Formica and the redneck response
I was at a poker game in the middle of nowhere. It was the type of place you try not to go unless you have a buddy to back you up. Some of the people there are twice your size and some are just old enough to still believe in carrying guns for protection. It’s old school bling, the kind where Brylcreem mixes with sweat and oxidizes the fake gold chains and rings. It’s the type of place where the old man pissing off the front porch hollers, “Don’t stay gone so long next time,” as you head off into the dark field to find your SUV among the pick-ups.
At some point during the night–somewhere after the point I thought for the eighth time how illegal this game, this house, these people were–the dealer started talking about feeling bugs on his neck. Someone else had mentioned bugs and now the dealer couldn’t stop slapping the nothingness on the nape of his neck.
“You know what that’s called, right?”
I set myself up perfectly with the softball. See, this guy was pretty sure he was smart. Half an hour before, he’d been expounding on the metaphysical properties of luck and mysterious forces. He was the type of guy who could be absolutely sure mysterious forces existed, but had no belief in luck whatsoever. What’s more, he wanted to convince you he knew–down to the damned atom–the properties and non-properties of this metaphysical universe.
“You don’t believe me,” he said.
I hadn’t said anything when the guy was in the middle of his dealing lecture. I’m not even sure I rolled my eyes. But this guy said, “Right in my peripheral vision, I could see you don’t agree with what I’m saying.”
I grunted, non-committal.
“What, you believe in luck?” he said, incredulously.
Somebody else bailed me out of the conversation with a heady, “My ass is a mysterious force.”
Yeah, that’s the kind of conversation we’d been having all night. It went from metaphysics to ass forces, from marital vows to the right and wrong of screwing the daughter of a girl you went to high school with. And so, came the bug fears.
“You know what that’s called, right?” I said, waiting like I always do.
Every eye, especially the guy with the non-bugs on him, turned toward me.
“It’s called formication,” I said.
Grown men started to giggle. They knew, if only from their far-gone religious teachings, that fornication was bad. They may not have known that fornication comes from the latin fornix, or arch, an allusion to the times when hookers would wait for their tricks under arches. But my poker playing brethren did know when they heard the word “fornication,” they were supposed to giggle like they had heard something dirty.
One of them — as expected, much in the tone of the Old El Paso commcercial ‘New York City?’ — said, “Fornication?”
Of course, I’d set them up. Even though I had said, forMication, they heard forNication. It always makes for a good laugh.
I explained that formication (from the latin formica for ant) is the feeling of having ants or other bugs crawling on your skin. Just about any hallucinogenic can cause it, but crystal meth is a common criminal. Formication is often caused by a rise in body temperature. Blood flow increases toward the skin to counteract the temp rise. Subsequent sweats create enzymes that make the blood flow to the skin even greater. Once the sweat starts to dry up or evaporate, it gets rid of a happy oil on the skin. Next thing you know, you start feeling bugs on you. Some people call them “crank bugs.” Speed freaks start scratching at them and end up with nasty sores.
Of course, I didn’t explain all that. In fact, I think there were probably a couple of people in the room who could’ve given me a lesson in “speed bumps.” Instead, I sat back and felt content that I had offered a new word to a generation of people who are fascinated by faux metaphysics and ass jokes.
That’s just the kind of guy I am.