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See How Effective It Is?

During our first six weeks living in Santa Fe, we’ve been to several restaurants, trying to get a grip on the local cuisine. They certainly don’t forget to bring the cheese. The red and green chile I like. (When you mix them, it’s called “christmas.”) The quantities of cheese, however, border on the obsessive-compulsive – and this is coming from someone who grew up in the Upper Midwest. When looked at from a certain angle and under unfortunate lighting conditions, many NewMex dishes can appear as though someone else has kindly eaten your meal for you.

A week or so ago, we had lunch at a place called “Celebrations,” where we were seated in the enclosed porch. Hanging from a rafter was a large plastic bag of water.

“Look!” The Wife exclaimed, “Another one!”

We had been at another restaurant with some friends a few days earlier, and had seen the same thing, looked in vain for a goldfish within, discussed it quietly amongst ourselves, imagining some hokey southwestern Ufology superstition or something, but had not actually asked anyone about it. This morning, however, we could contain our curiosity no longer. And do you know what our waiter told us?

It keeps the mosquitoes away.

It is not just a bag of water, of course. Oh no. They mix in a trace amount of bleach, and cut a small hole in the top. The water/bleach compound slowly evaporates in the sun; the mosquitoes reportedly find this repelling.

Okay. Now, I really didn’t know what to say to the waiter who told us this. I witnessed childhood friends carried away by several burly mosquitoes like lumbering military helicopters; I have been leeched nearly dry by a fog of them in the Quetico. I have known mosquitoes. They need large stagnant pools of standing water in which to spawn, something that cannot persist in a semi-arid desert. I mean no offense, really, but – mosquitoes? In New Mexico? Please.

I was reminded, of course, of the old joke about the two guys riding the subway in New York City. One guy has a paper bag full of little bits of paper like confetti, and he’s throwing handfuls out the window. The other guy watches this for a while and finally asks what the first guy is doing. “This? It keeps the leopards away.” Our guy says “Leopards? But there aren’t any leopards for thousands of miles!” And the first guy replies, “See how effective it is?”

So, I have a request to my friends back in the North. Next summer, instead of the gallons of Off, the bonfires of citronella candles, and fenced-in porches, please try this little experiment instead: in the 98% humidity, try to coax a little water mixed with bleach to evaporate. And tell me how many pints of blood you lose.

<muttering>Keeps the mosquitos away. Right.</muttering>

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