I’m so glad I don’t live in the desert. I apologize if this comes across as insensitive, I realize that some people live in the desert, but I really am glad that I’m not one of them. If you’re reading this from the desert, before you get angry at me completely bashing your sandy way of life, I urge you to try moving out of the desert, or at the very least getting away for an extended vacation. While I’m sure that you might be able to rattle off ten or fifteen reasons why living in the desert is cool, I’m confident that after a brief stay in a non-desert environment, you’ll lose a lot of that sand clogging up your brain, you’ll rethink everything.
True, I’ve never actually been to the desert. But from an early age I realized that I’d never need to go to the desert to understand what a terrible place it is for people to live. When I was in second grade, I remember the teacher going over a spelling lesson. She told us a trick so we wouldn’t get confused over how to spell desert and dessert: “Just think kids, you always want a second helping of dessert, so dessert is spelled with that second s.” And although that should have been enough to make the pneumonic stick, she continued, “But you never want to go to the desert, so that’s why it only has one s.”
So for a while, I wouldn’t even spell it desert, I’d spell it de’ert, because I didn’t even want my one s to be mistaken for me wanting even a single trip to the desert. This fear of the desert was reinforced when I’d go home to play video games. Anybody who had Super Mario 3 for regular Nintendo knows exactly what I’m talking about: the desert level.
It’s a horrifying place to wind up, even in an eight-bit setting. There are giant pyramids made out of blocks, but some of the blocks start jumping at you when you get too close. Each stage is infested with these bouncing flames invincible to Mario’s attacks. That mean looking sun in the background starts swooping down to kill you when you’re not even paying attention.
And I don’t want to make this whole thing about video games, but every virtual desert level is the worst. The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario 64, Mario Kart, they’re all terrible places, desolate and dried out, the sun so oppressive that if you spend too much time on any given stage, you could wind up with a tan just by sitting too close to the TV.
I can only imagine what the real desert must be like. No water anywhere. Sand flies. Holy shit, sand flies. I’ve heard they’re like ten times bigger than regular flies. They burrow under the sand and wait for you to walk by, and then they bite you. But that’s not it, the bites get infected and start swelling up, by the time the blister pops, you don’t even realize that there are all of these sand fly eggs ready to hatch under your skin. It’s the same with sand spiders.
And what about scorpions? I think that Mother Nature put certain creatures on this planet solely to keep human beings far, far away. Snakes, wendigos, and scorpions, they’re all just living warning signs, scorpions existing to tell us, look, if the miles and miles of endless sand, complete lack of water, and oppressive arid heat weren’t enough to keep you from setting up shop here, I’m going to crawl around your house and sting you with my giant poisonous tail. Now go away.
Popular culture doesn’t help the desert’s case. Nobody was looking to settle down and build a home on Tatooine. No, that’s where you leave little babies when you never want the The Empire to find them. It’s the same with the Dune series. Do you think everybody liked wearing those hydro suits, saving up their own sweat and pee to be filtered and recycled into drinking water? No, the whole point of those books was to turn desert into something non-desert.
I just don’t get it, you spend all day riding around on your camel, and if you’re lucky enough to avoid having the skin torn from your body in an unexpected sandstorm, you’ve got to worry about not accidentally tripping over some spiky cactus patch. You waste all of your time walking across the sand for a drink of water, which is much harder than walking on solid ground, and even if you happen to not get stuck in any quicksand, it’s more than likely that the drink you were after the whole time is actually a mirage, and look up above, the vultures are already circling up in the sky, just waiting for your body to collapse from the heat, yet another feast for sandworms and sandrats.
No thanks, I’ll stick with the regular worms and regular rats, no desert for me. If anybody needs me, I’ll be far away from the desert, somewhere nice and cool, with plenty of water to drink and lots of shade where I can relax.