If aliens exist, they look like cockroaches. Trust me.
I have a J.Crew catalog in my kitchen that I’ve never opened. Its only purpose has been to kill cockroaches. Never has a catalog filled with overpriced cargo pants been so functional.
(Full disclosure: I love J.Crew. I get the catalog because I enjoy the company’s clothes and plain-faced models. Just because I’ve taken to smearing pale pink cardigans with bits of brown bug guts doesn’t mean I’m making a statement. It was there when I needed it and for that I’m grateful. However, now that I’ve used it for mass roach killings I can’t stomach opening it to look at clothes.)
Florida is a disgusting place to live in the summer. You walk outside and your face melts into a puddle at your feet. You dress to avoid pit stains. The sun is so blinding you wear sunglasses on top of your sunglasses, your husband’s deodorant over your pH-balanced deodorant.
But this is just heat. Heat I can handle.
Swamp ass might tickle when it starts to spread, but at least it doesn’t run across your kitchen floor when you’re baking a chocolate cake. At least it doesn’t crawl out from between the folds of your washcloth when you’re about to scrub your face. At least it doesn’t have antennae.
Floridians call cockroaches Palmetto bugs.
Palmetto bugs sound adorable. Palmetto bugs sound whimsical. Palmetto bugs sound like something that might teach you a life lesson in a Dr. Seuss book.
Calling a cockroach a Palmetto bug is like calling a maggot a creepy crawler. A maggot is a maggot. A cockroach is a cockroach. People who call cockroaches Palmetto bugs are delusional.
Personally, I think New Yorkers living in Florida invented the term because they couldn’t deal with the fact that cockroaches also retire in paradise.
I used to relocate cockroaches. I used to trap them under a plastic cup, slide a piece of paper underneath and lovingly walk them to the alley, where I would fling them to their freedom. Oh, the naïveté! Now that they’ve started storming my house like the Red Brigades, I annihilate them. Bug guts and ooze. I don’t care how much bad karma I’m racking up.
Cockroaches are stealth motherf@$kers. They’ve forced me to perfect my aim and reaction time. Roaches rarely stick around for a second swat. I’ve also had to upgrade my bludgeoning tool from rolled-up newspaper to rolled-up magazine. (Enter J.Crew.) The roaches I’ve seen crawl across my kitchen floor are the size of small mice. A newspaper blow is hardly enough to level one.
But I feel like I’m an army of one here. Joe treats the cockroaches in our house like they’re paying rent.
“It’s summertime in Florida,” he shrugs. “What do you expect?”
“I don’t expect to reach for a dish towel and have a COCKROACH crawl out!”
“I’ve lived here a long time. Everyone has cockroaches.”
So I started asking people: “Is your house infested with cockroaches?”
And they’d look at me like I had bugs crawling out of my hair.
“Seriously? You don’t have roaches in your bathtub? My husband says this is normal Florida living.”
I don’t know which is worse: last summer’s ants or this summer’s roaches.
Last week I clobbered a roach the size of small child. The aftermath required a Hazmat suit and the creature was STILL moving. When I bellowed for Joe to come into the kitchen and finish the beast, he begrudgingly rose from the couch, dabbed at the mess with one square of paper towel, brushed his hands on his pants and considered the job done.
“It was a big one,” he replied flatly, as I furiously finished his poor clean-up job with a bottle of Lysol.
“A BIG one?” I shrieked. “It was GODZILLA. We have a roach INFESTATION!”
“No we don’t,” he said. “It’s just summertime in Florida.”
His blasé attitude was infuriating me, so I headed to the grocery store to buy roach traps.
Here’s how you know you live in a jungle: the grocery stores have expansive and well-stocked pest control aisles. Florida has so many bugs it’s basically crawling away from the rest of the country. Without pest control and air conditioning no one would live in this state.
Thankfully roach traps come in two different sizes: normal and elephant. I chose elephant.
I planted them every where in my house. Behind the coffee pot. Under the couch. Behind my dresser. Under the kitchen sink. Under the bathroom sink. Above the kitchen cabinets. Anywhere I was sure the pug couldn’t reach. Then I went to bed feeling good about my plan of attack. I figured I’d wake up in the morning surrounded by half-dead roaches pleading for their lives.
I fell asleep content. At about 3 a.m. I felt something crawl across my face. Now remember, I’m a bug ninja now. Even in my sleep I’m hunting roaches.
Joe was snoring. Out cold. On his back like a little lamb, oblivious to my nightmare.
I reached for my face. The reaction was knee-jerk. Instantaneous. I plucked the bug from my cheek in the dark and calmly, ever-so-calmly, walked into the bathroom, convinced I had caught a spider.
I turned on the bathroom light, opened my hand over the toilet and a big, brown roach fell into the bowl. I wanted to scream, holler for Joe, rip the sheets off the bed, but I was so impressed with my catch that I simply flushed the handle and watched the cockroach swirl away.
In the morning I shared this story with my husband. He told me I was dreaming and thanked me for not screaming. I told him his empathy was charming and dared him to find a wife who could catch a cockroach in her sleep.
Then I called an exterminator.
PS. Photo by Neil T via Flickr.
PPS. My apologies to Loren, who is easily grossed out by many of my stories.