Last Saturday, while I was weeding the flower beds, I heard that familiar buzzing sound. When I looked around, I saw a good-sized bee hovering nearby, doing its pollen-gathering thing, and I immediately felt that surge of adrenalin that I always feel when I see a bee. When the bee came lurching in my direction, heading toward a nearby flower, I skedaddled with thrashing, comical awkwardness.
When I was a kid, bees scared the crap out of me. I had heard about people being painfully stung by bees and how, for some people who are allergic, a bee sting can be a life-threatening event. I had read about how, for some bees, the act of stinging is their last desperate act of defiance, as they leave their barb and part of their bodies in their human victims. I didn’t want to find out whether I was deathly allergic to bee stings or have my arm turn into a bee graveyard. So, whenever I realized a bee was nearby, I got the heck out of there.
Then one day, before I was even aware that a bee was nearby, I got stung. I felt a sharp pinch, looked down and saw the bee, and thought: “That wasn’t so bad.” The anticipation had been far worse than the actual event. The old, ingrained bee-avoidance impulses remain, however, and they probably always will.