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wonders never cease Wednesday, July 21, 2010

WEDNESDAY, JULY 21st, 2010a note on yellow jackets (or, why tara shouldn't ride the pirate ship

yellowjacketWhen I was in 8th grade, we took a thrilling class trip to Six Flags Great Adventure, which I thought was like going to Disney World. Except it was in New Jersey. It was one of the first field trips I can remember where we were given relative freedom, and I started the day having a delightful time running amok with my friends and eating funnelcakes and riding the ferris wheel. And then. THEN. We decided to ride the Pirate Ship. Now, to be honest, I knew that I didn't like pirate ships when I boarded the ride. I never understood why it's fun to be swooping through the air in an OPEN BOAT, strapped in by nothing but a metal bar and a prayer. (This was before those fancy shoulder-strap harnesses that make you feel very safe in a situation such as this.) Nevertheless, there I was. The ride started, and some young hooligans began horse-playing and rough-housing and being generally disruptive. I was on the verge of a panic attack already, what with the swinging and the height and general terror of it all, when the ride slowed and stopped. What relief! What joy! The ride was over, and I had survived! I jumped up to exit this ship of death, only to realize that the ride had stopped to kick off the aforementioned hooligans. I was trapped for another go-'round, so I hastily took my seat as the metal bars, once again, locked me in. But I sat on a yellow jacket. And unlike the honeybee, this member of the wasp family doesn't die after it stings. It lives to sting again. And in this case, while I re-situated myself to get away from the enraged insect, I inadvertently sat on it again. And it stung me. Again. The ride was in full swing, now, and I could think of nothing but the yellow jacket, which conveniently died from my weight after the second sting. I knew I had to wait until the ride stopped to soothe my back upper thigh, but I seriously considered punching my friend in the face, just to join the ranks of prematurely-ejected passengers. Instead I endured, crying out in a mixture of pain and fear, and then crying harder at the embarrassment of losing it on an amusement park ride on a class trip. I narrowly escaped death and left the ride in one piece, but for my swollen leg. Had I had a fancy phone or any entomological prowess, I would have known that I needed to immediately remove the stinger and apply ice or a paste of some sort. But alas, I had no cell phone (for they didn't EXIST!), and I wasn't thinking clearly. I wobbled around the park on a funnel-cake-sugar-&-yellow-jacket-venom-induced high, whining and weakly holding my friends' backpacks as they enjoyed the rest of the park. You see, I couldn't ride any more rides because I COULDN'T SIT DOWN, so you can imagine what a delight was the school bus ride home. All told, I suffered only minor aggravation and embarrassment, but I have never ridden a Pirate Ship since. They're obviously cursed. Here's what YOU can do to prevent stings, to soothe bites, and to thus avoid summarily removing an entire amusement park attraction from your repertoire: + STAY AWAY FROM YELLOW JACKETS. Seriously, they're angry and hungry and spiteful. We already know that they'll sting multiple times, but if angered or hurt, they send out signals to their hive to come to the rescue. So you could be SWARMED. + If you get stung, remove the stinger with a straight-edged object (a knife, a credit card) or your fingers. But be careful not to explode the venom sac on the stinger and send more poison into the wound. (Yellow jackets are CRAFTY, people.) As mentioned above, apply ice (for 10 minutes at a time) or a paste (baking soda and water) or a poultice (meat tenderizer) or a mudpack or charcoal (which would be ideal when camping, I suppose). + If the swelling doesn't go down, take an oral antihistamine. Or see your doctor, if things get really bad (anaphylactic shock and such). And did you know: you should get a tetanus shot if you're stung and haven't had a booster for seven years? I did not. But mostly, just STAY AWAY. Unlike mosquitoes, yellow jackets are somewhat avoidable. So seal up your picnics, wear light-colored clothing, and don't go riding any Pirate Ships.

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