Thursday, September 28, 2006

Katydid With Gas

Click here for the large view.

I can tell I'm getting a local reputation. When I stopped into the bank the first thing a staff member asked me was, "Do you have your camera with you?"....

Two women behind the counter called my attention to "a big green bug on the yellow pole" at the drive-through. Before I even saw it I said, "It's probably a katydid." Down here katydids are big green bugs par excellence.

I thanked them and went back outside. Sure enough. I've taken photos of other katydids, but this time I took a video as well. I added my fingers to give an idea of the scale.

One Katydid, With Interest (1:32)

I'm guessing this is a broad-winged katydid, Microcentrum rhombifolium, Family Tettigoniidae (Katydids). It's about three inches long, which supports rhombifolium over the smaller retinerve with which this species is frequently confused.

Today my gas tank runneth over. Literally. I was filling up at a pump that did not shut off, and I was already looking at it strangely because my car was taking in more gas than it usually does.

And for good reason! Fortunately the splash was small because my reflexes are still fast and images of impending conflagration came to me even faster. I reported the incident at the convenience counter, whereupon a guy standing in line gallantly offered to solve the problem by stepping outside to light a cigarette.

"That would solve the problem," I told him, "but not in the way we want."

I made a mental note to myself to set a point at which I stop pumping no matter what. I've gotten to know my tank's capacity, so from now on I'll listen to my instincts. When I told Mary she commented that service stations make money from spills and suggested I inform a regulatory agency as well. I'm not the paranoid sort, but it does seem like plausible math: the price of gas has dropped + stations make more money from spills =

... willful proliferation of explosive fire hazards? Got to think about that one a little more.

Of all the indelible scenes from Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, the one that struck me most when I saw it as a kid was that of a lit cigarette causing a service station to blow up. (I saw a lot of movies as a kid that I probably shouldn't have seen so young.) Even the bloody sight of people being picked apart didn't chill me as much as the sheer vulnerability of being in a place where volatile fluids and incendiary devices meet -- probably because the latter seemed much more likely in comparison. Gasoline ignites in the real world. Birds attack people in the real world, too, but they don't get as much air time.

Today I got a small taste of The Birds in situ, but without the big boom.

Mary is the auto maven in our household, which has something to do with the fact that she'd built her first car from junkyard parts, starting at age 15 and finishing at age 16. She grew up in southern California, and an outlay of $400 and many hours of work produced a metallic green VW Beetle she named Uriah the Heap. In contrast I lived on the New York City and then the Boston subways, not getting my driver's license until I was 31 and not owning a motor vehicle until I was 44.

I asked her, "Should I drain my tank down a bit?" I offered the analogy of a condom: one must leave room at the tip for ejaculate so the latex doesn't break. Does one need to leave room at the tip of a gas tank to accommodate any fume build-up, especially if one is driving and the engine gets hot?

She thought it was an interesting analogy.

In the end we decided to check the garage after a few hours, in case of any fume build-up, and to back the car out onto the driveway if there was. (There wasn't.) I was thankful we had a cool, crisp day when this happened. The temperature was 82 degrees, which over here constitutes a cold snap.

Meanwhile, my villain finally met her demise this morning, which means I have a couple of characters I've got to pick up off the floor.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The condom analogy is a riot. My son once got sprayed with gas by a woman who was flaying the things about! I saw a katydid yesterday. I hate to say, I thought it was an interesting grass hopper.

I had forgotten that scene in Birds, but remember it now!

2:26 PM  
Blogger Brenda Clews said...

That katydid photo is stunning! I swear you are managing to give insects personality in your photos.

The gas problems, oh, I'm glad I abandoned driving when my last car went to the car graveyard (it was sad, but it was the end of a good long life).

2:10 PM  
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