Friday, June 14, 2024

The best way to swat a fly: some useful advice for the rainy season

Guarantee: after reading this you will never again approach the important topic of swatting a fly casually. This is timeless advice; the kind you pass down to your children, your children’s children, etc.

A few years back I gave a seminar to a group of miners. At a borderline raucous post-seminar dinner the conversation turned to the best way to swat a fly. Since miners often work in Third World countries, and accordingly are uber-familiar with flies, I listened closely and ever since have tried to apply our unanimous conclusion to my own anti-fly campaigns.

We concluded that you have to swat that bugger from behind.

My subsequent research has shown that our consensus was only partially correct.

Flies are part of our lives, always have been and always will be. If you bake, you are familiar with shoo-fly pie; if you are staying in San Francisco you not only have a fly on your tent, but lots of them outside; and if you identify as a male you probably have a fly on your pants.

Likewise, flies have enriched the English language with such expressions as “no flies on him (or her)” and “died/dropped like flies.”

Although I have tried to apply the “swat from behind” technique, I recently dipped into some no-doubt government-funded research on the topic. Here’s what I learned.

Flies have eyes. This is not exactly news to you or me. For years I had a big rubber fly with big beady red eyes, which I once put in my coffee cup on a flight in the days before lawyers flew on every plane looking for ambulances to chase. The “stewardess” — that’s how long-ago it was — just laughed and there were no police waiting when we landed.

Flies’ eyes, like yours and mine, are not in the backs of their heads. Flies have a “six,” a blind spot like a fighter pilot’s. The miners knew that and now you do too.

Flies’ eyesight is only slightly sharper than Mr. Magoo’s. In fact they can only see things within a range of about 40 inches.

Flies cock and load when they perceive a risk such as a flyswatter within their 40-inch range. They automatically launch away from a perceived threat, such as that fuchsias flyswatter you got at the dollar store, or that rolled-up newspaper from the days before websites, which are harder to roll up.

Until it is again solvent enough to fund critical research, the government hasn’t told us whether flies are color blind, so the fuchsia color is to help you find the swatter and irrelevant to the fly.

Therefore, if you are still in the Flintstone era and using a swatter, approach the fly from its “six” blind spot, conceal the swatter by holding it out of fly-sight against your leg as you circle to get the best angle of attack, and splat.

You will never forget this article.

Carlisle Johnson writes from his home in Guatemala.

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