The term “crickets” is often used when someone asks a question and gets no response. Crickets has come to mean absolute silence; no communication. This expression was derived from the cinematic metaphor of chirping crickets at night, signally (otherwise) complete silence.
The use of crickets to represent silence is ironic. As a person who has had crickets in his house, I can tell you they are anything but quiet.
The other night, I was at the kitchen table hard at work writing a column. Scraping the plaque off my teeth with a paper clip while simultaneously trying to stand the salt shaker on its edge with grains of salt, I waited patiently for my muse to arrive.
I started to hear a chirping noise coming from the basement. Suspecting a smoke detector in need of a new battery, I ignored the sound and returned to my writing effort, this time balancing a pen on the bridge of my nose with my eyes closed. But the chirping got louder and more frequent, and I was forced to investigate. When I went towards the basement, I saw, at the top of the stairs, a large cricket. I confess to uttering a minor yelp and taking a large step backwards before assessing the situation.
One other time I had a cricket in the house and the noise drove me crazy. After a few days of co-existing in the same abode, I devised a plot to exterminate the pest. When I told a friend of my plan to eliminate the cricket, she suggested rather than kill it, I take it out. I followed her advice and took the cricket out. First we had dinner and then we went to the movies. Unfortunately, the damn thing wouldn’t shut up through the entire show, and I left it on the roadside on the way home.
Now I was faced with another noisemaker who had invaded my space. I wasn’t clear on how I was going to handle this particular interloper but one thing was certain: catching a film was out of the question.
It is a little known fact that when sixth-century Chinese General Sun Tzu said, “Know your enemy and know yourself, and you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles,” he was referring to confronting household pests. I knew myself; I feared and despised spiders, snakes and insects of all varieties. I didn’t, however, know much about my foe, Mr. Cricket.
I quickly grabbed my phone and Googled “cricket,” keeping one eye on my new house guest.
The first thing I read was there are trillions of crickets that exist at any one time in the world. There was about to be trillions minus one if I couldn’t find a good reason to spare this Jiminy wannabe.
I read that in Brazil some species of crickets are considered to be signs of incoming wealth. A quick check of my bank balance determined this was not a Brazilian cricket.
I further read that crickets chirp faster when it’s hot out, and researchers discovered you can actually determine the air temperature by counting their chirps in a minute, dividing the number by four, and then adding 40.
I learned that some researchers have entirely too much time on their hands.
Next, I perused another long list of cricket facts: A group of crickets are called an orchestra; a baby cricket is called a nymph; a male cricket is called a male cricket. This was getting me nowhere. As if on cue, my uninvited visitor began to chirp at a very high volume.
Then I found facts about chirping. The sound is made only by males, and there are basically two calls that they make; one is to attract females from afar and the other is to intimidate rivals.
So it turned out the cricket was either calling the entire neighborhood gal-cricket population over for a friendly infestation of my dwelling, or he was calling me out to a fight. Neither of these scenarios made me happy.
I decided it was time to take action. I thought about the incident with the other cricket, and my attempt to take the intruder out. Although that effort failed, my friend’s advice was still solid. I would attempt to take this cricket out. As I looked for my shoes, the chirping kept getting louder. And louder. And louder. The chirping was pushing me to the brink of madness. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore …
I slammed my phone on the countertop, scooped the cricket into a cup, and gently released him in the back yard so he could join his trillions of cricket friends.
When I got back to writing, I could swear I heard a smoke alarm in the basement chirp.
Mark S. Albury lives in Northfield Falls.