It started with one singular ant, so harmless and unassuming, navigating between my calendar and stapler.
Later another joined him, with the nerve to stroll across the screen of my lap top.
From there, they popped up intermittently.
Where are the coming from? I wondered, twirling back and forth in my chair to peak at the wall next to my desk. I expected to see a trail of them coursing up the chipped paint.
For most of the day, I pretty much ignored them, blotting them off my desk here and there. The onslaught came after lunch, in the midst of rolling over my 401K.
On my third phone call, after ping ponging back and forth between two financial institutions, I saw it.
“Ma’am, can I get your social security number?” he said with the token customer service representative accent.
They were streaming out of a hole made by a dip in the carpet against the wall.
I followed the line with my eyes, bent over in my chair with the phone cord taunt across my desk.
Finally I was able to spit the number out.
“What’s your mother’s maiden name?” he asked calmly.
I was anything but calm. The trail of ants was marching from that hole, across the carpet. Leaning closer, I spotted their route. Their little bodies were a mass of motion amid the blotches of tones in the carpet.
Then I spotted the ladder they were using to ascend to my desk. They were flooding up my lap top’s power cord.
Those little brats…
“Your mother’s maiden name, ma’am.”
This guy’s going to think I am trying to break into this account, I thought. I tore my eyes away from the ants, then spat out the information.
He began to talk me through financial decisions I was not prepared to make in the midst of an ambush. I kept trying to come up with he wise questions, the ones about taxes and timing. I used words like “liquidate” and “pre-tax status.”
All the while I was watching them troop across the carpet, like soldiers on their way to war, fearless. I tossed the lap top cord off my desk and onto the floor in between filling out the fields of an online form opening an IRA account. That should slow them down for a minute.
Suddenly it dawned on me. My soup bowl from lunch. It still had the traces of tomato soup on it that must smell intoxicating to a colony of ants, drawing them like bees to a flower. I peered over the bowl’s edge. It was crawling with them.
My stomach turned.
“Will that be all?” he asked with all the customer service bravado they had trained him with.
“Yes! Thank you!” I chirped and slammed the phone into its cradle.
“OH MY GOSH!!” I yelled and pushed back my chair from my desk.
The two other girls in my office looked up surprised.
There was no bug spray under the kitchen sink in the break room. The supply closet only had hornet killer. I’m not sure what that entailed, but I wasn’t going to take the chance.
I stormed back into my office armed with a spray bottle of Windex, with all the indignation of a pageant mother whose child had just been named second place.
I’m not one to get squeamish over a few bugs. I’ve shared bucket showers in Africa with spiders the size of quarters. I’ve hovered over scorpions that I found under bricks I was hauling in Ecuador. I’ve rescued beetles from indoors and once ushered a mouse from my office.
But this was different. They were invading my territory by the hundreds, possibly thousands.
It’s safe to say, a little Windex and a vacuum assured I won the war.