Theoden Janes

An open letter to the cankerworms of Charlotte

tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com

Dear Cankerworms,

Just wanted to drop you guys a quick note to say thanks for hanging out the other day.

And when I say “thanks,” I mean it in the same way I meant it when I said “Thanks for sharing” to a friend who recently sent me a photo of her big toe after her toenail fell off.

And when I say “hanging out,” it’s more that you were the ones doing the hanging out – throwing your own little rappelling parties, dangling from the end of those long silk threads that you secrete so liberally from your tiny green mouths.

Me, I wasn’t trying to “hang out” so much as I was trying to enjoy a 70-degree afternoon run on the greenway near my house. Instead, “thanks” to y’all, it was more like running a gauntlet than a greenway.

I’m running along, I’m running along, then I suddenly and violently jerk my head sideways and briefly lose my balance. It’s as if I’m only partially successfully ducking a right jab from The Invisible Man, but really I’m ducking from one of you.

I’m running along, I’m running along, then I suddenly and violently slap at the air, spout an obscenity, and spend the next five minutes rubbing my fingers together and shaking my hand at the wrist. It’s as if I’m trying to remove a particularly tacky, particularly stubborn booger from my finger, but really I’m trying to remove one of you.

You saw me, right? You probably snickered to each other that I looked to passersby like a schizophrenic who had just escaped from a mental hospital after snatching his therapist’s running shoes.

In fact, you probably had a really good laugh over all of us unstable-looking runners and walkers and bikers and stroller-pushers, bobbing, weaving, contorting, waving our hands from side to side, cursing under our breaths.

But what do you expect? You guys are hanging from the branches of pretty much any and every tree in or around Charlotte, and you’re so tiny we don’t notice you till the last second. Or we don’t notice you at all – until we feel something crawling across the back of our neck later in the day.

You’re like bad pollen days in insect form, which is as much of a compliment as it sounds.

That is: After I finish a day of springtime driving in Charlotte, my car looks like it got caught in a yellow snowstorm (and we all know how gross yellow snow is); after I finish an hour of running tree-lined routes, I look like Kate Capshaw from that tunnel scene in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” – covered in your creepy-crawly brethren.

Look, I understand that you’re simply minding your own business and trying to get to the ground, where you’ll burrow into it then sleep all summer while having little-worm dreams about dining on oak leaves. I mean, you’re probably thinking, “What the heck, bro?? Stop running into me and taking me places I don’t want to go. Uncool!”

But we would get along so much better if you could just please try to do your business faster, or farther away from the city, or deeper in the woods, or less often, or maybe exclusively when it’s raining and I don’t feel like going outside anyway?

And when I say “please try to do it faster,” what I really mean is bug off, ASAP, so I can enjoy this beautiful weather for a few more weeks before I start complaining about the humidity.

Janes: 704-358-5897;

Twitter: @theodenjanes

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