Monday, February 20, 2012

One childhood habit that explains so much.

As a kid in the latter half of the 1960s, the only thing that beat the Mister Softee truck traveling through the neighborhood was the mosquito truck.

The one that ran through our town was yellow with a flashing yellow light on the top, presumably to differentiate it from the police cars, who had red lights and didn't frighten mosquitoes at all.
The lure of the mosquito truck was the plume of cloudy mist that spewed out of the back.  It smelled like gasoline, and everyone knows that gasoline kills mosquitoes.  Like the fresh mimeographs that were handed out by our teachers, we couldn't resist getting our noses as close to it as possible.  Although, to my knowledge, the only thing the school's mimeographs killed was our will to live.  Mosquitoes lived merrily on.

When we saw the truck off in the distance - or smelled it, which usually happened first - we would rush to a strategic launching place and ride behind it on our bicycles.  In the middle of the misty burning smoke, the only thing we could see was the flashing yellow light.  We would travel behind this contraption for a mile or so.  Strangely, we never passed out or suffered any symptoms of smoke inhalation.

If you Google it, you'll find that the misty grey smoke was DDT, or as we know it, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane.  Then, there is something about it being toxic, and bald eagles, birth defects ... blah, blah, blah.

What none of the reference materials mentioned was the hours of fun it provided for kids on their bicycles.  Sometimes, the fun is sapped out of life because something is deemed dangerous.  It's like we can't even enjoy the simple pleasure of peeling lead paint chips off the window sill anymore.

So, go ahead 21st Century kids, sit on your iPad and play your Angry Birds.  Text message your friends and post junk on Facebook.  You'll never know the pure aerobic toxic joy of pedaling along behind a truck billowing plumes of sweet-smelling, insect-killing compounds.

You soft fairies.

No comments: