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The Window Screen Gap

Senior staff writer Owen Fitzgerald-Diaz, finding himself on the frontline of the struggle against the arthropod scourge, calls attention to a campus-wide crisis.

Almost everywhere on Earth, in warm, humid climates where insects and other creepy-crawlies thrive, humans have developed means for keeping them out of the spaces in which we wish to lead happy and productive lives, so that those disease-spreading, bitey little fucks can only trouble us when we are forced to venture into open air. This includes most of the East Coast of the United States, which is largely comprised of humid-subtropical and warm-summer humid continental climates and harbors significant concentrations of people, who are not fond of the various species of arthropods that would like to bite them or live in their homes rent-free and eat their things.

One game-changing mechanism the human species has stumbled upon over the millennia, however, has given us the ability to open, in a sense, one-way portals to the outside world from our living spaces: the humble screen. Placed over windows or doors, it allows air, light, and noise to freely pass into the interior of a building, while refusing entry to the roaches, mosquitoes, spiders, centipedes, ants, wasps, and other vermin who would also like to get in. This innovation has spread around the world, including most regions of the United States.

Most, but not all– Columbia University in the City of New York, for example. Your humble correspondent has yet to discover an open-able window on this campus that has a screen, and has experienced firsthand the disastrous consequences of this vulnerability. I have smashed, sprayed, stomped, or swatted an ever-growing list of wretched, bloodthirsty hexapods and arachnids, including a roach the size of a small bird (say, a healthy adult sparrow) that soared through my open floor lounge window like a disgusting brownish cruise missile and then skittered around as roaches are wont to do until I killed it.

One would imagine that, as New York has a humid-subtropical climate and large quantities of garbage and stagnant water that let these many-legged envoys of pestilence reproduce in great numbers, and most of the city’s inhabitants have sensibly adopted the window screen as a precaution against them, a university with billions of dollars and some of the world’s finest minds would have the finest screens money could buy. But apparently, we have somehow neglected not just to put screens on some windows, but on any, instead choosing to welcome all manner of irritation and vileness into our midst and invite it to set up shop alongside us.

One would think it might save the university some money on exterminators in the long term to just eat the capital expense to install screens in the next quarter or so, but maybe I just can’t see the bigger picture– I’ll hold out hope that PrezBo’s weather control team is working on a new superweapon to teleport all our bugs to New Jersey. (And if they can’t do that, and they really don’t want to buy screens, maybe at least some radar-guided antiaircraft cannons, because there are definitely some roaches around here big enough to show up on air defense radar when they fly.)

asshole arthropod via Wikimedia Commons

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