The Ants and I

5 Aug

After getting settled in my quaint and homey studio apartment, it was finally time to prepare my first meal. It wasn’t much, really: tuna salad with chopped vegetables and mayo. I kept my computer closed, my phone in my pocket, my book on the shelf, and to eat in silence. I had purposefully banished my stomach from any sustenance since my morning banana and coffee breakfast. I wanted to purify my taste buds for the first self-prepared meal in Thailand. After making my tuna sandwich I placed it on my new IKEA table, sat down, and wistfully watched my food as it lay there on my plate. I mused about the naked simplicity of this present moment: me, sandwich, silence; no plans for the future, no memories of the past; no worries, gripes, or hang-ups. I took the first bite and felt my brain rewarding me by sending a pleasant wave of euphoria throughout my body. Just then I noticed a squadron of 5 ants scamper across the table. They marched in line formation right past my plate, stopping briefly to process the information. Then off they went to the other side of the table, down the table leg, and across the floor toward the nearest corner. The ants were surely sent by Her Majesty, Queen Ant of Room 8406. I imagined that by then the regiment of scouts was excitedly reporting the epic news: “Your majesty! Your majesty! We come to you with wonderful news! A new tenant has come to settle in your kingdom!”

The queen would sternly ask: “What have you learned by this tenant you speak of?”

Then the scouts would all try to speak at the same time: “He’s a male, in his early 30s from the United States. He will be teaching at an international school for the next year.”

“And what have you to report about this teacher’s eating habits?” the queen would ask. “I’m tired of ruling over foreign tenants who spend every day eating the street food! Nobody ever cooks anything anymore! My ant colony has seen more famine than this entire 8th floor!”

The leader of the scout group would then say, “Our intelligence team has good reason to believe that this subject is not like the previous others. He has been buying groceries since his arrival. Moreover, your Eminence, we now know that he is an avid cooker. We’ve deployed the finest soldiers from your Royal Heightened Smell Guard to confirm.”

The Queen would nod her head in pleased approval, award her scout team with 5 organic sugar crystals, and then set up a permanent food-gathering mission.

Indeed I am happily co-existing with the ants who smoothly run the culinary clean-up operations of Room 8406. Whenever I do bring out food to the table, the intrepid colony of community foragers comes out to say hi. Hey, I’m a big fan of saying hi. So I admire their courage to socialize with Earthlings who, sad is it may be, have tendencies of killing tiny insects for no good reason but as a selfish response to their own egotistical anger, annoyance, or fear of the harmless social insects.

Here’s a quick list of the ways that the 8406 Ant Colony has worked for the sake of my well-being:

– I am forced to be extremely mindful of how well I clean up after myself

– My apartment is free of dirty dishes

– My floor and counters are free of crumbs

– If I do leave any trace of food, the ants come out to help me with cleanup. Once all the food is gone, they disappear.

– The ants have challenged my ego in many ways. If you really think about it, is it right to say that the ants are disturbing my peace and my space? Who was here first? The ants! In fact it is I who is disturbing the ants, if anything.

– It’s actually pretty cool to share the apartment with the ants. I’m a little embarrassed to say this, but we’ve kind of become friends. I like their company. And I’m pretty sure they like my food. Right now, as I am typing this story, two ants are crawling across my keyboard and one is crawling across my trackpad.

Ants – just like people, just like anybody and everything – are good teachers for us. It doesn’t take much effort to understand how. Thank you, ants for facilitating my awareness!

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