In the halcyon days of my youth, like so many starry-eyed youngsters before me, I had wild dreams of a career in the pest control business. My father, unfortunately, had other plans. I’ll never forget the look of seething rage on his face when he caught me flipping through an old tattered, dog-eared catalogue of fumigation supplies. “Ach, ye wee so and so, ye’ll no be fritterin away ye’ time maunderin’ on such airy-fairy stuff n’ nonsense. No bairn of mine’ll be growin’ up to be some rodent huntin’ sissy boy, ye ken?” A tirade which would maybe have made more sense if he had been Scottish.
Nothing, though, could quell my romantic longing for a life of poisoning termites. My earliest memory is of running around the rose gardens in the back of one of our summer houses, my arms outstretched, pretending to be a crop dusting airplane. Night after night I would lie in bed making a hissing sound as I pretended to discharge cans of Raidâ?¢ into the air. I dreamed incessantly of running away and renting a romantic little garrett on the rat-infested Rive Gauche or setting up shop in New York’s fabled Varmint District. In the summer, I would often skip out of the sailing lessons and hang-gliding classes that my Da (as he insisted on calling himself) had signed me up for. Instead, I would dress up in the enviro-suit that I had sewed together from the maid’s discarded rubber dishwashing gloves. I would ride my bike behind the Acme Pest Control van as it drove through the depressingly cheery, sun-filled streets of my Venice Beach, California neighbourhood.
Daily, I cursed the cruel designs of malevolent fate that had caused me to be born into a family of well-to-do filmmakers. Life for me back then was an unending treadmill of golf, tennis, scuba diving, pool parties and tropical vacations. I’ll never forget those interminable nights in Bali, during which the only comfort I took was crushing foot-long centipedes with the heel of my shoe. Oh, how I longed for the sultry tang of Rat-B-Gonâ?¢ to hang in the night air, instead of the cloying scent of magnolia blossoms!
Alas, it was never to be. On the night of my nineteenth birthday, on an excruciating wine-tasting tour through the Napa Valley, I broke out in a skin rash while walking through one of the vineyards. A tension-filled trip to a private Swiss medical clinic soon confirmed my worst fears. It was an allergic reaction to chemical pesticides. All the dreams of my childhood were now lying on their backs, their legs pathetically twitching, with their feelers forever silenced.
All these years later, as I’m watching television from inside my hermetically sealed bio-support bubble, I think back to what might have been and I shed a silent, private, and uncontaminated tear.