Living in Paradise

The No-See-Um Battle

The No-See-Um Battle

The pleasant lady who is helping us build a house in a continuous care retirement community in Sarasota called with the bad news today: “I’m sorry, but THEY won’t allow you to have no-see-um screen on your patio.”

“Are you kidding me?” I shot back. “That means I won’t be sitting outside in the summer.”

I could see my man starting to sweat. He knows that when I feel strongly about something, I am not shy about expressing my feelings and my displeasure. No-see-ums is definitely an issue worth going to war over.

For you non-Floridians, no-seem-ums are the nearly invisible little insects that come out when the temps heat up and the humidity soars. Other states have them, but they thrive in the Sunshine State.

Their initial bites are bad enough and get worse as time progresses. If I am bitten, I deal with large red welts on my legs for weeks … torturous itching, especially in the middle of the night … marks that last for an entire season.

“I guess you didn’t attend the luncheon where this topic came up,” the pleasant lady said. “Someone asked the question, and THEY told the audience that it wouldn’t be possible. Something about the ventilation.”

I laughed. “You’re telling me that they don’t want to put in these screens because they think old people sitting on their porches will die from lack of oxygen?” The pleasant lady didn’t seem to have an answer, but I could tell that she was still concerned about breezes being stopped by tiny wire mesh.

I have heard no-see-um stories that will make your skin cringe. Apparently, she has not. My former neighbor in Indianapolis was on a small-boat cruise and had to cut it short after one night in a bed that was invested with the little buggers. She suffered for months.

My man’s son came to visit us from London one summer. After an early evening walk, he and his girlfriend announced they didn’t need a ride home in the golf cart because they would be sitting on the beach and watching the sunset.

“I don’t think you want to do that,” I cautioned. “The no-see-ums will eat you alive.”

“In situations like that,” the young man responded, “you don’t let the venom take control of your body. If you ignore it, you won’t feel it.”

Good luck with that, I thought.

The next morning, he approached me sheepishly to announce that he had awakened at 3 a.m. with his “legs on fire. You were right,” he said for probably the first and last time.

In regard to the retirement community, I gave the pleasant lady some free public relations advice:

“Send out a letter to all the people who attended the luncheon. Tell them that the issue of no-see-um screens in Florida and their use at the facility has been researched. The screens will not affect ventilation but will protect people who are particularly sensitive to the insect bites. Therefore, we have reviewed our policy and are now allowing the screens for an additional charge of … whatever.”

It’s a winning move, I told her. “Everyone will embrace the change as a sign that you are a sensible organization and not prone to foolish statements like suggesting that people who use smaller screens won’t be able to breath properly.”

She might not have appreciated my sarcasm, but she remained pleasant and, likely, steadfast. I’m figuring that once policy has been made at the facility, getting it changed will be tough. Let’s see if THEY are really interested in taking care of us old folks, or if they just want us to follow THEIR rules – no matter how ill-conceived.

Let the no-see-um battle begin.