The Wonderful World of DEET

Just like the weather in Michigan, clothes styles and the way folks wear their hair, I have come to believe all things change. Nothing of this earth is stoic, static or simply stuck in one place.
What threw me over the edge and to my revelation was a recent trip to the store. One of the things my family needed was some bug spray. I don’t know about where you live, but at Casa d’Rush the skeeters have run rampant this year. There have been reports of small children being carried away, and the Rush boys don’t weigh much so they must be kept safe. The lads, if not protected by two layers of clothing, some sort of science fiction force field or bug spray, get attacked unmercifully by the tiny winged bloodsuckers. Since it’s too hot for multilayered clothing and science has not come up with the Personal Bug Force-field (PBF for those who like the shortness of just letters), bug spray gets the nod.
What a shocker (to me, the puddin-headed one in the bunch) — all bug spray cans today boldly, dare I say, proudly proclaim they contained N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide. Excuse me, you all like the letter-thing. The bug sprays all contained DEET. (How they got DEET out of N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide is, not surprisingly, beyond me).
And while I may be dim-witted, I seem to recall a few years ago the big hullabaloo over DEET. Because of DEET usage birds were being born with bent beaks, people were dying and civilization as we knew it was coming to a screeching halt.
I remember DEET was effective in repelling mosquitos . . . as a youngster myself, before falling to sleep each night during skeeter season, I would drench my baseball cap with a spray can of DEET-laden OFF. I would then don it and drift off to sleep, peacefully, with the knowledge that those pesky bugs would be kept at bay (and go bite my sisters instead — they didn’t believe in protection). Time marched on, summer after summer I kept up my regiment of DEET enhanced sleep. Then things changed. My sisters remained healthy while I became soft-headed.
We as a country then learned DEET was evil. There were newspaper articles on the subject. With glee, television’s investigative news magazines delved into the danger of DEET and the capitalistic scum companies who duped the public into buying their deadly concoctions in the form of bug sprays. The word was out.
Damn DEET!
DEET was bad.
DEET was not to be trusted.
The name DEET was to be stricken from all Pharaoh’s obelisks.
And so DEET disappeared from the mainstream. Civilization survived and bird beaks grew straight and strong. This was the time when people walking in the woods actually heard the harmonic angels singing sweetly instead of the buzzing of deer flies and tiger mosquitos. Life was good.
So, why is DEET now the omnipotent defender of all that is good and wholesome? Why is DEET not bad? Why is it okay birds can have bent beaks? What changed Pharaoh’s mind?
The only thing I, your simpleminded scribe, can come up with is in our goodness, and to be all nice things to all live things, we started to lose the war. More importantly, the bugs were starting to win the war.
We ignored the first wave of the bug attack. Those darned deer ticks popped up out of nowhere. And, while there were always deer ticks before the 1990s, I cannot remember anybody having a problem of bulls-eye swellings and Lyme’s Disease after being bit by a tick. Now, if you hike or even like to walk in the fields and woods around here, you think of deer ticks and protect yourself. DEET was still banned. Then we started finding dead birds along the roads. Birds (with straight beaks) who were attacked by mosquitos. We learned only then that skeeters had joined the bug battle. With them came West Nile Virus and as my theory surmises, the return of DEET.
But I still want to know . . . is DEET good or was DEET bad? And, if it was bad, why is DEET good now?
Besides George W. Bush and Dick Cheney running the White House, what has changed? Maybe that is the answer . . .
Answers for the simpleton called Don can be e-mailed to: