It's summer right now and I'm sure you've noticed them: small, insidious buzzing — mosquitoes. In Brazil, they are potentially deadly. It's the place where the mosquito-born virus dengue fever is most prevalent.
Enter the Zapping Racket. As the name implies, it is an electrified tennis racket that kills mosquitoes.
I know, right? Genius.
On a recent afternoon, while reporting this story, I was waving my hands frantically in the air trying to kill a mosquito with said racket while my husband James and his sister Claire — who is visiting from the U.K. — looked on. After a victorious sizzle I confronted my husband.
"How would you describe my racket technique?" I asked.
"Pretty poor," he answered, rather judgmentally in my opinion.
However, just as he said that, another mosquito accidentally hit my racket. Apparently I don't even need to try to kill mosquitoes; they just naturally come to me.
My husband immediately busted my self-congratulatory bubble.
"I think it was a suicide," he said.
Though common in other parts of the world, in Brazil the racket is ubiquitous: street sellers hawk them, they are sold in stores and every house has one. They are deeply satisfying to use. The rackets even have a little lightning bolt on them so they look like a superhero weapon. When I am using one, I feel like I am a force for good, slaying a relentless enemy.
In our house, as you can tell, using the racket gets a little competitive. My husband says his forehand technique is superior.
"It brings out the hunter instinct and it's guilt-free, because nobody likes mosquitoes and I am protecting my 2-year-old," he says rather grandly.
But the real reason he likes the zapping racket: "They are addictive. It's like playing tennis, but existential death tennis, with bugs."
I've been in some houses where people actually cheer after a particularly fruitful zapping.
Now, this might seem cruel or unsavory, but mosquitoes in Brazil are a round-the-clock menace. You have the ones that come out at dusk and bite you at night; they might carry yellow fever or malaria. And then you have the ones that bite you during the day, and they could be carrying dengue fever.
So a zapping racket is actually not only fun but rather necessary. And I'm not the only one who gets that superhero feeling when they use it.
Claire, my husband's sister, had never used a zap racket before she came to visit us. The other day I caught her waving it around in the air like a saber.
Needless to say, she is taking one back to Scotland when she leaves.
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
It's summer time, and for a lot of us, that means trying to keep the insidious mosquito. The biting bugs are annoying here, but in Brazil, they can be deadly. It's the place where the mosquito-borne dengue virus is most prevalent. Enter the Zapping Racket. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro tests it out with her own family.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: Here's a - well, I'm trying to kill it. Here's one. (laughter).
That's me, waving my hands frantically in the air trying to kill a mosquito, while my husband, James, and his sister, Claire, who's visiting from the U.K., look on. What I'm using to slay said mosquito is the Zapping Racket.
So how would you describe my racket technique?
JAMES HIDER: Pretty cool. Although you just killed one, apparently, by accident. I think it was a suicide.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So, a Zapping Racket is, as the name implies, an electrified tennis racket that kills mosquitoes. I know, right? Genius. It's common in other parts of the world, but in Brazil, the racket is ubiquitous. Street sellers hawk them, they're sold in stores - every single house has one. And they are deeply, deeply satisfying to use. The rackets even have a little lightning bolt on them so they look like a superhero weapon. But it takes technique to use right. At least, according to my husband.
J. HIDER: I think the forehand is my favorite. Yeah, it brings out the hunter instinct a bit. And it's guilt-free because nobody likes mosquitoes and, you know, I am protecting my two-year-old child.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: I want to go up high. I want to go up high.
J. HIDER: (Laughter) Very addictive. It's like playing tennis, but - existential death tennis with bugs.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Listen to this (zapping). That is the sweet sound of mosquitoes hitting the racket. I've been in some houses where people actually cheer after a particularly fruitful zapping. Now, this might seem cruel or unsavory, but mosquitoes in Brazil are a round-the-clock menace. You have the ones that come out at dusk and bite you at night, and they might carry yellow fever or malaria. And then you have the ones that bite you during the day, and they could be carrying dengue - not fun. But the Zap Racket is fun.
CLAIRE HIDER: It's fantastic. It's quite therapeutic. I thrash my arms about a lot.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Claire, my husband's sister. She had never used a Zapping Racket before she came to visit us. Her technique...
Better be using the racket and sort of it swishing over your head like a saber.
C. HIDER: I'm trying to make sure I cover every inch of the room (laughter).
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Needless to say, she's taking one back to Scotland when she leaves. Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Rio de Janeiro.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MOSQUITO")
YEAH YEAH YEAHS: (Singing) Mosquito sing, mosquito cry, mosquito live, mosquito die, mosquito drink most anything... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.