By Hannah Berman

In most physical confrontations and competitions, size is a major consideration. The most notable example of this might be in the world of boxing. There were traditionally eight weight divisions in men’s boxing, but later more divisions were added, and a total of 17 weight classes are now recognized. Weight divisions are used in both amateur boxing and professional boxing. A man weighing in at 108 pounds, known as a light flyweight, would never be matched against one weighing over 201 pounds, known as a super heavyweight. In between the two there are 15 other classifications. The more familiar ones would be bantam weight, lightweight, welterweight, middleweight, and heavyweight.

While weight classifications are important in the world of boxing, they are totally irrelevant in other competitions such as the everyday world of bugs and insects. Here, speed is a far more important factor. I know this to be true because I was recently defeated in a physical confrontation with an ant. There can be no doubt that I had the weight advantage, but the ant bested me because of its speed. It not only bested me, but it gave me a headache and caused an abundance of trouble.

It began as I was standing at the counter in my kitchen preparing dinner. Suddenly, I spotted a black ant making its way along the countertop. Fighting back revulsion, I immediately went in for the kill. First, I banged at it with my right hand but it obviously saw me coming and took off. I missed hitting it. Next, I used my left in an attempt to stop it from getting further away. But because of the ant’s speed, I was no match for it. While I was repeatedly pounding at it, my arms were flailing in every direction, causing my elbow to connect with a large glass bowl and send it crashing to the floor.

As is so often the case with glass, it shattered into countless fragments, or what we call “smithereens.” Now I had forgotten about the ant!

My focus was on cleaning up the mess. After carefully picking up the largest of the pieces, I swept and vacuumed with a vengeance in an attempt to get the smallest of the pieces. As I did so, I marveled at how far shattered fragments of glass can travel. So intent was I at getting every last piece of glass that I failed to notice the pain in the heel of my right foot. Even the sensation of wetness did not immediately alert me to the fact that I had been cut. Since I was not barefoot, it had not occurred to me that I could get injured in this process. But as both the pain and the sensation of moisture persisted, I looked down and, to my horror, discovered that a piece of glass had found its way into my heel because it had wedged into the fit-flop I was wearing. The broom and the vacuum would have to wait because my next activity was to remove the offending piece of glass before washing and drying my foot and then applying a bandage. All of that done, I then got busy washing the blood off both my fit-flop and the floor before going back to the sweeping and vacuuming.

By that time, I had no idea where the ant was and I didn’t care. The only thing I thought about was calling my exterminator.

It was only a single ant that I had encountered, but, as it is now the time of year when some bugs and insects manage to find their way into homes, I decided that spending money for an extermination was a worthwhile investment. If my husband were here, he would have disapproved. I know this because, as I so often do, I clearly heard his voice telling me not to panic. But it was too late for that. I had already panicked and had called for an appointment with “Killer Ken,” my trusty exterminator. My fear was that the single ant that had gotten away might have had friends or relatives with him, so I was taking no chances. That one little ant had already caused me enough grief for a while. That’s just the way it is.

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and gives private small-group lessons in mah-jongg and canasta. She can be reached at or 516-295-4435.


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