Let Inga Tell You: Crime and pestilence


It’s not often that I get an e-mail that begins: I am sending this e-mail for two reasons: 1) To advise people to pay attention while pumping gas, and 2) to check your kids for lice. Intrigued, I just had to read further.

I’ve written before about San Diego’s most prominent plagues: rats, mold and termites. In fact, on Halloween a few weeks ago, a young princess came to our door and solemnly advised, “I wouldn’t leave your door open like that. We have a really big rat problem at our house!” Amen, sweetheart. So do we!

But somehow, I’ve managed never to cover their companion perils: lice, roaches and fleas. Or, as happened to my friend, people stealing your purse out of your car while you’re pumping gas. I plan to rectify those omissions now.

It would be an understatement to say my friend was having a bad week. After a note came home with her fourth-grader about a lice epidemic in his class, she noticed her head was itching. But then, say the word “lice” and people automatically start scratching their heads. See? You’re doing it right now. But since she was a frequent volunteer in the classroom, she decided to stop in at the local Hair Fairies place and have them check her head since her husband made it clear that even under the “for worse” category, this was not covered in the marital vows.

Hair Fairies is a chain of salons that deal exclusively with head lice, and let me tell you, I would have killed to have them here when my kids’ classrooms got hit with it. When I was growing up in suburban New York, we never had head lice yet it’s a chronic problem in schools here. I can only assume it’s because there’s no frost and, like, fleas, the little buggers can proliferate all year round.

When the La Jolla Hair Fairies first opened up, I could only wonder what the restaurant adjacent to them felt about having the local lice eradication emporium next door. But hey, it’s not Roach Fairies, although I would have been glad in the day to have them here, too. We were lucky enough to avoid them until some nearby housekeeping-challenged renters were evicted unleashing a cockroach diaspora onto the neighbors.

Anyway, my friend learned that she had only a mild infestation of head lice – “3 babies and some eggs” – but that’s like being a little bit pregnant. Ironically, her husband, kids, and the nanny were all cleared but she had obviously had had “hair-to-hair contact with an adult female.” (Louse, not person.) Those close-contact reading circles can be really hazardous.

The teacher, in full pediculosis offensive, had instructed the kids not to wear hats to school and even not to hug. Girls were to wear their hair in ponytails until further notice. The word “nit picking” was employed true to its actual origins.

So, already having a bad lice week, she stopped one evening at the gas station at the intersection of 805 and Balboa to fuel up her high-end SUV, chatting on her cell phone while she pumped gas as her purse sat on the seat with the passenger door unlocked. Some “sliders” (named for the way the thieves slide in below the eye level of the door) opened the passenger door of her SUV and took her purse including house keys, car keys (blade and ignition sensor), two ATM cards, drivers license, checkbook, etc.

Worse, since they now had the automatic ignition sensor in her purse, she had no way to start the car to get home.

Not only did she have to get eight house doors re-keyed, the fancy computer-programmed ignition sensor was $496 to replace. Even so, for the first night since the thieves had both the ignition sensor AND her address from her drivers license, they could have stolen her SUV right out of her driveway.

I confess my crappy 2005 Corolla with its low-tech keys was looking better and better. (And in my case, I would have hoped they’d steal it.)

I invited her over for a medicinal glass of wine. She vowed never ever to pump gas and talk on her cell phone again. She was still trying to decide which was worse: a class vermin epidemic or replacing everything in her purse plus re-keying her house and car. She was trying to juggle locksmith appointments with follow-ups at Hair Fairies to make sure her son’s classmates hadn’t unleashed anymore adult females on her. (That could be the weirdest sentence I ever wrote.)

A few days later I received an e-mail: “Heading for bed as I am supposed to chaperone a field trip tomorrow to the USS Midway with the lice-infested kids.”

Now there’s an optimist.

— Look for La Jolla resident Inga’s lighthearted looks at life in La Jolla Light. Reach her at