Reputation

Sometimes, it is a good thing to be known for your work.  When I was first trying to get into beekeeping, I talked to anyone I could find, trying to get the word out that I would pick up swarms and re-home them. I gave out my phone number, I made up cards and handed them out, I talked to officials and wrote blog entries and tried everything I could.

My phone insisted on not ringing.

As I have done more jobs, I have had word of mouth spread a little.  More people know that I remove bees from houses, as people who have had bees removed start to tell others.  It is a slow process, but one removal at a time, the word gets out.

Sometimes, it is a good thing to be known for your work.  And then, there are the times that you build a reputation without meaning to.

I was in a meeting today with some folks from the Vicksburg District, whom I have known by reputation, but had never met.  We are talking through the different parts of the water resource problem they are trying to solve, and we get to the end of the conversation.

I casually ask if he has a side hustle as a pest control guy.

He was.  Is no longer.

Someone else brings up that as long as he doesn’t spray the bees, I will be happy.  They explain that I keep bees.

(Side note – I have a self-imposed rule that I am no longer allowed to provide unsolicited bee facts – my colleagues have been patient so far, but there is only so much listening-to-the-five-year-old-reciting-dinosaur-facts that should ever be allowed in the workplace.  I have, therefore, given myself a bit of a stick…)

Now that I have been prompted, I start to explain.  And we talk about bees for a while – he was a hobbiest beekeeper and enjoyed the process…   and sudden-like, Johnny leans back in his chair a little and says,

“You know, it was the craziest thing.  I live over in Belle Meade (my neighborhood), and one day I was out in my yard and I saw a guy in a truck in a bee suit.”

There was no way to change the topic of conversation at this point.  And there was no way that I was going to get out of this story unscathed.  I knew the event he was referring to before he told the story.

“All of a sudden, the guy jumps out of his truck and starts swinging his arms around, swatting at bees.  It was the dangdest thing.  After a while, he had shucked the suit off, slung it in the bed of the truck, hopped in the cab and took off.”

All of my co-workers were staring directly at me.  I avoided eye contact through the whole story.

Finally, my shoulders slumped ever so slightly. “It was me.”

That day, I had opened my most successful hive, with the intent of stealing a single frame of brood to help out a struggling hive down the road. The girls were in a bad mood that afternoon, and no sooner had I opened the hive than they boiled out, intent on my destruction.

It just so happened that I had not done a full inspection of my gear before suiting up to rob the hive.  And I had failed to notice a small tear in the mesh covering my face.  The boiling-mad bees stung my unprotected hands a number of times, and I take my frame of brood and flee.  They follow with the fury of a toy-deprived two-year-old, screaming at me and hitting any soft spot they could.

I brush as many off as I could, and I hop in the truck.  Too many bees still occupy my space, and they are still mad.  I have no opportunity to unmask, so I start driving, window cracked, and the bees are STILL furious.  Still intent on our mutually assured destruction.

A block down the road, a bunch of them have worked their way through the slit in my veil, and start congregating on my face.  Hitting me, sitting on me, pointy side down. Every one of them taking great delight in the pain that they can inflict.  I took a few stings in stride.  I never think of it as the fault of the bee:  I was too rushed;  I was clumsy;  I moved them into a place they didn’t want to be.

But these girls?  These girls were hot.  And they hunted me down, and made me pay.

The sixth sting on my face convinced me that whatever it was I was hoping for was not going to happen.  They were not going to calm down.  They were not going to leave me alone.  They were not going to fly peacefully out of the window.  I slammed on the brakes in the middle of the intersection, and jumped out of the truck.  It was at this point that I was observed by Johnny, flailing and swatting and screaming curses to the sky.

In the words of Mark Twain, Let us draw the curtain of charity over the rest of this scene.

Years I have spent, trying to gain a reputation.  I have even invited coworkers to work with me, to see how a calm demeanor really makes all the difference with working with bees.  I have done careful work, making sure to clean up after every job, taking the stings in stride, learning to work with the bees, trusting the bees, understanding the bees….

Now the only mental image that anyone in my office will have of me is of a cartoon – the guy whose bully bees beat him up in his own truck.

Published by Company Bee

Novice beekeeper trying to help out.

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