The Flyswatter

“Did we need this upgrade for a creature with a lifespan of 25 days?”

by Sarah Alfarhan

Credit: Sarah Alfarhan

Since last year, everyone in my family’s house has been spending a lot of time at the washbasin near the entryway where we leave our shoes before stepping inside. One day while washing my hands, I noticed a flyswatter hanging from a hook by the mirror. It’s plastic, and the part that is typically square is instead a flower. A tulip? Or is it a rose? It is hard to tell. The handle is a stem and has two leaves on its sides. It must have been there all along, but I’d never paid attention to it. Upon a closer look, I realized that there were actually two flyswatters, probably sold as a pair. One is a red tulip, and the other is a pink tulip.

“Mom, did you buy these?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“From where?”

“I don’t remember, some local market.”

The price stickers on the flyswatters are yellowed, almost brown. I immediately started listing my associations with the word “tulip” in my head:

  • Tulip — my friend back in Sharjah and the only person I ever met with that name.
  • A summer when a cousin showed me how to draw a tulip in sand.
  • Buying tulip bulbs for my dad’s garden when I was in the Netherlands — Kuwait’s weather killed them all!

Afterward, I looked up flyswatters. I wanted to find if there are other shapes besides the floral kind. The flyswatter was originally named the Fly-killing Device, an invention from 1900 by Robert R. Montgomery. As I researched, I learned about many tools and ways of killing flies. There’s rolled-up tape, bottle traps, and bug zappers. A horrifying iteration of fly executions is the electric tennis racket. Did we need this upgrade for a creature with a lifespan of 25 days?

The tulip form could be an attempt to make an object double as decor when not in use. It is screaming for a coating of glitter or a glow-in-the-dark layer. Kill tiny flies but make it kitsch. It is an excellent example of the market that sells “doubles as,” “four different uses,” and “you’ll never buy so-and-so again.” I see through the marketing pitch; maybe that’s why I don’t see myself buying the tulip flyswatter.

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Still Processing is a collection of work from the participants of the two-week 2021 Design Writing & Research Summer Intensive at the School of Visual Arts. For more information about our Summer Intensive as well as our two-semester Master’s program, please visit our website or email us at designresearch@sva.edu

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