The Public Eye

printed 08/31/2018

As the great Scottish poet Robert Burns once observed, “The best laid schemes o' lice an' men often go awry…”

Oh, wait, he said Mice, not Lice, which is an entirely different thing from what I was going to examine, which would be the Great Sea Lice Scourge of 2018.

This was when people discovered that what you don’t know about the ocean might not kill you, but it can make you itch in some interesting places.

Further, as uncomfortable as that might be at the moment of impact, as it were, it will be the source of some amusement as time goes by.

“Yep, there was your Aunt Sally, scooting across the sand like a retriever.”

This also assumes, of course, that in other storytelling circumstances one puts the tale in the proper context at the beginning, rather than simply blurting out over cocktails, “Did I ever tell you about the rash I got at the beach?”

As it happens, many people were and are unware that the ocean contains life as we know it. Therefore, they also would not know that complaining to the Beach Patrol about the louse uprising fails to accept that the patrol’s powers are somewhat limited in this regard.

The truth is, the Beach Patrol spent 50 futile years trying to perfect its technique of lassoing individual sea lice when they do appear, so they could hold them in tiny cages pending removal to the National Aquarium.

There was even a brief attempt at creating a Louse Rescue Response Team, whose members mostly stood around staring down at the sand, seemingly at nothing.

I should note, at this point, that all the aforementioned was said in fun and I don’t want sea lice sufferers to conclude that I’m trying to be funny at their expense. I feel their itch, as it were.

The fact is, sea lice aren’t lice at all, but are, according to local authorities, crab larvae of some kind, not that substituting crabs for lice makes telling the story any more attractive at cocktail parties without establishing the context up front.

There is some dispute, however, about whether these larvae are itsy bitsy crustaceans that pinch their way out from under your bathing suit, or are a jellyfish starter kit, or even the wee little offspring of sea anemones (the anemone of my anemone is my friend, as the saying goes).

Although my education in marine biology is limited to being aware that SpongeBob lives in a pineapple under the sea, I do know that the terms lice and louse are misnomers.

I believe the name preferred by most experts on these creatures is “Marine Cooties,” since a “cootie” can be anything living on your person that you can’t see, don’t want, and aren’t particularly inclined to go on and on about at cocktail parties.

Having an eruption of cooties, therefore, is not likely to spawn news stories far and wide and strike fear into the hearts of would-be beachgoers, as was the case with sea lice.

Perhaps we need to stick with cooties, because no one will ever admit to having experienced them.

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