10 January 2008

Fungus gnats

What if I told you that you had the opportunity (operators are standing by!) to strip, in the rain, down to your bathing suit, squeeze yourself into an oft-used-and-seldom-washed, mildewed and odorific drysuit, dripping wet from its last occupant, immerse yourself in a pair of oversized, torn shorts, and water-socks with holes in them, just to shimmy your now-neoprened derriere into the inner-tube of a tire? What if I were to tell you that, thus-bedecked, you had the opportunity to join fourteen other similarly-clad tourists for a three-hour, claustrophobiogenic spelunk, 210 feet below the earth's surface, jumping backwards off waterfalls in pitch darkness, landing in fifty-degree, eel-infested, spelean rivers and ingesting—nasally— a fair bit of their water (and possibly a bit of giardiasis to boot...we'll find out in two weeks), simply to see the defecatory products made by the maggots of a fungus gnat? What if I told you that, after you were done, you were offered (It's free! Act now!) some tepid, watered-down tomato soup and a week-old buttered bagel (but only one). How much would you pay?

On the other hand, if I told you that you had the opportunity to go Blackwater Rafting, with The Legendary Blackwater Rafting Company, on their Black Labyrinth Adventure, to see world-famous glow-worms lighting up the ceiling of a cave, followed by a steaming-hot soup in the warmth of a rustic cabin, and, in doing so, included a picture of two young, good-looking people, splashing in water, faces lit up in excitement, how much higher would that payment rise?

Such is the power of marketing. The crazy thing is, though, we paid (I'm not telling you how much). And, despite my cynical bent, I'll have to admit: once you got past the frigid cave water working its way through the holes in your neoprene, eroding your body's thermoregulatory defense mechanisms, it was absolutely spell-binding.

There's nothing more peaceful than floating down a river, in pitch blackness, save for the eerie glow emanating these mere larvae. The sound of your own breath is the only thing that accompanies you and the constellations of these ugly-in-real-life (but beautiful in the dark) insects. After an hour of jumping, paddling, ducking under stalactites, avoiding the underwater stalagmites set to tear more holes in you or your inner tube, you simply float. The current carries you through tunnels of green light, around faintly visible corners, past millions of glow-worms and out, to civilization, tepid tomato soup, and the opportunity to buy a specially-made (for you!) photo CD. (We demurred, politely).

It's amazing to think that these little, luminescent beings exist simply to feed—voraciously, it turns out. See, after three months spinning webs and maintaining their own yellow-green, glowing derrieres, the larvae pupate for two weeks (yes, I just had to write that word), and then become adults.

For three days.

And in those three days, the adult fungus gnat will do nothing but mate. It doesn't even have a digestive system—it couldn't eat if it wanted to. It simply glows (if it's female) or finds a glowing mate. Its existence is simply reduced to procreation.

After which it dies.

I'll avoid the easy comparisons.

1 comment:

Vivek said...

Oh, how strongly we are shaking our heads in agreement here. Tourist marketing doublespeak schlock is equal to the real estate language of alterna-reality ("Charming, cozy studio with tons of character!"). But who can blame them?

Although the giardia risk would have us out the door, no matter how enticing the marketing. You guys are brave!