Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Bugged Out

   [From Sunday's Rough Draft column.]

   Alone on a business trip, staying in a hotel in Miami, I awoke at 3 in the morning to a strange sensation, and in the dim light coming through the window I perceived the dark shape of a giant cockroach running -- nay, gamboling! -- across the bedspread. So very vile! A totally loathsome bug! It is no exaggeration to say that the creature was the size of one of the flying monkeys from "The Wizard of Oz."

Yelping ensued. And invectives. Extremely unprintable language. I confess, at one point I actually used the word "vermin." I leapt out of bed but could not bear to stand on the floor, or touch anything at all, lest the enormous insect -- With those kinky little legs! That hideous mindless helmet head! Those ostentatiously wriggling antennae! -- come into direct contact with my own personal epidermis. Pumping my legs as though riding a bike, I managed, somehow, to float.

   The intruder vanished. Now what? I didn't like the thing when I saw it, and I liked it even less now that it was lurking. Would it stalk me? No -- I would stalk it. We'd see who was boss of Room 112! I began stealthily hunting, probing the recesses of the room, studying the carpet for tracks or spore, always trying to stay downwind.

   [Click here to read the entire column.]

By Joel Achenbach  |  November 28, 2005; 7:21 AM ET
 
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Critiquing Today's Paper
Next: Today's Magazine Roundup: SciAm and TNYRB

Comments

That was one of the security robots, Fearless Leader... They're here to help you.

And there were no cockroaches at my 20th H.S. reunion this weekend... Not the multi-legged kind, anyway.

Posted by: Scottynuke | November 28, 2005 8:28 AM | Report abuse

Extra Monday-morning-after-a-long-weekend kudos for use of "gamboling," too.

Posted by: Scottynuke | November 28, 2005 8:32 AM | Report abuse

Oh, please, what passes for a cockroach in Miami doesn't even get noticed in Key West--they have the granddaddy vermin there. In my early days living on the island, before I learned to live in peace with my six-legged fellow-creatures, I was repeatedly traumatized. One early morning a flying cockroach (yes, they do exist) landed on my neck(!) and I swatted it off with a fork I happened to be holding. Not until later did I realize how close I had come to slashing my jugular vein--if I'd been holding a meat cleaver I probably would have decapitated myself.

Another fun time was when I took a shower, dried off, dressed and put on my glasses to discover that my bathing companion had been...a scorpion, unnoticed by my myopic self throughout the procedure.

Thank you for this article, Joel. I am in favor of tourism quality instead of quantity. Squeamish types who are afraid of insects, hurricanes, snakes, sink-holes and humidity ("my hair gets all FRIZZY!") should stay home or choose another vacation destination/retirement location. It's too crowded here, anyway.

(Flying monkeys. Ha!)

Posted by: Reader | November 28, 2005 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Loved the column-hubby works at a hotel in another resort area, which why familiar to DC, it's much farther north than Miami. No huge bugs here, coming from the Deep South, I agree with Reader...these little bugs are nothing!

Also love the comment about tourism quality. I agree. People don't like where they are staying, stay home! It's way too crowded here too, but only in the summer. In the off-season we turn back into a sleepy small town, the only reason I am still here-well, that and to ear a living off the tourons! (not a mis-print, but an actual term)

~former lurker JLW

Posted by: jlw | November 28, 2005 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Loved the column-hubby works at a hotel in another resort area, which why familiar to DC, it's much farther north than Miami. No huge bugs here, coming from the Deep South, I agree with Reader...these little bugs are nothing!

Also love the comment about tourism quality. I agree. People don't like where they are staying, stay home! It's way too crowded here too, but only in the summer. In the off-season we turn back into a sleepy small town, the only reason I am still here-well, that and to ear a living off the tourons! (not a mis-print, but an actual term)

~former lurker JLW

Posted by: jlw | November 28, 2005 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Loved the column-hubby works at a hotel in another resort area, which why familiar to DC, it's much farther north than Miami. No huge bugs here, coming from the Deep South, I agree with Reader...these little bugs are nothing!

Also love the comment about tourism quality. I agree. People don't like where they are staying, stay home! It's way too crowded here too, but only in the summer. In the off-season we turn back into a sleepy small town, the only reason I am still here-well, that and to ear a living off the tourons! (not a mis-print, but an actual term)

~former lurker JLW

Posted by: jlw | November 28, 2005 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Sorry for the double post...typepad or my computer are acting up this morning. Maybe time for a restart!

Posted by: jlw | November 28, 2005 9:18 AM | Report abuse

The first rule of motels: if the desk clerk is named Norman, keep driving.

That was no blanket, that was an oversized fabric softener sheet.

The first rule of cockroaches: there is never just one (same with mice).

The second rule of cockroaches: it is impossible to kill them all, but you had better try. My junior year in college my roommate and I obtained a very good deal ($55\mo!) on a two bedroom apartment near the campus in Austin. The future Mrs. Kurosawaguy accompanied us when we took possession. When she asked what she could do, I handed her a can of raid and told her to go to the kitchen and kill roaches. She returned in a few minutes and said there were none. I took her back into the kitchen and turned on the stove burners. The resultant exodus made Normandy on D-Day look like a convention of tree sloths. At times the mass of roaches threatened to extinguish the flames on the cooktop. Fortunately, I had spent several years of my high school career as a part time grocery clerk and had extensive knowledge of the interactive effects of aerosol propellants and open flames. As my future spouse retreated in terror, I laid down a covering spray of Raid at the approaching horde. After a medium sized fireball and a loudish "Whomp"- not a living cucaracha in sight!
(Professional roach killer on closed course. Do not try this at home.)

Posted by: kurosawaguy | November 28, 2005 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Typepad run amok, I fear.
Kurosawaguy, I love that fireball image! Hilarious.
I'm going to post something new on the blog by early this afternoon.

Posted by: Achenbach | November 28, 2005 9:51 AM | Report abuse

This article made me think of Kafka. And the cockroach, dead and sprayed with Raid, that I picked up off the kitchen floor when I was 1, chewed on and spit out. Guess it wasn't to my liking. To this day that thought still makes me kind of sick. Where was my common sense? (Sorry if this can be classified as TMI.)

On another note (to draw the focus away from that cockroach) it's weirdly warm in Minnesota today.

Posted by: Sara | November 28, 2005 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Wow, I wish I could delete that. Oh well.

Posted by: Sara | November 28, 2005 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Everyone has something they did as a kid/baby that makes them think, "Ew..." I hope.

Posted by: Sara | November 28, 2005 10:01 AM | Report abuse

That's "spoor", not "spore." Mrs. ScienceTim noticed it. Our respect for Joel is shaken.

Posted by: ScienceTim | November 28, 2005 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Oh my word. Someone else say something funny. Take the focus off of me.

Posted by: Sara | November 28, 2005 10:10 AM | Report abuse

There ya go! Thank you ScienceTim. (I never knew "spoor" was a word. I'm going to have to look it up.)

Posted by: Sara | November 28, 2005 10:11 AM | Report abuse

K-guy;

Applause for avoiding the ueber-pun of "laying down covering fire" in that gripping narrative. For future reference, what's yer hourly fee for skilled use of high-temperature insecticide?

Posted by: Scottynuke | November 28, 2005 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Sara:
Don't be embarrassed -- how were you supposed to know that tasty, protein-rich cockroach was drenched in nasty old bugspray? You were only a kid. I'm sure you're much more discerning about how your bugs are prepared these days. (But that poor cockroach -- he [or she] died before getting the opportunity to put his bugspray aversion into practice.)


[BTW, I especially liked RT's illustration this week: "There was a MAN in my room!"! Ha!]

Posted by: Achenfan | November 28, 2005 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Ha! Yes, because the bug spray was the nasty part. Not the cockroach itself. Had the cockroach not been bitter it wouldn't have been an embarrassing experience.

Posted by: Sara | November 28, 2005 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Sara, I must confess that I too have eaten bugs -- chocolate-coated ones, to be exact. I can't remember whether they were crickets or cicadas, but they were pretty darn good; a bit like eating a Nestle Crunch bar.

Posted by: Achenfan | November 28, 2005 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Sara - In some cultures, bugs are food. Perhaps you were merely sampling a bit of foreign custom, like wearing a kimono or playing a Didjeridu. Just shows that you were developing an inquisitive mind and growing intellect. See? It was a beneficial experience!

Posted by: CowTown | November 28, 2005 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Spoor is a sort of all purpose term for evidence of the passing of an animal- tracks, blood trail, scent, scat (feces), etc. Spoor is very useful to a hunter or biologist. Owls regurgitate the indigestable bits- fur, bones, feathers- and ornithologists analyze these pellets to determine the bird's diet. Many biologists do scat studies to determine the same sort of thing. If the coyotes are reduced to eating grasshoppers, then you know it's a bad year, etc.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | November 28, 2005 10:28 AM | Report abuse

kurosawaguy

An urban equivolent of spoor is probably what's always on the floor of my teenage daughter's bedroom.

Posted by: CowTown | November 28, 2005 10:33 AM | Report abuse

I've never really liked the Nestle Crunch bar. It's a bit on the boring side, so I'm going to say that chocolate bugs would be boring for me also (though I'm really thinking that chocolate bugs are way beyond my adventurous food capacity).

That's what I'm going to tell people from now on, CowTown. I was just a very cultured baby. I mean, I did play a Didjeridu the week after that.

Posted by: Sara | November 28, 2005 10:36 AM | Report abuse

(Referring to the blog itself after a four-day hiatus, raising my arms to the skies and using my Gene Wilder voice from Young Frankenstein:)

It's ali-IVE!

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 28, 2005 10:37 AM | Report abuse

OK, I know I'm breaking the rules of the SCC here, but I can't help myself:

It's DIDGERIDOO.

[I will gladly pay any fines associated with this Achenmisdemeanor.]

Posted by: Achenfan | November 28, 2005 10:41 AM | Report abuse

I had no idea (I know I'm going to disappoint you all with this confession, but I really didn't play one when I was a baby), so the correction is welcomed Achenfan.

Posted by: Sara | November 28, 2005 10:43 AM | Report abuse

We had tiny roaches in a house I lived in after college. Tiny, but there were legions of them. I was squeamish at first, but after a while it got so that in the morning, the first thing I'd do after turning on the kitchen light was start smashing them with my fist.

Grandaddy Roach probably lived in the cellar, but we never went down there.

Posted by: Mary Ann | November 28, 2005 10:45 AM | Report abuse

I forgot to mention that scat studies are also of interest to paleontologists, because the ability to recognize the source animal of fossil scat can aid in establishing such things as range and social grouping, nesting and feeding patterns, etc. In the 19th century two of the leading lights in North American paleontology were Edward Cope and O.C. Marsh. These two were bitter professional rivals for many years and thoroughly despised each other. When Marsh discovered fossil feces he coined the term for it which is still used- coprolite.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | November 28, 2005 10:45 AM | Report abuse

We don't get too worked up about a big roach around here unless it's big enough to get a saddle on it.

We do get worked up if we see any small roaches. That's a bad sign.

Posted by: Bayou Self | November 28, 2005 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Now if the roach is playing a didgeridoo or wearing a kimono ...

Posted by: Bayou Self | November 28, 2005 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Achenfan

Thanks for the correction. It assists me in my journey to complete enlightenment. I thought it was spelled didgereedoo. But, not wanting to appear uneducated in things Austrailian, I used the precious GoogleTool and found: http://www.wadidge.com.au/didgeridoo-names.html , which used the spelling I used above. So, this proves you can't rely on the internet for everything.

Posted by: CowTown | November 28, 2005 10:51 AM | Report abuse

I don't know how to spell it, either, Sara, but I was just about to give you props for using it when you and Achenfan (who started it) pretty much ruined Nestles Crunch bars for me for the rest of my natural life.

Anybody have anything disgusting to say about Kit-Kats? M&Ms?

As Dave Barry says, I swear I am not making this up: during my last three years of college, I had an off-campus apartment that was the first floor of a house, which had a full-size but basically empty basement. My roommate, an otherwise fairly normal fellow, used to love to scatter pretzel bits all over the basement floor, go upstairs, turn out the basement light, and wait a few minutes. Then he'd turn on the light and run downstairs and smash as many roaches as he could with a soda bottle. He thought it was great fun.

Truest, weirdest part: he later became a hari krishna, and now teaches in a Montessori school.

Karma, man. Karma.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 28, 2005 10:52 AM | Report abuse

[Whilst leafing through my dictionary to double-check the spelling of "didgeridoo," I happened across an actual drawing of some COINS OF THE REALM! (near the "denarius" entry). I consider this chance encounter with one of my favorite Achenphrases to be a good omen.]

Posted by: Achenfan | November 28, 2005 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Do you think they'll ever make a Disney or Pixar movie about roaches? They've done it for ants. Maybe it would focus on how roaches are misunderstood. Maybe they're really caring creatures and they have big change-the-world-for-the-better plans. And there could be an evil roach faction that was against all humans and had big and evil get-rid-of-the-humans plans. And the two could have a creatively fought war with all sorts of machines made from leaves and seeds and twigs and the good side would win because they had an ubersmart engineering roach on their side so their machines would be superior.

And the humans would be saved.

Posted by: Sara | November 28, 2005 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Long, long ago, I dated a young woman who's cat loved to eat cockroaches. There weren't any mice in the house, so he made do.

Random Note: By moving to the Midwest, I escaped cockroaches (they can't handle the Winters) and now contend with Giant Bloodsucking Mosquitoes every summer. What a great country; you can choose your bliss.

Posted by: CowTown | November 28, 2005 10:59 AM | Report abuse

k'guy -- now, I think the height of coolness would be to analyze scat while scat singing. Whaddya think?

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | November 28, 2005 11:00 AM | Report abuse

I can't wait for the documentary about roaches with Morgan Freeman narrating.

Posted by: irregardless | November 28, 2005 11:08 AM | Report abuse

This morning on the radio the morning people were talking about The March of the Penguins and the woman said, "The penguins really stole the show!"

Posted by: Sara | November 28, 2005 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Sara, it's all been done before. Check out Archie and Mehitabel at
http://www.donmarquis.com/

Posted by: kurosawaguy | November 28, 2005 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Sara, please don't let Phil Collins do the soundtrack.

Posted by: Bayou Self | November 28, 2005 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Someone did a very inventive animated short with cockroaches who lived inside an old fashined juke box. I seem to remember seeing t on tv a few times. those bugs daned and partied, and lived the high life till dawn, when they all scurried away.

Give me giant bloodsucking mosquitoes any day.

Posted by: dr | November 28, 2005 11:14 AM | Report abuse

SCC cubed:

Per CowTown's link:

"Although this unique musical instrument from Australia has been spelt as Didgeridoo in English for many years, according to the Australian Institute for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Studies the accepted English spelling is now Didjeridu."

[Clearly I've been gone from Oz for far too long. (When you don't know how to spell "didjeridu," it's time to come home.)]

Posted by: Achenfan | November 28, 2005 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Oh well, it was a good idea while it lasted, kurosawaguy. Thanks for letting me know before I pitched it to Pixar.

Posted by: Sara | November 28, 2005 11:16 AM | Report abuse

the cockroach who had been to hell

By Don Marquis, in "archy and mehitabel," 1927


listen to me i have
been mobbed almost
theres an old simp cockroach
here who thinks he has
been to hell and all
the young cockroaches make a
hero out of him and admire
him he sits and runs his front
feet through his long white
beard and tells the story one
day he says he crawled into a yawning
cavern and suddenly came on a
vast abyss full of whirling
smoke there was a light
at the bottom billows
and billows of yellow smoke
swirled up at him and
through the horrid gloom he
saw things with wings flying
and dropping and dying they veered
and fluttered like damned
spirits through that sulphurous mist

listen i says to him
old man youve never been to hell
at all there isn t any hell
transmigration is the game i
used to be a human vers libre
poet and i died and went
into a cockroach s body if
there was a hell id know
it wouldn t i you re
irreligious says the old simp
combing his whiskers excitedly
ancient one i says to him
while all those other
cockroaches gathered into a
ring around us what you
beheld was not hell all that
was natural some one was fumigating
a room and you blundered
into it through a crack
in the wall atheist he cries
and all those young
cockroaches cried atheist
and made for me if it
had not been for freddy
the rat i would now be
on my way once more i mean
killed as a cockroach and transmigrating
into something else well
that old whitebearded devil is
laying for me with his
gang he is jealous
because i took his glory away
from him dont ever tell me
insects are any more liberal
than humans

archy

Posted by: kurosawaguy | November 28, 2005 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Meant to 'boodle on this topic earlier.

I used to share a shed with a cave spider that I nicknamed "Boris" (well, I nickname any spider who's size approaches the palm of my hand "Boris"). He ate all the bugs and I left him alone' he'd watch me from the wall when I went in to grab a shovel or some other yard implement.

Boris and I got along fine until one day he crossed The Line. One fine summer's evening, I went to the shed to retrieve the old Montgomery Ward 42" riding mower, intending to cut the back forty.

I opened the door, flipped on the light, fumbled around with the hand tools and took a look around for him, the unspoken agreement being that I was coming in, and that he should get out of the way. Didn't see him anywhere, so I flopped down on the seat of the mower and went to pull the choke, and fire it up. I looked down towards the key, and there he was, right on the center of the steering wheel, looking up at me.

It was then that I knew He Had To Die.

After I jumped up, yelled incoherently, and pranged my head on the top of the door frame backpedaling out of there, that is.

I steeled myself and went back in, full of righteous "I am at the top of this planet's *%$#ing food chain" bloodlust. We locked eyes, Boris and I, as I shut the door behind me, grabbing a hand trowel in one hand, and a can of CRC Ant and Spider killer in the other.

What went on inside the shed, I cannot describe to this day, but my wife tells me that it sounded exactly like Ralphie's Dad fighting the furnace in "A Christmas Story".

When I had dispached my foe, bleeding from where I'd raked my ankle against the blades of the tiller, I used the trowel to take his clenched body out to the flower garden and buried it amongst the tulips.

bc

Posted by: bc | November 28, 2005 11:21 AM | Report abuse

First of several SCCs I suspect: "dispatched".

bc

Posted by: bc | November 28, 2005 11:22 AM | Report abuse

"The penguins really stole the show"?

That reminds me of a woman in a person-on-the-street interview on TV who said, "I just love Christmas -- I think they should have it every year." And a sports commentator who said, "The girl in front seems to be swimming slightly faster than the others."

Posted by: Achenfan | November 28, 2005 11:23 AM | Report abuse

More SCC's:
"He ate all the bugs and I left him alone; he'd watch me from the wall when I went in to grab a shovel or some other yard implement.

Boris and I got along fine until one day he crossed The Line. One summer's evening, I went to the shed to retrieve the old Montgomery Ward 42" riding mower, intending to cut the back forty."

Feh.

bc

Posted by: bc | November 28, 2005 11:27 AM | Report abuse

That's a sad story, bc. But it has a nice ending with the tulips and everything. I almost feel sorry for Boris. Me. Sorry for a spider. Never thought I'd see the day. I suppose when they get a name they become something more than a disgusting hairy eight legged creature.

Posted by: Sara | November 28, 2005 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Good story, bc.

(And I like your occasional use of "Feh" -- though good luck if one of the boodle asks you to explain it.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 28, 2005 11:34 AM | Report abuse

That's exactly what I thought, Achenfan! I actually laughed and said out loud (to myself because I was alone in the car), "Whoa, no way!"

Posted by: Sara | November 28, 2005 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Sara,
My sister once ate sallbugs (spelling?--the little black ones that roll into a ball when you touch and probe them..k-guy probably knows what they are) when she was a toddler. When I was a kid, I remember my mother swooping down and picking her up and wiping the fetally curled finger food from her little paws.

Joel's column revolves around one coackroach in a motel room? Why, in our humble bunglaow in Bakersfield, it was a trick to get to the light switch in the kitchen without killing too many of them underfoot. Their summer numbers were especially bad, Of course, once the light was turned on in the darkness, the little darlin's would scuttle away and temporarily duck for cover into their corners, cracks, and crevices.

No hotel experience could have been worse than the one in Louisville, Ky. The big fancy multi-story hotel in the downtown, where my husband's prospective employer, Aegon Insurance, put us up while hubby and the company were in talks. I got large pink bites on my leg and back--just as a result of sleeping in schmanzy room.

It was a sign, a sign, I tell you. A sign that we never should have moved, a sign that his Aegon job turned into the electronic sweatshop from hell, a sign that he would be fired, and a sign that our furniture would be beaten up in two more cross-country moves--the one to the Louisville area and the one out of the Louisville area.

(Three stories of ins and outs--sort of. I amaze myself.)

Mudge,
What kind of things do you propose sending me offline?

Posted by: Loomis | November 28, 2005 11:36 AM | Report abuse

How does one pronounce "Feh"? Is it a long "Fay," or a short "Fer"?

[Please excuse my ignorance.]

Posted by: Tom fan | November 28, 2005 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Sara, I recommend the works of Jean-Henri Fabre if you want to expand your attitude toward insects. Fabre was a contemporary of Darwin and a very patient observer of plants and animals as well as being a great teacher and writer. He referred to the common cricket as "the brown violinist of the clods" and made all sorts of interesting discoveries about how insects live and work.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | November 28, 2005 11:49 AM | Report abuse

[I'm guessing it's a short "Fer." And I'm thinking maybe I shouldn't have asked.]

Posted by: Tom fan | November 28, 2005 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Linda,

I've always called those potato bugs. My entire family has. (I don't know why. They don't look like potatoes.) My cousins once told their younger brother that they tasted like potatoes so that he would eat one. He found out they were lying really quickly.

Posted by: Sara | November 28, 2005 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Loomis, it's usually spelled sow bug, and is a common name for the wood louse. Others are pill bug and roly poly.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | November 28, 2005 11:51 AM | Report abuse

SCC my last sentence. It's just awkward.

Posted by: Sara | November 28, 2005 11:55 AM | Report abuse

It's not necessarily awkward, Sara -- not if your cousins were saying "They taste like potatoes! They taste like potatoes! Thay taste like potatoes!" over and over again, really quickly.

(But if they'd been doing that, it probably wouldn't have been long before they lapsed into "We all float down here!" or similar.)

Posted by: Tom fan | November 28, 2005 12:04 PM | Report abuse

My vote: potato bug.

Posted by: Bayou Self | November 28, 2005 12:05 PM | Report abuse

playoffs? you're talking about playoffs?

Posted by: jim mora | November 28, 2005 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Sorry for disappearing there for a little while - Cyber Monday browser/firewall woes.

I pronounce it "f-eh". I'm pretty sure that Billy Crystal prounounces it the same way...

On a side note, I see that Kojo Nnamdi has a bit on at 1:20 EST today that might be familiar to long-time readers of Joel's:

http://www.wamu.org/programs/kn/05/11/28.php

bc

Posted by: bc | November 28, 2005 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Once I read over it I realized that it was awkward because it was wrong, hence the SCC (I didn't want to bother to fix it, I figured you all would get why I was SCCing). He realized quickly that they were lying. Not that they were lying very quickly. But that is a funny thought. "Theytastelikepotatoes!Theytastelikepotatoes!Theytastelikepotatoes!" I think a lot of people do speed up their speech when they are lying because they're nervous. I don't know if nerves were a factor here, though. It was just a lie about a bug. They pulled it off nicely.

Posted by: Sara | November 28, 2005 12:12 PM | Report abuse

My personal battle with roaches has been a long and arduous one. I have harbored a deep-seated terror mingled with disgust and general squeamishness involving them ever since I was little - growing up in Key West, where as Reader says, they are not only twice the size of the roaches on the peninsula, they also routinely take flight. Now, my fear of roaches is not because of any prejudice I hold over bugs. I love bugs. I am facinated with bugs. I am a bug-rescuer, scooping up disoriented skittering three-legged friends to the sounds of shrieks and requests to have them smushed. I always take them outside. I think it's the right thing to do - they were here first. But, with all this said, I still cannot stand roaches. Now, I'm never proud of any of my irrational fears - and I truly don't have many. Through my life, I've done various things to try to get over my fear of roaches. Including paintings, sculptures, and notably, once, a giant roach costume (It was for a German II assignment - we had to film a commercial as a famous literary figure selling something. I did Kafka and Raid.) I've forced myself to pick up dead ones and draw them. Nothing really helped, I still jump and involuntarily squeak when I see one. I think it must be something inherently creepy about their...legs. Or the way they move, in short fast bursts, unpredictably.

At the moment, however, I am living in a shiny, new, pretty dorm. I have not seen a single roach, ant, fly, or mosquito indoors since I've been here. So nice.

Anyone else taken steps to combat roach fear? Suggestions?

Posted by: ArtistAlice | November 28, 2005 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Who knew bc was the pseudonym for John Entwhistle?? And that boodling is an afterlife hobby?

And yes, "feh" is "eh" with an "eff" in front of it.

Posted by: Scottynuke | November 28, 2005 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Is that THE ArtistAlice, i.e., Reader's friend?

We're not worthy!
We're not worthy!

[Nevertheless: Welcome!]

Posted by: Tom fan | November 28, 2005 12:18 PM | Report abuse

I knew someone else would bring up Kafka and roaches eventually! Metamorphosis was the first thing I thought of when I read this article.

I'm also a bug rescuer for the most part. Especially snails. I can't stand the thought of someone coming upon a helpless snail on a sidewalk and smushing them under their foot. Sadistic, mean people. I always pick them up and move them to a nice leafy area.

Posted by: Sara | November 28, 2005 12:19 PM | Report abuse

By the way, I'm picturing ArtistAlice in a roach costume advertising Raid right now. It's pretty funny in my head. I don't know how the real thing went down, but in my head it's a hoot.

Posted by: Sara | November 28, 2005 12:21 PM | Report abuse

If k-guy had cleaned his oven as a youngin', then the cafards wouldn't swarm up from the oven guts onto the open flame range. Man I'd torch those rascals too.

On cold nights in the shotgun house under the interstate, me and some pallies would make a night of scorching roaches with WD-40 and hairspray. We kept the flammable spirits in our bellies and damn near burnt down the kitchen table.

Posted by: Hank | November 28, 2005 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Afterlife? Who's talking about an Afterlife?

Damn, I wish Jim Mora were still coaching. He was the best quote ever. His son's pretty dull.

I think I'd need a Life before I start talking about an Afterlife.

bc

Posted by: bc | November 28, 2005 12:22 PM | Report abuse

In my head it has a Beetlejuice "Zagnut" scene quality to it.

I'm really talkative today.

Posted by: Sara | November 28, 2005 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, sowbug, potato bug. Yup, that's them!

Do you remember--what was it, about 15 Christmases ago--when chocolate-covered grasshoppers were all the rage--as the joke gift, of course. So was the Rubik's cube one year.

Yesterday, with a record-setting temperature of 90 degrees, I began to set up our Christmas tree--an 8-foot Noble fir from Oregon. I should have turned on the air conditioning--never have I "perspired" as much doing this annual Christmas tradition. Never, never, ever HAVE I done this feat immediately after Thanksgiving. I place the BLAME squarely on the shoulders of Mr. Joel Achenbach and his darned "Starbucks Christmas" Kit.

Of course, it was a Noble rescue--if we had given this fir a good home, the needle drop from the tree, had it been left on the lot to bake it 90 degree heat, would have been a lot worse. Now this forest beauty drinks the freshest of San Antonio rainwater. We had a storm (beginning to lose recall of what those were...) with 3/4 inch of rain on Friday morning. The sky was black like night, thunder and lightning--and the too short soaking downpour a real blessing--with a rainbow to boot.

And, Curmudgeon, I was NOT sleeping in. I like my coffee like I like my men--rich, warm, and with a pleasant aroma to tickle my nose, or if taken late--something to keep me up all night. Ha!

Friday morning, I was up before sunrise to do--for the first time ever--the Black Friday retail routine. There's a first time--and a last time--for everything. Next year for Black Friday I shall mark on my calendar for the date: Sleep In. So, tease me 364 days from now...

Posted by: Loomis | November 28, 2005 12:25 PM | Report abuse

bc;

My apologies for the overly complicated reference to the Who's smash hit, "Boris the Spider."

*putting self in boodling penalty box*

Posted by: Scottynuke | November 28, 2005 12:27 PM | Report abuse

ArtistAlice writes:
Anyone else taken steps to combat roach fear? Suggestions?

Stomp them like grapes. Great exercise. It's up to you whether to ferment the mash or not... "I did the mash, the monster mash..."

Posted by: Loomis | November 28, 2005 12:28 PM | Report abuse

My love affair with the Jerusalem crickets in the cold California cave welcomes nostalgia like bedbug love bites. Jerusalem critters feast on tubers showing their pincer antennae in winter. Snuggling with those fleshindifferent bastards, never killed or relocated a single oneuvum.

Posted by: Hank | November 28, 2005 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Just to set the record straight, as it were: ArtistAlice is my friend, yes, and she is also my daughter. [future A-blog trivia question possibility!] I alerted her to today's topic and I'm afraid she was late to class because she was boodling--alas, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, and I must get back to work.

And by the way, she got her picture in the paper (Sun-Sentinel) with her roach sculpture a couple of years ago--just to keep the Newspaper Theme going.

Posted by: Reader | November 28, 2005 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Yes, "feh" is short. To my ear, it also has an implied half an exclamation point built into it too, almost but not quiote "Feh!" It has to have a certain amount of disgust attached to it.

Linda: it was a link to an article on Sunday afternoon drives I thought you'd like.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 28, 2005 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Ya know, Reader, just after I posted that comment I realized she was probably your daughter, and then I thought, well, "friend" would still be accurate. Thanks for clarifying.

Posted by: Tom fan | November 28, 2005 12:38 PM | Report abuse


...the little buggers were the stars of
JOES APARTMENT(1996)...jerry o'connell
as joe experiences lots of bugging while
trying to get the girl...the sixleggers
want to help...but the plot leads to
lots of mayhem...good wins out in the
end and love blooms for joe....:-).......
...the flying variety found in the tropics
are indeed one's worst imagined combination
of bug surface and air abilities...i think
they were the inspiration for the big
tanker bugs and plasma firing bugs in
the movie STARSHIP TROOPERS...my years in
the restaurant biz provided an introduction
to these resilent and resourceful habitat
co-dwellers...i am sure the pest service
was feeding them as no matter how long or
intensive that service was around the six
leggers endured and flourished...you just
had to adapt and either flee or attack
as it was quite likely bugs were waiting
for you.....i do think it is true they
will survive any nuclear war......:-)

Posted by: an american in siam... | November 28, 2005 12:40 PM | Report abuse

bc - Loved your spider story. The old platitude, "it's more afraid of you that you are of it," just isn't convincing in the case of huge spiders.

I think ArtistAlice has conceived of a very good way to overcome roach fear - make them into art. In my experience with cockroaches, I tried to give them names and hold conversations with them, to personalize them. I overcame my fear, which converted eventually to disgust. This made it easier to simply kill them.

Posted by: CowTown | November 28, 2005 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Anyone who has ever worked in a physics lab knows that it is the home of giant cockroaches. I don't think it's the radiation -- I think it's the slovenly physicists who feed them with our leavings.

I once put a cockroach in a linear accelerator. We were setting up for irradiating biological samples by irradiating sample tubes of water in an ice-water bath, with our dosimeters stuck among the samples. I added an unauthorized biological sample, a medium-size cockroach that I had managed to capture. After taking a whack of radiation that would spell the end for a mere human, I let him go. He wobbled for a moment; then he shook off the cold, which troubled him more than the 13MeV electron shower he -- it -- had just taken, and scuttled away to tell his roachy buddies about his peculiar experience.

Posted by: ScienceTim | November 28, 2005 12:56 PM | Report abuse

*emerging from penalty box*

ScienceTim;

Not SLAC, surely!

Posted by: Scottynuke | November 28, 2005 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Vladdy Nabokov on Kafka's "Metamorphosis": Nabby the lipodoptera and entomology expert and tri-lingual novelist that he was, lectured about the big bug of Gregor Samsa. Probably a beetle, not a cockroach. But beetles have six legs. Kafka's creation had 24 legs. Nabby rules out existing insects as the model, b/c none such exist, but a beetle with a ton of extra legs. Kafka probably just wanted the reader to use his/her imagination gripped by a healthy fear of creepy-crawlies.

Posted by: Hank | November 28, 2005 1:04 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad folks liked "Boris and Me".

And yeah, "Boris" is from the old Who song, and I feel somewhat fortunate to have seen Entwhistle perform it live.

I tried to come up with some good lines about locking eyes - one of mine to four of his - and to try to work John Goodman into it, but I just didn't have that much time.

American in Siam, the bugs in Heinlen's 1959 book "Starship Troopers" are a more interesting than Verhooven's hilarious movie.

bc

Posted by: bc | November 28, 2005 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Curmudgeon, my sister and I poured M&Ms into a dessert goblet and played giving each other "Communion". We also poked them in our navels and pretended we were belly dancers.

Posted by: Nani | November 28, 2005 1:04 PM | Report abuse

SCC delete "a" from the last sentence of my 1:04 comment.

DamnMe.

bc

Posted by: Anonymous | November 28, 2005 1:05 PM | Report abuse

bc;

Being a raving Heinlein fan, I must agree with your general premise of the book being overwhelmingly better than the Hollywood coprolite masquerading as "Starship Troopers."

Posted by: Scottynuke | November 28, 2005 1:08 PM | Report abuse

No, not SLAC. They don't do biological samples in SLAC, do they? No, this was a much smaller LINAC, solely for the purpose of zorching biologicals. And occasionally making accelerator trees. If you don't know what an accelerator tree is, try google. You'll need a picture to really appreciate it. I keep mine wrapped up safely at home, so the cats and my offspring won't damage it, and so no inspectors general will come around to track it down. You're not supposed to make them, you know.

Posted by: ScienceTim | November 28, 2005 1:15 PM | Report abuse

In the interest of honesty, I should note that the tree was not made for or by me. I found it in a locker. Since they were supposed to be thrown away and never made again, nobody minded when I took it away. A completely valueless object, yet pretty, costing about $10K to make. If I ever get a really nice office, I'll display it in a special enclosure that will light it from below. It will look like some cheesey piece of shopping mall art, and only I will know how exotic it is. I've been storing it for 24 years or so, waiting for the day I get around to displaying it properly.

Posted by: ScienceTim | November 28, 2005 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Oop, I see that there's a new Kit.

Posted by: ScienceTim | November 28, 2005 1:21 PM | Report abuse

I never understood why they would make a movie called Starship Troopers without using the song Starship Trooper by Yes.

Posted by: Bayou Self | November 28, 2005 1:21 PM | Report abuse

bc your reference to 'Boris the Spider' brings up all kinds of good things about the Union Jack-draped rockers. Instead of Union Jack, in Ireland the preferred nomenclature is the 'Butcher's Apron.' It's a beatiful day anyway, don't let it get away.

My T'giving was filled with football gambling, Total Recall references, "Quaid, show me your mind..." and 'Quisling' hurlings. Et du bon nougat francais. Now that everyone has a camera, we all live in constant effigy of ourselves. Dites fromage!

Posted by: Hank | November 28, 2005 1:22 PM | Report abuse

For what it's worth, I slapped a new kit onto the blog, but it has about as much coherence as bc's spider after bc took the weed-eater to him.

Posted by: Achenbach | November 28, 2005 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Decoherence is natural, Joel.

bc

PS. I thought about using a weed-eater at the time, strapping it to my arm like a Hiaasen bad guy or the good guy in those Sam Rami movies, but my two-stroke weed eater wouldn't be very useful in the close quarters of my shed. Might as well have tried to use a broadsword on horseback in there.

Posted by: bc | November 28, 2005 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Tom: Aww, you're all so sweet here on the blog. Thanks for the welcome.

Loomis: No! I can't stand to kill bugs. I may fear roaches, I may not want them around me, but I definetly think they deserve to live! (Besides, that crunching noise is maybe the worse thing EVER) I rescue roaches, too. Just a lot more sqeamishly than most bugs. Kinda close your eyes, make a face, and slam down the paper cup on top of them, then do the little under-scoop with the piece of paper. Then again, this is possible largely because I draw courage from other people watching me. Easier to be a hero when you're not alone in the dark, trying to sleep with a looming presence somewhere on your floor/wall/bed.

CowTown: I never named them, that might be a good idea. But I do talk to them. Usually along the lines of "Oookay. Here I am, in this kitchen, and there you are. Let's, uh, both not make any sudden moves, and I'm gonna edge towards the door.."

Posted by: ArtistAlice | November 28, 2005 1:47 PM | Report abuse

saw an episode of "most extreme..." on Animal Planet the other day that had a segment about roaches in New Mexico. They (the government scientists) irradiated them to see what tolerance they had. 3 to 4 times that of humans if I recall correctly. Anyway, after they were done, they gassed 'em til they were dead, sealed 'em up in garbage bags and tossed 'em into the dumpster. Needless to say, the little critters were only stunned by the gas. They woke up, chewed their way out of the bag and proceded to contaminate the surrounding community. Don't recall if they ever said anything about the government actually getting them rounded up though.

Posted by: mara | November 28, 2005 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Dave Barry makes note of the enormous amounts of bugs in Miami in general (ess. during hurricane season- I love that man). I'm going to have to add that even the cleanest house is subject to a couple of bugs- they come in somehow. When all of my Cuban family gets together they argue over what bugs were more horrific/disgusting/awe-inspiring. That's what you call hurricane "family time."

Posted by: vanessafrommiami | November 28, 2005 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Joel, you are laugh-out-loud funny. Just right for when the world is way too much with us. Glad you are there after reading how we are going to hell in a whatever....Note to Sara-I bet you tried the yellow snow, too. Curiosity gets you to the weirdest places.

Posted by: maggieboston | November 28, 2005 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Friends and I took over an off-campus apartment as college juniors and immediately confronted a horde of tiny roaches. The point of no return for me was when I put a turkey sandwich down on a desk, forgot it, got on the phone, then looked over a few minutes later to see the sandwich topple off the desk as the tiny-roach horde tried to carry it off.

We killed the roaches by leaving all the windows open for winter break. (Pipes don't like cold? Who knew?) But the next year we had an incursion of mice, which we trapped in ostentatiously elaborate ways before tiring of this and graduating to plain old mousetraps. (College-age folk: If your buddy's doing well with a female visitor, you can ruin his chances by offering a round of mouse carcasses on crackers.) The mice invasion threw us into depression over how slovenly we were -- what would arrive next, wolverines? -- and we vowed to reform.

Well, it turned out the mice weren't our fault. The idiots upstairs had snakes, and they'd get stoned and decide to feed the snakes with mice bought for that purpose, only to find their THC-concussed brains couldn't handle the tricky mouse transfer. Many overturned cages, doors left open, etc.

College. No matter how bad you are, there's usually somebody worse.

P.S. My roommates put a roach in a bong and smoked it, thinking the resulting word games would be amusing. They regretted it.

Posted by: Jace | December 1, 2005 12:07 PM | Report abuse

"Swiss Women Sue After Hotel Bedbug Attacks"

http://apnews.excite.com/article/20051201/D8E768FO0.html

Posted by: mizerock | December 2, 2005 11:06 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company