The day that the internet bugged out

Gene Weingarten on

WASHINGTON -- This is the story of how, for about two days last month, my daughter became an international celebrity. Her fame was fleeting, but dramatic. There are many modern lessons in this story, with several poignant themes, but mostly it is about the magnificent silliness of journalism.

It begins a few days after Christmas when Molly and her husband, Julien, were sitting in their living room in suburban Virginia and Julien looked around and made a disturbing observation. "I think," he said, "that we have a bug infestation." Theirs is a tidy house, but Julien was noticing a sudden swarm of tiny insects everywhere: floor, walls, windows, ceilings. Hundreds of them. An Amazonian canopy of undulating, disgusting life-forms featuring little brown thoraxes and curiously long and spindly articulated legs.

Julien was being quite calm about this, not really agitated, possibly because the very next morning he was leaving for a month's stay in China. He is a fine man and a loving husband, but let's be frank: Whatever the heck was happening was not going to be his particular problem to solve.

Besides, Molly is a veterinarian. She is naturally attuned to critters, large and small. Who better to deal with such a situation? So, summoning all of her veterinary skills, applying the four years of postgraduate learning for which she remains many tens of thousands of dollars in debt, she squinted real hard at these creatures and diagnosed: "These are &$+!@! baby praying mantises."

Husband and wife then had a slap-to-the-forehead revelation.

Several weeks earlier, they had purchased from Home Depot a stately Christmas tree.


Yes, they had noticed that there was a brown knurlish sort of thing beneath one of the branches.

They ignored this, because they know you cannot obsess over every little thing. Apparently, however, this had been an egg sac.

Nothing would have been wrong had the tree remained uncut, in the wild -- the mantises would have stayed in their protected cocoon until the weather warmed enough to keep them alive. But the tree wound up in this toasty Virginia apartment, and God's thermostat informed the beasts it was time to wake up and face the world. The world was still too cold to keep them alive, but they didn't know it.

It turns out these were the luckiest baby praying mantises on the planet, because most people -- including Julien, by his own sheepish admission -- would have simply taken out a vacuum and Hoovered the little boogers up, then left for a leisurely brunch.


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