The Life-Saving Gnat

I went to Starbucks earlier this afternoon and as I was walking back to my car, I noticed a tiny gnat headed right for my noggin as it was about a foot or so in front of me. I assumed it would try to avoid collision, but I didn’t see it peel off. Now was the hard part — figuring out what part of me it was on.

I ran my tongue over my lip gloss to see if it had gotten stuck. Nope.

I checked to see if I felt any extra protein in between my teeth or anywhere else in my mouth. Nope.

At that point, I assumed it had gotten stuck deep in my mane, and I made peace with the fact that it probably wouldn’t be able to find its way out (which was fine by me, because I probably wouldn’t be able to see it, anyway). With any luck, maybe I’d wash its tiny carcass out of my hair in the morning and see its little body careen towards my shower drain.

As I got in my car, I shook my head and flipped my hair around just in case I could rid my body or locks of its presence. I backed up and started to leave the parking lot.

Just as I was approaching the driveway to exit, I noticed there was a speck on my sunglasses. I took them off to see what had gotten on the lens, and I noticed that it was none other than my friend the gnat, looking to hitch a ride up to Fullerton where I imagine it knew I was going to the carwash and thought it would be exciting to tag along.

I was mostly stopped since traffic was whizzing by just beyond the driveway, but my car was still ever so slowly creeping ahead. Like, less-than-one-mile-per-hour creeping. I blew on the gnat to get it to leave, but no luck. I blew again, and it hunkered down. I went ahead and swept it off the lens, careful not to murder it in the process since I didn’t want any organs smeared across my shades.

As I swept it off, it took up roost on my thigh. Sheesh. It clearly didn’t feel like flying, and I was done being nice. I ended my car-creeping and mushed it into my jeans. Right as I looked up, I saw a ratty old man riding his bike. He appeared from behind the too-tall bushes that have needed trimming for months — bushes which, in addition to the shopping center’s sign, form a barrier that’s impossible to see up and over, since the driveway that you exit from is at an incline. Ugh.

He gave me a thumbs up, likely assuming that I’d stopped intentionally a second or two before to leave him enough room to pass in front of me.

In reality, my vanity and concern for my shades is what kept my car from potentially striking him, or creating an obstacle that he would’ve ridden right into.

That center’s driveway — and the whole lot, for that matter — was bad from the moment it was designed. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve almost seen people get hit, cars run into each other, bicyclists get nailed — there are way too many blind spots, bushes that aren’t maintained and aisles that are accomodating if you drive a Versa or a Fit. But this is Anaheim, so the vehicles around these parts tend to skew toward lowered El Caminos, 1970s trucks and giant minivans (oxymoron, anyone?).

While I have a general wariness for that lot in the first place, my concern for smearing the gnat across my glasses and my subsequent gnat-slaughter is what kept me from going any faster today. I’ve never been so thankful for a tiny flying insect before in my life. And I’m pretty sure that if that isn’t a sign to start going to a different Starbucks, I don’t know what is.

Tonight I am thankful for the tiniest gnat that caused the biggest save of all time: it kept a man from potentially being hit or from hitting me, and saved my own life in a way, as well. I can’t imagine what it would be like to hit a pedestrian or someone riding a bike. I can’t imagine the guilt that accompanies such an incident, the sleepless nights or the lack of forgiveness I know I’d feel towards myself for decades to come.

I’ve always wondered why those irritating little insects exist. What do they add, anyway? What good to they bring? They get stuck in potato salad during summer BBQs and try to pass their winged bodies off as specks of pepper, they wreak havoc on breezy days and adhere to lip gloss and they sometimes stalk the plums and nectarines by hovering over the kitchen fruit basket.

The outcome of today’s Stabucks run is one of many reasons, I’m sure, that they exist. And I couldn’t be more thankful for them.

Until a summer BBQ, that is.

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