Why you shouldn’t talk about parasitic insects at work related events

Somehow this is the second year in a row where I decided it would be an awesome idea to end the year, pack up my classroom, move to a new place, and leave the country all in a matter of a couple weeks. This is a bad plan.

I just got back from a trip to Costa Rica, on a science expedition with a bunch of other teachers. It was awesome. One of the first things I did when I got back was go to a workshop with other teachers in my area. It was the third this year, and in the past I had always enjoyed them. Now, though, half my mind was still in jungle mode, so I was not exactly a model student when it came to staying focused.

I also had a giant bite on my leg that was itchy and painful, and I was becoming more and more convinced that it was a botfly. Don’t know what a botfly is? If you’re squeamish, skip ahead. For the strong of heart and stomach, a botfly is bug that lays its eggs in the skin of people and animals. A simple scratchy spot, and next thing you know a maggot is poking its slimy head out of you. Gross.

I spent part of my trip with a high school science teacher who was hoping, I kid you not, hoping for a botfly of her own. Her husband had had four. She felt left out. She was enviously eyeing the bite on my leg when we left, and as the days past it only looked grosser. So there I am, sitting in a conference, furiously scratching and poking at my leg. All I could think of was how many students I’d had who became completely unable to concentrate when faced with the fascinating subject matter of their own scabs and wounds. I was “that kid”.

Of course, to make matters worse, I was sitting next to one of the biggest names in child development, the teacher version of a celebrity. With my colleagues, we had half-jokingly referred to him as “the guru.” I had met him a few times before, and apparently felt comfortable enough to give him the full run down of my potentially horrifying problems. This is how the conversation between us went, to my everlasting shame and complete lack of surprise.

Teaching Guru: “That looks like a nasty bite.”

Me: “Yeah, I think it’s a botfly”

Immediately my inner voice yelled Why the hell would I tell him that!?

TG: “A botfly? What’s that?”

Don’t tell him! Change the subject! Lie to him!

Me: “It’s a parasitic fly that lays eggs in you when it bites you.” No, not the truth!

TG: “Oh. That sounds awful.”

Me: “Yeah, it’s pretty gross.” Stop. Stop there. “If it is a botfly, I’ll know soon though, because apparently you can see their little heads poke out after awhile to get air.” Why am I still talking?

TG: “Whose heads?”

Me: “The larvae.” Don’t say maggots. “Maggots, technically, I guess.”

TG: “Oh… that’s… oh. Should you… see a doctor?”

Me: “Probably. I’ve heard you can also get them out by laying raw steak over the bite. They tunnel right through it because they need to get air, and then they’re in the steak and not you.”

TG: “That makes sense, I guess.”

Me: “Yeah, I mean, meat is meat.”

Then I poked my own leg to really drive the point home.

And that’s why you don’t talk about parasitic insects at work related events.

p.s. It wasn’t a botfly.


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