The Silence of the Crickets

Chirp, chirp, chirrup!

Anyone who describes the sound of crickets as “relaxing” or “soothing” or, heaven forbid, “romantic” has very obviously not been to Phoenix in summer!

Yeah, yeah, OK, I was once one of those who considered the sounds of crickets on a warm summer evening to be a nostalgic experience, whisking me back to childhood summers spent barefoot and carefree. That was when the sound was somewhat soft, and the experience of it made better by being able to escape it, and how the crickets would stop their infernal chirp, chirruping the second some human got anywhere near them. I’ve even been known, in my past, to take pride in being able to sneak up on the buggers without disturbing their happy little songs.

Then I moved to Phoenix. I’ve heard a cricket or two. But as the weather has warmed up, they’ve become more and more plentiful. And then last night it happened. Sitting in my living room, enjoying a peaceful evening, I was suddenly aware of a very sharp, intense and LOUD repetitive chirping sound. I honestly thought I had a fan that had a bad bearing. Then I realized that sound was coming not from any fan, but from my fireplace. Apparently, a cricket who is obviously no relation of Jiminy (who would never take a tumble down a fireplace chimney and whose song was arguably more pleasant), had taken a one-way tour down that black hole and was happily (or perhaps unhapppily?) sitting on the closed flue, chirp, chirruping away. And no human proximity would shut him up. What to do? Open the flue and hope he’s right on top of it, and I can catch him before he flits off, then safely whisk him outside?

As I sat pondering the dilemma of what to do with Mr. Cricket, up from the bedroom came another racket. Still more cricket song was erupting in the bedroom fireplace, and this time, there was more than one crickety voice. Oh goody. They were even less perturbed at a human presence than my serenading solo cricket. There was no debating this one. I might open the flue to attempt catching a single cricket, but I wasn’t about to open it up for any number higher than one. Then the chorus got louder as over in the corner, near the window, still more crickets chimed in with their version of the same old tune. These guys were apparently in the plants right outside the window.

By this point, being in my normally calm, tranquil and wonderful restful bedroom was akin to being in the middle of a Bose store whilst the salesman used a nature CD to demonstrate the awesome power and effectiveness of that incredible, and incredibly expensive, stereo system. Calm, tranquil and restful it was not. And right then and there, I decided that cricket song is most decidedly not relaxing, or soothing and it certainly is not romantic.

As the sun set, and the evening wore on, more and more chirp, chirruping cricket voices contributed to the unwelcome chorus – though it dawns on me that “voices” and “chorus” are probably not apt here, since the blasted buggers aren’t singing, really. It’s more like they’re “playing” since they make that godawful racket by rubbing their forewings together (delete those images of them rubbing their hind legs together – it’s wrong-o!)

Apparently, there are several variety of crickets, some noisier than others. And yeah, I’m very familiar with all the cultural beliefs of crickets bringing luck (in fact, I have brass crickets sitting on my hearth). But I’m convinced, those good luck crickets must be of the more quiet variety. I think the little buggers around my house in Phoenix are the Andrew Dice Clays of the cricket world – loud, obnoxious and not about to shut the hell up!