Just As I Thought

Sympathy for the Bug

It seems like the cicada invasion here in Arlington is starting to wane. The eerie, sci-fi sound emanating from the trees has significantly lessened; the sidewalks are now home to the dead. It’s pretty sad. Over the last few weeks, I came to enjoy seeing the huge, bulbous, ugly insects. I went out of my way to avoid stepping on them or driving over them. I thought about their brief, rather pointless lives — live underground for 17 years, then emerge, try desperately to have sex, then die. By the trillions. Seems like nature’s big joke, you know? So, I pity the poor cicadas for the cruel joke nature has played.
Today in the Washington Post, an airline pilot offered a letter to the editor impressing us with the strength and character of the lowly cicada.

As part of their flying stage, cicadas continue to pit themselves against Southwest Airlines Boeing 737s. They give it their all.

When taxiing for takeoff recently at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, my first officer and I noticed a cicada perched on the windshield wiper. The cicada initially faced aft, but as the taxi speed increased, it rotated itself to point into the wind.

I wondered just how long it would hang on once we took off. To our amazement, the cicada didn’t let go until we accelerated past 110 knots (about 125 mph).

If it was a he, I wonder if he was singing all the way down the runway.

PAUL DONOHUE
Winter Springs, Fla.

The writer is a captain with Southwest Airlines.

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