Lady's and gentlemen of the Class of 2006. Wear "Buzz Away." If I could offer you only one tip for the future, "Buzz Away" would be it. The short-term benefits of "Buzz Away" have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.
Enjoy the effectiveness of DEET. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the effectiveness of DEET until you're being chased by ten thousand mosquitos. But trust me, by the time you dive back in your car, you'll look out the window as dozens of them tap to get inside, and recall all the bumps you've suffered after walking unprotected, along any Maryland shore marsh. Don't worry about the future of your mosquito bites. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as howling at the moon. Once you are infected by West Nile, you can't run back to the convenience store and think an application of DEET will help.
Like I did, when I saw a host of super-sized Culicidae welcome me as their mid-day feast. Don't be reckless with your body, thinking that you'll be able to shoo those XXXL demons away. Don't put up with your own brainless reasoning that 5 miles is too far to return to civilization to purchase a simple can of insect repellent. And don't think that starving mosquitoes will hide in the dark and wait until nightfall when a golden opportunity (known as a body filled with sweet blood) stands in their midst.
Yourself in the face, like I should have, since my decision to stay was akin to a license to hit myself in the head, arms, legs... everywhere... as I tried in vain to keep those blood suckers off me while walking up a path surrounded by grassy marshes and still water - havens for humongous mosquitoes. Don't waste your time debating whether to run like hell, back to your car.
Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes those skeeters catch up. The race is long and, in the end, the mosquitoes always get you. I remember thinking I must be nuts as they surrounded me, within the first few steps of the path. I can't forget all the bumps I have all over my body. If you know how to stop all these bumps from itching (especially the ones I can't reach, and those in my most personal areas), tell me how. But keep any sly comments to yourself. Throw away any crude remarks, as well.
Don't feel too guilty about clawing at all those reddening mosquito bites when you're alone. But watch out when you're in public for who notices that you've been digging all over your body; they may think you have lice, or something even worse. Maybe they'll ask you, maybe they won't. Maybe you'll have West Nile, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll finally listen to your own advice in the future. Maybe you'll go to the pharmacy and purchase some hydrocortisone cream to help you now. Whatever you do, you won't congratulate yourself, but you should berate yourself since you KNEW THIS WOULD HAPPEN. Your choices were half chance. And you blew it.
Enjoy this advice. Use it every way you can. Don't be afraid to find humor in the most mundane things. Laughing at yourself is the greatest instrument you'll ever own.
Read the directions, especially if you don't follow them. You may find that hydrocortisone might really suck on some parts of your body. Accept certain inalienable truths. Running from blood suckers is funny only after you're safe. Don't expect anyone else to support your stupidity.
So trust me on the "Buzz Away."
Post script: This was the result after a host of mosquitoes harassed me when I invaded their space while attempting to make some images of the "Duck Inn Trail" at Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge. I knew that I should have gotten a can of bug repellent; Even when a blood-sucking fly landed on my driver's side window the moment I arrived, I was too lazy to simply hop back in my car and get some up the street. I got some nice images, but they chased me out. Or, maybe they banded together and carried me out. However the mode of exiting, I lost perhaps half a pint of blood in the process. If you ever decide to traverse a trail along a marshy area in warm climate, buy the can and have fun. If not, I wish you luck.
Thank you, Mary Schmich, for your kindness in allowing me the opportunity to borrow from your thoughtful piece, "Advice, Like Youth, Probably Just Wasted on the Young," published in the Chicago Tribune in 1997. For those who haven't read it, go to Mary's Sunscreen column.
There is also the timeless song, "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)," by Baz Luhrmann.
Here are some images I shot at Terrapin Nature Park, too.