Saturday, February 09, 2008

Jiminy Crickets!

Here's something you don't read every day: I just bought 10 pet crickets.

Ever since I left the suburban sprawl of South Florida in 2000 for the concrete confines of NYC, I've desperately missed the sound of crickets. It's not that there aren't crickets here; it's just that my apartment is situated 4 stories up between 2 towering blocks of brick and concrete. The only crickets up here are those being eaten by birds.

Why not get one of those sound machines? I have one and the crickets on it sound like nails on chalkboard. And, as part of the "meadow pond" experience, there's a splooshing noise every 8 seconds that I presume was supposed to sound like a frog jumping into water (but sounds more like someone dropping a deuce).

So, for the last eight years, my travels have been partly inspired by the need to hear crickets again. I mentioned this to my man last November as we fell asleep to their soothing sound in FL. It wasn't the first time I'd told him how much I miss them. I mused, "maybe I'll buy some and keep them in my room as pets when I get back to Brooklyn." He shot up from the pillow, "but that was going to be my Christmas present to you!" Confused, I asked, "you were going to buy me crickets for Christmas?" Yes, it was to be one of my gifts (he's cute and thoughtful like that).

He got me something else for Chrimbo but the conversation cemented the idea; as much as I'd missed the sound of crickets, I'd never seriously considered buying them to keep as pets. So, this week, I headed to the store to get all the gear I'd need to have a happy cricket colony in my bedroom. At long last, I'd have sweet chirping to lull me to sleep every night!

As I searched the amphibian aisle, one of the employees (no doubt counting the minutes until the store closed and he could return home to his D&D game) offered to help. He showed me a horrible contraption with feeding tubes and said, "this is the best way to keep crickets."

"Why would I want to keep them in that?!"

"So you can easily feed them to your snake or gecko or whatever."

As I explained that I intended to keep them as pets, I realized it was like explaining that D&D is a recreational game for pre-teens.

After many odd looks and careful consideration about my crickets' new digs, I rushed home to soak the peat moss and prepare their 2.5 gallon tank (seriously, it's such a lovely smell to have damp earth in your bedroom -- highly recommended for those who like camping or getting lost in forests).

I went back out to the pet store to get my crickets. As I looked over the selection, I was faced with a terrible realization that somehow hadn't occurred to me yet: crickets are bugs. I was picking out bugs to keep in my room. Um, yuck? (Honestly, if one of these suckers escapes, my first instinct will be to squash it.)

So, I opted for 10 baby crickets ("nymphs" as I later learned) who don't resemble cockroaches as much as their adult peers do. Yes, I know eventually these 10 crickets will grow but by that time, I'm hoping I'll have a relationship with them that transcends looks.

(bit blurry but whaddya want for a camera phone?)

When I got home, I released them into their gorgeous forest floor of a tank, turned off the lights and waited. And waited. And waited. No sounds. No chirping. Nothing. Nothing but the same sirens and "are you tawking to me?!" in the distance. I called my man to inform him of the problem. "Leave it to you to buy the only deaf-mute, homosexual crickets in the store," he replied.

Perplexed, I went online to research why my crickets weren't chirping. Turns out, I bought field crickets in their early adolescent stage (here's an interesting fact: crickets live one year -- who knew?!). At this point, they're wingless and crickets chirp by rubbing their wings (contrary to the popular belief that they rub their legs). And they won't grow wings for THREE FUGGING MONTHS!

Three months? I gotta wait 3 months to hear something?! No way, I'm going BACK to the pet store tomorrow to buy the ugliest, cockroachiest adult male cricket I can find! Mind you, most people buy buttloads of crickets at a time to feed their hungry snakes and lizards. "Yes, I'd like to buy ONE cricket, please. Uh-huh. Yes, THAT cricket." My roommate suggests I go in a bizarre outfit and whacked out hair (more so than usual) and really play up the crazy cricket lady part.

What an effort this has been just to get a sound most hear every night without any effort at all! I hope you fall asleep tonight with the windows wide open and the most profound appreciation for that sweet lullaby (forgetting, of course, the image of the gross bug making it)!

p.s. clearly, I've yet to recover from the Super Bowl.

Lest you think I'm totally nuts (and why would writing a novella about buying crickets make me nuts?), I learned in my research that the Chinese and Japanese have long kept crickets as pets for the very same reason I now do. In ancient China, the chirping was so highly regarded that the ladies of the Imperial Palace kept crickets in small golden cages on their pillows, so that they might fall asleep to the song.

Other interesting cricket facts (from Wikipedia):

* Crickets chirp at different rates depending on their species and the temperature of their environment. Most species chirp at higher rates the higher the temperature is (approx. 60 chirps a minute at 13°C in one common species; each species has its own rate).

* The relationship between temperature and the rate of chirping is known as Dolbear's Law. In fact, according to this law, it is possible to calculate the temperature in Fahrenheit by adding 40 to the number of chirps produced in 15 seconds by the snowy tree cricket common in the United States.

* To hear the mating call of other crickets, a cricket has ears located on its knees, just below the joint of the front legs.

* "Jiminy Cricket!" was originally a polite expletive euphemism for Jesus Christ (as in, "Jiminy Crickets! This was a long ass blog about crickets!").

1 comment:

Dan the Man said...

What if the crickets multiply? Will you eventually buy a lizard to dispose of extra crickets? What if 10 crickets collectively make too much noise? How does your man feel about falling asleep to crickets in the room? Will you be naming the crickets after the front 7 of the Patriots?