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Today's word on journalism

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"Paranoia means having all the facts."

--William S. Burroughs, Beat Generation writer (1914-1997)

My calling? Obtaining spiritual enlightenment by crushing cockroaches

By Steve Shinney

September 22, 2006 | From philosophers of ancient Greece to Buddhist monks of the Far East, many great and wise men have dedicated their lives to obtaining true enlightenment by understanding their true purposes in lives.

These people are losers.

I may not know the purpose of life in general, but I know why I am here. I know exactly what my purpose on this earth is.

I'm Steve Shinney; I kill bugs.

I reached this echelon as a child when I became a bug bounty hunter. My mom would pay me two cents a kill to protect her garden from grasshoppers and tomato worms. It was those dry summer afternoons with the Idaho grass crinkling under my feet and my yellow Wiffle bat in hand that I learned the satisfying crunch of an exoskeleton meeting plastic.

I learned that mankind is locked in an eternal struggle with the insects for the fate of the world. They have us massively outnumbered, but we were the first to master the technology of rolling up a newspaper.

Some people say that cockroaches are going to outlive us as a species. I say, not if I can help it.

I went through my trial of fire while in Australia. I lived there for two years and each day a chance to rise to the ultimate bug killing challenge. In America I could kill bugs. In Australia, there's a fair chance the bugs could kill me. I still remember my finest moment. It was the day I rose to from the level of mere bug killer to the rank of a full-fledged exterminator. It was a hot January evening. My roommate Javon, a large Maori boy from the land of the long white cloud, was heading into the kitchen.

"Shinney!" he called from the hallway. (When you kill bugs like I do, you transcend the need for a first name.)

I went into the hall expecting to pop a roach and be done with it, and found myself staring down the biggest huntsman I'd ever seen. Javon's eyes were as wide with terror as mine were with excitement. This was the battle I had been waiting for. This guy measured nearly a foot from leg to leg.

Huntsmans are a large family of large spiders found throughout the world. While only mildly poisonous, they have long curved fangs that I could clearly see from where I was standing down the hall.

I called out for a weapon. Javon handed me a push mop, the kind that's really just a sponge on stick. Not my first choice of weapon, but when you kill bugs, you get used to making do with what you have.

Somehow the huntsmans of Australia have evolved the knowledge that most people are afraid of them. When threatened they rear up on their hind four legs, extend their fangs and charge straight at you. As the spider got closer, I tried to smash him with the mop. After several vigorous thrusts I realized I was basically just pushing on it with a damp sponge. Since I didn't have time for the bleach fumes to take care of the spider, I had to change my tactics.

With a quick kick to the back of the mop, I sent the spider flying into the corner. While the huntsman was stunned from this brilliant military maneuver, I whipped the mop around and thrust at it with the business end. A crunch echoed through the hall, bearing witness the contest was over. Maybe future generations of spiders will evolve the wisdom not to mess with me.

Why do I, a normally quiet and humble man, brag so much about my prowess? Because before I learned of my purpose as a bug killer, I felt that I had nothing to offer society. Now I know the truth.

If any of you struggle with self esteem issues, try delving into skills and talents that the rest of the world may consider dumb. You just might find your true calling.

And when you find your stupid talent that will give your life meaning for the rest of your days, think of me, Steve Shinney, the man who kills bugs.


Copyright 1997-2005 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-1000
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