In case you want to round out my vignette with more deets (because of course you do):
The year was about 1990.
The location was The Drag, a section of a road in Austin, TX.
And I cannot tell you a single thing about the guy who drove us to the hospital, except that he was yelling “Oh, SHIT!” and I was screaming “Drive FASTER!” all the way (which was very short, luckily). He dropped us off at the ER and we never saw him again.
In case you want to round out my vignette with more deets (because of course you do):
Okay, picture this with me. When I was younger my nanny would take a bunch of our family on vacation for about a week straight to a specific beach and hotel. I used to go every single year until some stuff went down with my immediate family and I came back with horrible sunburn one of the few years I went by myself.
We went to the beach like everyday! I was always swimming, never wanted to leave the water! My cousins were there, a bunch of them, and they were all older than me. One of my older cousins, forget his name honestly, was a typical blonde teenage country boy. Had the curly hair that went to the end of his ears, wore a shark tooth necklace, had on those leather bracelets, always had a hat on. He seemed like a real tough guy. He was playing catch with another cousin of ours, when all of a sudden one of the adults ran out to check on him.
About ten minutes later we’re back at the beachside bar, one of the bathroom doors open, him sitting on a toilet with his trunks down, an ice pack to a fresh new jellyfish sting, him bawling like he’s 2 years old. Looking back on it? Absolutely hilarious! Then and there though, I was so baffled and confused about how my tough as brick cousin was reduced to crying like a baby!
One heck of an entrance. I’m still figuring out if I am grateful that you kept the exact location of the jellyfish sting up to the imagination, or rather the opposite.
I think between this and the delightful question about preferred burial methods, someone’s going to have to start keeping a list of interesting ways newcomers to the forums have announced their arrival.
Pfft, the thing is I barely remember where it was myself. I think it was on the side of his thigh? Pretty sure at least!
[Mike, you’re crazy for doing this, but, well, if you insist:]
We were at a music festival, in the Suffolk countryside: me, my wife, and my son who would have four at the time. It was one of those family-friendly affairs, full of new parents trying to taste again the wine of their youth while their toddlers played around in the dirt, older kids dressing up and doing arts and crafts and clambering around tree-top obstacle courses, and young teenagers let off the leash and moving about in furtive little clusters with the sole aim of avoiding, at all costs, running into their parents.
It was hot, really, baking hot, and the flat part of the site where the main stages were located was a trash-strewn dustbowl with nowhere to hide from the sun. So we retreated up the slopes into the woodland area, where there was a stage hidden amongst the pine trees, alongside a bar and toilet block – all the facilities, in fact. It was day three of a four-day festival, and we were camping, so what with the break from everyday routine, the broken sleep, the enormous quantity of beer (taken medicinally, to alleviate the camping-related insomnia) and the four AM wake up call (it being impossible to remain in the tent after that time, at risk of being baked alive) the sense of dislocation and unreality had really begun to set in. I’d forgotten what day of the week and date in the month it was, and I wasn’t hugely confident about the year. But that didn’t seem to matter on this particular, insufferably sunny, Suffolk summer morning, under the trees with a pint in my hand, my child (wearing nothing but his nappy) playing delightedly amongst the pine needles, and my wife, barefoot and with flowers in her hair, sitting on a log and watching the band (I remember distinctly, they were called The Pains of Being Pure at Heart). Anyway, after a little while of basking in this idyllic, Woodstock-esque scene, I realised, being on my second or third pint of the morning, that I needed the loo. So off I went to use the gents (one of the definite advantages of maintaining a steady state of inebriation at a festival being to cushion the intellect against the horrors of the communal toilet facilities. In fact, these were no ordinary toilets but exotic, eco-friendly compost toilets, which lent them a certain mystique and glamour, and made me almost excited to use them; clearly I was quite drunk). Just as I was about to enter the makeshift plywood cubicle, my paper cup of woodchips in my hand, I looked back at the clearing where my family were residing happily. Sunlight was slanting majestically through the tall pines, lighting up the woodland floor and making the scattered pine cones glow like precious stones washed up on a beach of dried needles; I’m pretty sure cute cartoon deer were gambolling about while sweetly singing bluebirds fluttered by.
I went to the loo.
As soon as I stepped from the cubicle, I could sense that something had changed. A cloud had passed over the sun; the light was grey and sombre. The band, whose music had been so bright and uplifting before, now sounded merely petulant and grating (perhaps they’d always sounded like that? I’m not sure). A couple were arguing, and the bartended scowled at me peevishly as I passed by. But worse, when I got back to my family, it seemed that catastrophe had occurred in my brief absence. My boy was in tears and my wife semi-hysterical.
“A wasp!” she cried, gesturing wildly, “a wasp!”
“A wasp?” I replied, looking around and, seeing no wasp, simply repeating, “a wasp?”.
A wasp, it seemed, had appeared as soon as I had walked away, expertly reconnoitring my innocent family and then, having identified the most defenceless target, swooping in to attack my baby not just once but, as my wife graphically described it, several times. Somehow, the wasp had clung on beneath an onslaught of hysterically fierce blows and had continued to push its sting repeatedly into the tender flesh of my son’s leg until, a mother’s instinct overriding all other concerns, she managed to pluck off the fiend and crush the tiny black-and-yellow-stripy homicidal automaton between her bare fingers! The tone in which she told me this implied unambiguously that it was largely my fault, and that the bastard had been loitering there, behind the tree, watching and waiting, just waiting for me to go to the toilet so it could carry out its diabolical mission. And who was I to argue? I should have issued them both with Kevlar jumpsuits and smoking apparatus, before answering the call of nature. Things had been made worse, it seems, by the attentions of a concerned couple who, witnessing the incident, had rushed over and immediately issued the wounded with fresh, costly, and entirely fit-for-purpose professional-strength bite and sting cream, which put our dubious little crinkled tube of ineffectual and quite possibly out-of-date sting ointment to shame and showed us up as woefully unprepared parents and unfit do deal with such an acute health emergency (we’re a bit ramshackle when it comes to packing useful things for holidays: the last time we went away, for two weeks, I actually forgot to put in any underwear! And spent day one of the holiday trawling every shop in a small seaside town for a pair of underpants, amongst all the sticks of rock, seashell-adorned jewellery boxes and novelty postcards on offer. There’s a great IF story in there somewhere – perhaps I should submit it to SeedComp?).
When the dust had settled, it became apparent that my wife was far more traumatised by the incident that my son was – he forgot about it pretty much straight away; the high-end sting cream really did seem to take the pain and swelling away very rapidly and he was right as rain within a few minutes, but my wife was shaken up and talked about little else for the rest of the festival (and indeed, still talks about it to this day). Needless to say, we never felt quite the same about those woods after that. The extreme summer heatwave (then extraordinary, now becoming the norm) meant that we still had to spend a lot of the day in the shelter of the trees, but after that the music seemed a little more jarring, the beer lost a little of its savour, and we treaded warily amongst the pines, watching the shadows and alive to every click, whirr and buzz of wings, always expecting our stealthy assailant to reappear (uncrushed perhaps; certainly reanimated) and take its revenge.
It didn’t, for the rest of the festival, and my son has been stung a couple of times since – he seems a bit unlucky when it comes to wasp stings – but no other incident sticks in the mind, or is as frequently recounted, as this one.
Umm. So when I posted this last night half of me was like “you know, this is an in joke that might have run it’s course, but hopefully I’ll get at least a couple more stories so it all feels worthwhile.” I am excited and not a little daunted to have struck something of a nerve! These are tales rife with hubris, betrayal, kismet, and jump scares. Family dynamics are called into question; universal compassion reaps a parlous reward; we even, mirabile dictu, got a jellyfish!
I will do my best to do this all - and any more stories others want to throw into the hopper! - justice, albeit I woke up sick this morning and have been napping all day (it’s not Covid, thankfully!) so it might be a bit before I really get my oar in. But didn’t want to let it go too long without posting my affection for you magnificent bunch of oddballs
Ha, this is good!
A few years ago I got stung by a bee that crawled out of my bicycle handlebar (hollow without the groups). Painful but otherwise uneventful, and luckily it happened before I actually got on the bike.
Fourth grade, so '06 or '07. I was at a park with a babysitter after school. Change names to protect the innocent–let’s call her Jenny. There were bees (or wasps maybe? Didn’t get a good look) flying around. She was allergic and nervous, so we left earlier than we’d intended.
Truly hours later–like, long enough that it was completely dark out–Jenny was heating up some soup for dinner and I was at the kitchen table doing homework, when I felt an itch in a small spot on the right side of my scalp. I have (or, had) thick wavy hair, which is prone to tangling when it’s long and was shoulder-length at the time. I reached up with my right hand and felt… something twisted up in it. I used both hands to pull it out and took a look.
You can guess what it was: small, yellow with black stripes, buzzing angrily. I didn’t have the greatest reflexes, so I just kind of watched as it curled its body over and stuck its stinger into my thumb. My reaction, if I remember correctly, was almost comedically understated. Maybe a small “ow.” Jenny came over to see what was wrong and, understandably, freaked all the way out. If one went undetected for so long, she reasoned, there might be more.
After we had dealt with the sting (I knew from previous encounters that mint toothpaste was helpful for the pain and maybe could draw the stinger itself out?), she had me go through my hair to make sure there were no more passengers. There weren’t, but I don’t think we ever returned to that park.
I’m on the college campus, sitting down in the computer lab. The room is more like a warehouse full of tables for laptops, and various stations for downloading gates to programmable integrated circuits. Way at the top, where the ceiling of the warehouse meets the lower ceiling of the neighboring structure, there are windows which span the difference in heights. Some of these windows were open.
Extendable charger cables hang from the ceiling, there are students from a wide number of countries and languages here, and it’s maybe 3pm.
I had stood up to discuss Java code with someone for a moment, and I had just returned to my chair. The floor is carpeted, and the chairs lack wheels, so I gotta lift the chair to scooch forward.
Soon after my hands went under my chair, there is a blast of lancing pain. It was so intense that I forgot to even make a sound. Over half a decade later, I remember feeling it like an acute wave, radiating out from the sting point.
The largest insect I had ever seen in the region flew out from underneath my chair. It didn’t look a bee or wasp, but more like a horsefly. It definitely didn’t bite me, though, because an inspection of my hand revealed a red spot right on the second knuckle of my ring finger, where a needle-like stinger had pierced the joint, between two digits of bone.
The pain felt like it was being experience across my entire body. I felt the need to vomit, and feared that I might have been allergic, but—as time passed—it was just a reaction to the intense pain. I had to sit there, and hold onto reality, lest I fall into a dissociation of agony.
I think maybe 30 minutes passed before I was approaching something like normal. However, with every movement of my finger, the lancing pain threatened to return.
Unfortunately, I was in the warehouse to write code, which was an activity that I had developed a kind of addiction for, as college was one of the lowest points of my life.
So, despite the extreme pain, I proceeded to write code until sunset, clenching my teeth through each returning wave of searing agony.
I have never, to my knowledge, been stung by a bee or a wasp or any kind of flying insect. I know this sounds kind of improbable coming from a 52 year old, but it’s true.
There is a story that was often recounted to me by my mum, which I didn’t remember at all. It happened, if it happened at all, when I was less than three years old and still living at 30 Queen Street, Oadby, my first home.
It was summer time. My mum was working in the garden, digging. Probably planting vegetable seeds.
She said, “I’m going into the house for a minute. Stay here, but don’t sit down, because there’s an ant nest right where you’re standing, and if you sit down you’ll get ants in your pants.”
She went into the house for a minute.
My legs were tired.
I sat down.
I got ants in my pants.
A few brief sting stories:
My younger brother and I were playing in the garden when we were kids. We must have disturbed a bee because my brother got stung and he was bawling his eyes out. I had to pluck the sting out with my dirty fingers and a part of the bee’s abdomen was still attached. I found the dying bee nearby.
My mum was watering the garden a few year’s ago and she must have watered a wasp’s nest. A wasp stung her for flooding its home. Mum was in pain for a few days. The wasp probably set up home in a less flood-prone area.
I was cleaning the dead fronds from some sort of exotic plant a year or so ago and felt a sudden sharp sting. I must have brushed against a paper wasp nest that I found under one of the fronds. I subsequently crushed it. Er…the nest, not the frond. Every time I do any gardening around that plant now, I check for wasps first.
OK folks, democracy time! Since my initial expectation was that I’d get a couple stories dribbling in over time, my thought was to just monkey around a little bit every couple days to incorporate whatever had been posted since my last update. That is not the world we’re in now, so I’m curious what conception of StingComp seems most compelling to folks. Should it be:
- Like the serpent Jormungandr, iteratively shedding its skin as it swells larger and larger until its coils are wide enough to crush the world (i.e., regular releases every week or so until the end)
- Like some hideous pupa, entering a fell chrysalis that hides its workings before revealing its true and dreadful form (i.e. one release in early January)
I’m in the same boat, and have watched this thread grow with an odd kind of envy.
It’s doubly weird because I was horribly bitten up by mosquitoes multiple times in my childhood, to the point that one time my right eye was swollen shut, like a pudgy nine year-old prizefighter. My Southern relatives liked to say I had “sweet blood.”
But everyone gets mosquito bites, right? No biggee.
Eheheh, you’d think so, wouldn’t you! But there are apparently people who don’t get swelling or itchiness from mosquitoes. They still get bitten, sure, but their body doesn’t notice!
(I am not one of those people. I suspect I share your experiences with this.)
I’m sorry to pile more on, but I can’t resist, so:
When I was eight or nine, my Girl Scout troop went on a hike. It was all going smoothly until someone accidentally stepped on a wasps’ nest. Chaos ensued. (I have this mental picture of a troop of Girl Scouts being chased by a cloud of angry wasps like in a cartoon, but that’s probably not quite accurate.) In any case, there was a lot of running and screaming and flailing around and all the things they tell you not to do when you are being attacked by wasps, because we were a group of panicked eight-year-olds. Most of us got stung multiple times, including me.
I have no idea how we got away from the wasps in the end, given that, as I said, we were doing everything wrong, but somehow we did and got back to the parking lot, where the leader and other adult chaperones (one of whom was my mother) commenced with the first aid. The pain was intense, and I remember feeling like I might pass out; I’m not allergic and don’t usually react particularly badly to bee or wasp stings, so presumably it was the pain that did it. I think in the end someone gave me a Benadryl and I fell asleep in the back of the car on the way home.
Funnily enough, I am largely this way – and to add insult to injury, whenever there are mosquitos around and I’m with my wife, they clearly prefer her to me, and she does react reasonably strongly to them.
The one exception was when we went to Italy on our honeymoon: we stayed at a fancy hotel in Florence because we got a very good rate on it on account of it being their first week open for business. This seemed like a great idea until it turned out that the A/C didn’t work, and we had the quintessential 21st Century experience of repeatedly telling the front desk that the A/C was borked, only for them to politely insist that according to their newly-installed, ultramodern wifi-enabled HVAC system that they could check on their iPads, it was all working perfectly and maybe we just weren’t noticing that it could take a few minutes to kick in.
Anyway we wound up opening a window in the middle of the night, which likewise seemed like a good idea at the time until the morning, when I woke up to find my back absolutely covered in giant, livid mosquito bites, while my wife was nigh-completely untouched. Since I’m half Italian – and in fact my dad’s family was in Florence for a number of generations, though the roots go further back to Sicily – we hypothesized that the mosquitos there had evolved a taste for blood like mine.
Anyway I hate for folks to be excluded from an event as ecumenical in intent as StingComp! @jnelson, if you want to expand on your nine-year-old prizefighter story a bit, I’d be glad to include it, or any comparable negative experience with the natural world (ever step on a sea urchin? Get a really bad splinter? Accidentally lick a hallucinogenic toad? Just spitballing here)
Oh, maybe I should tell you all about that one time when a rhino-sized rainbow-coloured honeybee flew me to the poppy garden in the clouds. I wasn’t stung or bitten though, so it probably doesn’t count…
I was 12 and it was late fall in Northern Michigan. I was trailing my father around the outside of my childhood home, a brick rancher hopelessly trapped in the 1950s. He was rattling off various odds and ends he expected me to take care of the following day in regards to winterizing and tidying up. I had nothing to write with and had already lost track of the list of tasks somewhere around the pump house, but continued to quietly nod anyway. It was mostly a one-way affair. Until we came around to the garage.
He stopped, me, head down, nearly running into him, and pointed up wordlessly. I obediently swiveled my head straining to determine what I was looking at before he felt the need to ask and my not having an answer aggravated him.
At first, I saw nothing other than the soffit under the edge of the roof protruding over the garage door, but then I noticed a small grey ball nestled into the peak.
“Yep. Tomorrow I’m going to need you to knock that nest down and crush it.”
“Aren’t they going to come out and sting me?”
“Too cold. They’ll be slow and dumb.”
“Can’t… can’t we just move them?”
He stared at me for a long second or two, perhaps puzzling yet again how I had come from him, before simply turning and moving on as if I hadn’t asked my last question. I shuffled after him putting aside my discomfort with my execution orders.
I had stacked the firewood, replaced the bulb in the pump house and just finished sweeping out the garage. I knew I was forgetting stuff, but couldn’t for the life of me remember everything he had said. It was then, standing there with the broom, that I glanced up and saw the wasps’ nest. Right. That.
I looked at the broomstick in my hands and decided to steel up and just ‘get on with it’ as he often said. Holding the broom just above the brush, I reached up with the tip and pressed it against the side of the nest.
It immediately and entirely popped free dropping to the cement at my feet.
At first I stood there in surprise at how unexpectedly easy that was. Realizing my next move, I swallowed and levered one foot over the nest and… stopped.
Why? If they’re slow and dumb, why can’t I move them?
I stood that way long enough for my shin to start burning with the effort. I put my foot down.
Next to the nest.
Some rummaging revealed a dustpan and I carefully swept the nest into the pan and meandered out into the yard, looking for somewhere safe to deposit them. I settled on the crook of a tree some 50 yards (~50m) from the house. Far enough.
I put away the tools and walked into the house. I plopped down on the couch with my hands in the pocket of my hoody.
Although I couldn’t see how’d he ever find out, I was anxious about defying him. It was rarely a pleasant experience. At the same time I was deeply relieved at sparing the nest. What was the big deal anyway? They weren’t hurting anything. Why did they have to go in the first place? I resolved to say something later that night, tell him what I-
Pain exploded at the nape of my neck and I reflexively stood and felt something slide down my back under my shirt. Reaching back to grasp at the sensation, new miniature explosions of pain blossomed along my spine. I fell back onto the couch, instinctively trying to crush the offender under my weight.
Unfortunately, the couch did not provide a surface rigid enough to get this done and a new eruption of pain erupted on left shoulder blade.
Desperate, I rolled off the couch onto my knees and pulled off my shirt and hoody and tossed it out onto the floor. Taking a moment to gather myself, I stood up, walked over and stomped on my clothes repeatedly.
It was while I was standing there shirtless in the living room, breathing heavily and in pain, staring with tear blurred vision down at my wadded up shirt and hoody, that the irony hit me.
I resolved then and there that he’d never get to know.
Oh, man. You don’t knock a wasps’ nest down in the daytime! They’re all out doing whatever it is that wasps do. When they come home, they see that their nest is gone and they just build another one.
You have to wait until after dusk. They all come home for the night and cuddle up in their beds. Then you keep your distance and squirt them with fly spray. They fall like dominos. Then, when the nest is empty, you can knock it down and squash it. Easy peasy. And no wasp stings.
DISCLAIMER: This works with paper wasps. Not sure about other species.