(Editor’s note: Scott DeSmit has post-election traumatic stress disorder. This column originally ran in 2007)
It’s why I get the willies.
I remember it well, as I should, being a seminal part of my life.
It was at Keuka Lake. I was about 7 years old and I was by myself near the beach, which wasn’t much of a beach as I recall but more like a swamp.
To my left was a field of weeds and I ran through it, for reasons only a 7-year-old could understand: Because it’s there.
As I was running out of the weeds it occurred to me ...
Something ... was ... crawling ... on ... my ... neck ...
I stopped dead in my tracks, screamed and looked down.
Now, when you look at your neck your field of vision is somewhat altered. It’s like looking sideways.
The object in your field of vision appears larger than it seems. And closer. And deadlier.
I danced in little circles, swatted my face and continued to scream.
No one came to my rescue, my parents probably inside the cabin having a beer with Buffalo Gordy, the guy who owned the place. Probably figured if I was still screaming I wasn’t drowning.
Finally, after what seemed like hours and after a inordinate amount of blood loss, I was able to swat the behemoth off my body.
It was a golden garden spider, those oversized hairy yellow and black spiders which web in weeds and, well, gardens.
The spider hit the ground, leaving I swear a huge impression in the earth, and skittered back to the field to scavenge for medium-sized woodland creatures to eat.
Freaked me right out. To this day I can’t bear the thought of a spider crawling on my skin. Hate even more to squash a spider and hear that “pop” as its abdomen explodes its contents all over my boot.
Why do I bring this up?
Because right now, as we speak, there are an estimated 250 different species of bugs crawling on my skin.
On your skin.
On everyone’s skin.
“We identify about 182 species,” said Dr. Martin Blaser, a microbiologist at New York University School of Medicine. “And based on those numbers, we estimate there are probably at least 250 species in the skin.
“In comparison,” Blaser added, “a good zoo might have 100 species or 200 species. So we already know that there are as many different species in our skin, just on the forearm, as there are in a good zoo.”
Great. My forearm is a zoo. A great zoo.
Full of bugs, or, as microbiologists like to call them, “giant spiders with enormous and very sharp teeth.”
Actually, they are bacteria, single-celled organisms that you can see only if you look real close and are high on acid.
See, junkies were right all along. There really are bugs crawling on their skin.
Billions of them. More bacteria than human cells, by a 10 to 1 margin.
“Our microbes are actually, in essence, a part of our body,” Blaser said.
He and other researchers published their findings in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which everyone should really subscribe to.
Blaser and his colleagues also say “there’s no need for alarm” because these bacteria are helpful, performing such useful chores as creeping the living bejeesus out of everyone.
Well I, for one, am alarmed now that I know I’m never alone.
Makes me long for the days when it was just one giant multi-celled organism crawling on my skin.
(Scott DeSmit is a general assignment reporter for The Daily News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)