I was about ten years old.
Prior to my parents getting sick, my family used go up to a small trailer lot about 200 feet from the entrance to the swamp on the north east corner of Bobs Lake. I spent most of my summers tooling around that lake up until I was around the age of thirteen.
My good friend Robbie sometimes made the trip with us, and we spent countless hours fishing and exploring the area, sneaking the occasional stolen cigarette, and building forts.
One weekend, we had found this small island near the shoreline, and we brought out a few nails and some rope to string up some kind of contraptional fortress to fritter away the hours of summer. While the stringing up of logs had been a great success, our main design flaw was on the lower end, where it became apparent that what was needed was a few good tent pegs to stake some rope from.
Without any tent pegs, I decided to grab a spindly small branch and jam it into this hole that was a few feet away, in the hopes that the small stick would hold up some of the slack just enough for now. What happened next haunts me to this day. The hole was the entrance to nest of yellow jackets, and my stick was their apocalypse. My arm was covered in welts before I even realised what was happening, and when I finally understood what was going on, I ran and jumped into the lake.
This may be the revisionist history of a phobic mind, but I can still remember being under the water and seeing these angry little bees dive bombing the surface like someone throwing a handful of pebbles on me as I swam.
This was the birth of my irrational phobia of most things bee.
Fast forward a few years, and here I am. I have driven all over North America both commercially and with my kids. I have hauled dynamite over the continental divide. I have dealt with mean drunks at all hours of the night. I have been mugged in New York City. I was once robbed while working at a gas station by a young man with a 9mm pistol.
And I am still irrationally scared of bees.
It is a Sunday afternoon, summer. I'm booked on this nice little piece of work on the 95 line. Orleans to Baseline, all highway and transitway, just point west and drive. The old Icarus bus doesn't have air conditioning, so all the windows are open and I'm having a really nice summer day.
As I'm passing the lights near Dominion Station and the entrance to the western parkway, I feel a thump on my arm. Instinctually, I brush off the area without looking, but I feel something there that gives off a rapid vibration like one of those joy-buzzers my buddies thought were such a scream in grade school.
I look down from the road, and there, to my horror, is what appears to be a stunned bee. It wasn't one of those cute fuzzy bees that lumber around the yard sucking on flowers, it was one of those sectioned bees with dangley back legs and the flight path of laser-pointer dot being operated by a three year old.
This little creature is on my lap, as I am driving at 60km/h in a bus full of people, and it appears to be waking up. I toggle between looking at the road and the bee, not quite sure of which threat I would rather lose sight of.
The bee is starting to do the equivalent of air-pushups, flying up a centimetre and landing back on my lap with it's razor sharp teeth, hunched back, and dangley hind legs. I am having a full blown panic attack.
The little guy then attempts flight. He makes it to eye level, and realises that the suction of the window is pulling him outside, so he flies to the top of the steering wheel and lands. I am no longer at ten and two. Nope. Sixes all around.
I haven't even made it to the Woodroffe exit yet, but as of now, time has been passing slower than a Presto launch.
As the bee is walking back and forth on top of the steering wheel, I could swear he's looking at me, mocking my fear, and I could swear he's licking his lips and blowing kisses as he bathes his dangley hind legs in various yoga-poses. This has become a full blown standoff, and I am painfully aware that I do not have a very particular set of skills that this bee should be aware of. As if smelling my fear, he releases his hold on the wheel, flies first toward me, then 8 inches to the right where he lands on the face of my transfer printer.
The transfer code of the day OW. Very funny, God. Top notch.
There is a lady standing beside me, who is also now looking at this pacing bee, and at me, in amusement. She has a rolled up newspaper, and a smirk.
"You need me to get that?" she said?
"Sure. Please." I replied.
She smacked the bee. Dead on. However, the bee is clearly not dead. He's pining for the Fjords. I am now travelling at 60km/h with an angry bee whom I just saw fly to my shoe and land, and I have lost sight of him. The only logical place for this bee to have flown to at this point is directly inside my pant leg. If I remain perfectly still, maybe he will fly out. There is a problem with that strategy however. I am driving a bus.
Every small gust of wind, every small movement of my seat as I drive along, every wisp of motion in the leg of my pants is The Bee. He has moved in to my pants, and I'm positive that at this point, he is making a nest behind my calf muscle.
Atticus Finch once said that to truly understand someone, you first have to climb into his skin and walk around in it a bit.
At that moment, the bee must have been coming to the realisation that walking around in my skin was about to become that funny story about the bus driver who furiously took his pants off at Lincoln Station.
The light at Lincoln Station changed quickly to green as I approached, and I flew around that corner to the platform after a healthy bump of the curb. My mind was racing. My legs were killing me as I realised that I had not actually been sitting on the seat, but more of a hovering over the seat type of posture. It is difficult to navigate a slinky to a platform while doing a quadriceps squat over your seat, all the while and trying maintain eye contact with the floor below you.
With the bus stopped, I jumped up into the aisle and shook my leg, then my pants, then my legs again. Bus driver Hokey Pokey. That really is what it's all about.
Still no bee.
I turned the driver's compartment upside down looking for that little ball of black and yellow. Not a dangley leg to be found anywhere. There are not many places for a bee to hide in the driver's compartment of an Icarus. I tried to shrug it off and just chalk it up to a little Houdini-ism on the part of mother nature. I spent the rest of the shift wondering. Worrying. Looking.
It wasn't until I got home that night that I found out the fate of my little mockingbee.
As if in a modern take of the Greek myth of Icarus, the bee had simply flown too close to the calf muscle, and with his wings burning up, he had fallen from the sky and drown himself in my shoe.
I'm just glad I didn't take my pants off.