders that are coming inside now, often at night, and walk quietly over your sleeping body and bite you for your blood? Spiders that might even step into your ears or nose? Weeks later tiny babies come out looking for mother!
As I sat there thinking up my list, deciding which I would kill and which not, the wasp suddenly flew away. And I was left alone with my friend and the long list inside my head.
Luckily, it’s autumn now, so I don’t need to worry about that list until next spring.
Thanks for listening.
You can find all our episodes on our brand new website podclub.ch or by downloading our app. You can also download our vocabulary trainer to help you practice the new words you hear, and you can follow me on Instagram.
I’ll be back on December 7th to talk about restaurants and giving tips to waiters.