"What on Earth are you doing?" my friend asked.
"Reading," I answered. "Why do you ask?"
She looked at me, cocked her head sideways, and asked, "But why are you wearing swim goggles?"
I had totally forgotten that I had donned swim goggles earlier when I went for a walk. I know it sounds a bit bizarre, but I do this sometimes. There is a reason.
I occasionally wear swim goggles to withstand the clouds of millions of teeny-weeny little flying creatures that attack me at certain times of the year. These pesky little insects are known by several different names. Some call them midges. Others refer to them simply as gnats or sometimes flying ants. But most of the locals here on Maui refer to them as "no see-ums."
No see-ums are minuscule flying bugs that make a housefly or mosquito seem elephantine in comparison. When it's "their time" to come out, there are so many of these little guys that you have only two options: 1) Stay in the house until someone who's outside gives you the "all clear" signal, or 2) Put on your defensive gear and get out there and go about your business.
"The season," is like a horror movie. The no see-ums arrive by the billions, buzzing aimlessly around bushes, fences, beach paths and roadway sidewalks. Passing through this army of winged mini-ants can be a blinding experience as they sense the moisture in your eyes and dive in for a drink.
Walkers, joggers and runners--move into the swarm at your own risk. If you happen to be riding a bicycle or a motorcycle and you don't have face protection, they will fly into your eyes and up your nose. You'll probably have to pull over and walk with your vehicle until you get out of the no see-ums pocket.
I know there is flooding, hunger, pestilence, poverty, earthquakes, tornadoes and tsunamis that are much more damaging and hostile in the bigger picture, so I am not really complaining here.
I'm just saying--if you see a guy on the sidewalk wearing flip flops, shorts, a T-shirt and bright green goggles--at least now you know why.
This opinion column is written by Charles Laquidara, who has lived on Maui for over 11 years. He worked at WBCN radio in Boston for 30 years as the morning-drive host of a show called "The Big Mattress" and is occasionally heard on Mana'o Radio here on-island. Email firstname.lastname@example.org