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Here cicada, there cicada, everywhere cicada cicada

Kevin Cowherd

Kevin Cowherd

April 19, 2004

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YOU PEOPLE who haven't seen these things, you have no idea what you're in for.

You're thinking: Cicadas, big deal.

You're thinking: C'mon, a few bugs flying around the yard - how bad can it be?

You're thinking: Worse comes to worst, I'll spray some Raid and light a citronella candle and they'll go away.

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

I'm sorry. I don't mean to laugh. It's just that ... well, you people are so naive.

First, let's dispense with the fairy-tale scenarios, OK?

Here's how it's going to go down in about three weeks, when these 17-year cicadas start popping out of the ground:

You go to bed one night. But before you do, you steal a last glance out the window at your back yard. It's bathed in moonlight. It's quiet. It's peaceful. Everything is fine.

Then you wake up the next day. You look out the window. And suddenly it's like MTV's Cicada Spring Break outside.

Your whole yard is swarming with cicadas, cicadas that are laughing, cracking beers, cranking the stereo, throwing each other in the pool, doing cannonballs off the high dive.

You're like: "What the ...?"

So you go outside to investigate.

You open the screen door and about 60 of 'em barge in, start rummaging through your fridge, fighting over the remote in the family room, asking to use your bathroom.

Pretty soon, the noise level outside is incredible.

Right now you're thinking: Well, I've heard cicadas make noise. What is it, a little buzzing or something?

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

A little buzzing?!

I'm sorry. I said I wouldn't laugh. But let me ask you something. Where are you from, Lollipop Land?

When I say the noise level will be incredible, I mean it'll sound like the Cicada Tabernacle Choir.

This will be because the thousands of male cicadas are calling to the thousands of female cicadas.

And the males are not calling the females just to say hello, if you catch my drift.

No, they're looking for action.

Hey, it's been 17 years! You try going 17 years without ... well, let's not get into that.

The point is, these cicadas will have a just-out-of-San Quentin urgency to their mating calls, which tends to pump up the volume.

OK, here are a few more things you should probably know about cicadas, Mr. or Ms. Clueless.

No. 1, cicadas are ugly as sin.

They're about two inches long and they look like flying lobsters, at least to me.

Plus they have these beady red eyes that can really creep you out.

(Imagine Ted Kennedy after happy hour - that's the kind of red we're talking about.)

And they can't fly very well, cicadas. They're like Mr. Magoo at the controls of a Cessna.

When they're flying, they tend to smash into people, houses, car windshields, dogs, you name it.

And when they smash into you, it startles the hell out of you. You'll jump three feet in the air.

Luckily, they don't bite or sting or anything. But, still, you get paranoid. Who knows what kind of evolutionary changes these cicadas have undergone in the past 17 years?

Look, with all the pesticides and chemicals we put in the ground these days, maybe they've developed little teeth and claws and they'll be swarming around like pint-sized Rottweilers this time.

Anyway, the good news is that the cicadas are only with us for a little over a month.

Then they all die around the same time and the ground is littered with their little corpses like some kind of cicada graveyard.

And when you walk on their shells, it makes this crunching sound, which is kind of creepy, too.

Still, you kind of miss 'em when they're gone.

But then your dog eats a bunch of shells and throws up on the patio, and suddenly you don't miss them so much.