Advice from your friendly Altamont cicada

I recently had a rather eye-opening conversation with a cicada. His name was Terrence. He had more than a bit to say about the world and how we humans are not necessarily doing a great job. So, here’s how this happened.

I was walking up our driveway and looked down to see a very large distinctive bug sitting quietly in the sun. I bent down to look closer, and I recognized it as a cicada.

“Well, hi there,” I said.

You must understand that I do tend to greet most living things I come across. It just seems like the polite thing to do.

Anyway, much to my surprise, I heard a small, but rather British sounding voice say, “Hello.”

Not what I was expecting.

“Um, I had no idea you guys could talk,” I said. “I thought it was all high-pitched buzzing and stuff.”

“Well, we tend to try and respond when spoken too; it seems the polite thing to do. I’m Terrence, by the way, and my family has been here in Altamont for the past 20 generations,” he said, crossing his rear legs and relaxing in my shadow.

I did a little quick math based on the cicada’s 17-year life cycle and discovered he and his kin had been here for 340 years. When I said that he just yawned and nodded.

“So, you’re brood X? You guys were supposed to inundate the East Coast this year and you’re the first one I’ve seen. What’s up with that?” I asked.

“Our PR department kind of jumped to gun with the publicity before they got our advanced report,” he said, sounding a touch defensive. “Once we reported back, the brood decided to come out just enough to breed and then head back down.

“That’s our job; we check in periodically to see how you people are doing and then report back to the natural world. Frankly, we’re not too impressed, especially for the past four generations,” he sniffed.

“Um, where were you before Altamont?” I asked, knowing that cicadas dated back thousands of years, if not millions.

“Oh, New Jersey. Even back then, the place was kind of squidgy, so Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandma moved our brood up here and we’ve been here ever since. At first, it was just the Native Americans, and they took very good care of the place and then white folks sailed in and early on they were pretty decent, too, but boy, once the Industrial Revolution hit, you really screwed the pooch,” he said.

“Uh, yeah, I did read about that in history class,” I mumbled.

“Well, that was just the beginning. Mechanized farming, mass hunting, mass transit, widespread pollution, and good lord, what you people did to MTV was just a crime. And social media, what on earth were you thinking? All this technology and you idiots can’t even handle a simple worldwide pandemic. Do you know the dinosaurs handled that meteor more gracefully?”

“Well, there certainly have been some missteps,” I agreed.

“Missteps? Last month we read in The Enterprise about that school board meeting where crazy parents were threatening board members over masks in school.”

“Wait, you read the local newspaper?” I asked, rather surprised.

“We monitor various media outlets. The Enterprise does a rather nice job on local news and, since we’re based in Altamont ,that’s a bit of a no-brainer. But that story rather upset me and the rest of the brood.

“How can a supposedly intelligent species take a public-health threat and turn it into a political fiasco? We expect that sort of behavior in Texas or Alabama or Berne, but in Guilderland? You people are in a blue state, in a blue county, have quite a good educational system and yet you threaten elected officials for trying their best to protect your children?”

Terrence looked distinctly peeved.

“Hey, listen I agree with you. This whole COVID thing has been largely weaponized by the right since day one,” I tried to say before he cut me off.

“Right, left, Russian trolls, it really doesn’t matter. You people need to step back and use the common sense the Goddess gave you.

“If your race is challenged by a simple virus, and you have the means to eradicate it through vaccinations, social distancing, masking, and common sense, why, for the sake of all that’s holy, don’t you just shut up, step up and get the thing done? You beat polio, rubella, mumps, diphtheria, and even beat back Carrot Top before he could get any real media traction and yet here you have totally blown it.”

“Well, in New York we’re doing pretty well,” I countered.

“You were doing pretty well. Then the anti-vaxxers rallied and you stopped at about 60 or 70 percent vax rates. You morons should be at or near 100 percent and now states are having to offer bribes to get people to get a simple shot.

“They whine that they don’t know what’s in the shot, but the same idiots will march into McDonald’s and swallow anything they’re handed, or chow down on a hot dog? Do you have any idea what’s in those things?”

“So, we’re not the sharpest tools in the shed,” I admitted. “But what do you propose we do with your centuries of observation?”

“Be smart, be kind, and do the right thing. It’s really quite simple. If you can’t figure that out, you won’t be here for a whole lot longer. If COVID doesn’t slowly wipe you out then climate change will. Either that or you’ll all just march off a cliff while staring at your stupid cell phones.”

“Do you think we’ll be able to save ourselves?”

“Look, I’m not a fortune teller. But if you have the technology to send a jerk like Jeff Bezos into space riding in a giant penis-shaped missile, you may have some hope. Like I said, be kind to one another. Your neighbors aren’t the enemy, the wealthy and the mass media are the real evil on the planet. That and basic human selfishness.”

And with that, Terrence flew off to who knows where.

I hope he’s right and we have a chance to fix things. I, for one, am tuning out of the news more than I ever have and am also trying very hard to be a kind person each day. I got my shots, and continue to wear my mask when necessary.

And now I’m off to try and help keep my grandchildren from killing themselves through sheer toddler exuberance. Those little people are the real future.

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg says he spends most days fixing bikes, writing, chasing tiny people, reading, and mowing the lawn; it’s been that kind of season.