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Opinion >  Column

Paul Turner: If Spokane bugs you, try living in the Midwest

FILE - A mosquito is shown on human skin in this handout photo from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (AP)
FILE - A mosquito is shown on human skin in this handout photo from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (AP)

What’s the absolute best thing about Spokane?

Hard to say.

I mean, that’s pretty subjective. One person could prize our proximity to outdoor recreation while another might tout the city’s “just right” size and all that implies. You know, offering a smattering of cultural offerings and hospitals without being either Hooterville or Gotham City.

Or maybe something else.

Affordability? City parks? Climate? Bloomsday?

Lack of deadly weather and the unlikelihood of a lights-out earthquake? Relatively tame traffic?

Of course, some would suggest it’s the people.

Feel free to debate this. I bring it up because we’re fast approaching a time of year when another inescapable answer presents itself for our consideration.

Spokane doesn’t have much of a bug problem. I mean, relatively speaking.

If you have come to take that for granted, it might not seem like such a huge thing. But for those familiar with being on the occasionally losing side of the wars with insects in other parts of the country, it’s a big deal.

Here’s how to tell if you take our pleasantly tolerable level of bugginess for granted. Answer this multiple-choice question.

When the warm weather arrives and you step outside your home after dark, how do you react?

A) Reflexively start slapping any exposed skin and scratching your scalp with a “Get it off me!” vigor. B) Worry because you neglected to slather yourself head-to-toe with weapons-grade insect repellent. C) You take a deep breath, sigh and think to yourself, “How lovely, I’m not being chewed to pieces by squadrons of airborne pests.” D) You think about sports, sex or office politics but never give one thought to entomological issues.

If you answered D, chances are you take Spokane’s survivable insect reality for granted. Perhaps that is as it should be. It’s definitely a quality of life thing.

OK, I’m not saying Spokane has zero bugs. We have mosquitoes, yellow jackets, ticks, spiders – you name it. All quite formidable in the right situation. As you know.

What I am saying is we usually are not plagued with an insect nuisance of biblical proportions.

That is something for which we should give thanks. To people in more than a few regions, the prospect of being outside after dark with untreated exposed skin is fraught with peril.

But not here. Not usually.

Oh sure, if you are camping or at the lake, all bets are off. Anything can happen. The bugs have home-field advantage in the woods or near standing water.

For that matter, it’s not uncommon for mosquitoes to make unauthorized blood withdrawals from Spokane residents in the center of town. Who among us hasn’t had the sanity-sapping experience of having a flying vampire repeatedly buzzing by our ear when we are trying to sleep? Or woken up with welts the size of Kennedy half dollars?

It happens.

Still, if you have heard former residents of Minnesota, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan or Louisiana swap stories, you quickly get the idea that we are in the low minor leagues when it comes to our own insect problem.

I guess I shouldn’t say “problem.” Bugs have a place in the ecosystem. Birds apparently find them delicious.

But you know what I mean.

When was the last time you took insects into consideration when making plans? Besides packing some basic repellent sprays, I mean. In some places, getting ready for a 15-round inter-species title bout is standard procedure after the weather heats up.

They do in New Hampshire and North Carolina.

“We can’t hold our gathering in the backyard after dark. Last time, grandma lost a pint of blood.”

OK, am I serious about a low-profile insect hassle being the best thing about Spokane?

Not really. Oh, it’s up there, but somewhere behind special teachers, attentive nurses, curious third-graders, understanding grandparents, the bridges and the river falls.

Still, it’s worth remembering that summer, Spokane’s signature season, would not be the same if we had to retreat from a ferocious battle with bugs at every turn.

In Spokane, the outdoors don’t always attack you. Just sometimes.

That much can be endured.

But the best thing about this city? Nah. Probably not.

Many of us know that’s our low humidity.

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