Tuesday, September 17, 2013

kafka-esque

I was in the kitchen cleaning up after dinner this weekend when Mack walked into the room, looked up at the ceiling, and froze.


MACK
Mom! Mom!

MICHELLE
What? What?

MACK
(Pointing)
Look!


I looked up at he ceiling, where he was pointing, and there, just hanging out upside down, was this giant cockroach. The kind that we used to call "water bugs" in New York, and that some people call "German cockroaches" or Southern regionally, "palmetto bugs." I would post an illustrative picture here, but when I did a Google image search for "giant cockroach," I basically DIED OF GROSSNESS, which is an actual fatal medical condition. Truth.

I have a phobia of roaches. I mean, I know everyone hates roaches, but I really, really hate them, mostly because I grew up in an apartment in Manhattan and roaches were just everywhere. See, in New York, it didn't matter how nice your apartment was, or on what floor you lived, or how scrupulously clean you kept your living space. If you lived in New York, you had roaches. Period. Sure, we had all sorts of traps and devices to foil them--your standard roach motel, sprays, little strange blobs of poisoned bait we would smear in various strategic locations.  My friends in school swore by this kind of crazy roach killing "chalk" that you could only buy in Chinatown (somehow the notoriety of this chalk hinged on its seemingly underground and illicit nature, like, "You need roach chalk? I know a guy...") with which you were supposed to draw with on the inside of your cupboards. The mechanism supposedly being that when the roaches crawled over the chalk lines they would die, or melt, or combust, or something. But we never got this poison roach chalk, mostly because I was worried that we'd kill first the roaches and then ourselves with what must surely be some highly toxic shit. Like a suicide pact. WITH ROACHES.

But anyway, despite the traps and bait and sprays and no chalk, we still always, always had roaches. I'd go to the kitchen at night for a glass of water, steel myself, and turn on the kitchen light. And there they were, most skittering away, but some brazenly continuing to sit on the kitchen counter looking at me, because they knew (surely they knew) that I was too horrified of their crunchy exoskeletons to kill them. Little baby roaches. Full-sized regular roaches. The occasional waterbug (I realize this is technically incorrect nomenclature, I don't think they were aquatic because if so welcome to tonight's nightmare) which were all the more horrifying for the little details writ large for anyone to see, even at a distance. I mean, they're all gross, every last part of them, but for me, somehow those big hairy legs were the worst part of all.

Anyway, I have to stop describing now, because I'm getting all sweaty. Ugh. Roaches.

In the South, it seems that the larger varieties of cockroaches predominate, and there's always a point in the year, I think because of the heat? Or because of some kind of breeding season thing? That they decide to come indoors. I don't know how, probably through the vents or something, but there's always a few weeks, usually in the summer, that we have a few roaches in the house every day. We find one on the wall of the bathroom. One in the closet. One year I found one on Mack's bed (he wasn't in it THANK GOD--at least I don't think he was, unless it was a Gregor Samsa-type situation) just feet up, dead. It's been a strange summer this year--really rainy and relatively cool--and so even though it's September now, I guess the roaches have decided that now is their time to strike.

So:


MACK
(Pointing at the roach on the ceiling)
Argh!

MICHELLE
Argh!

MACK AND MICHELLE
Argh!

MICHELLE
Mack! Get Dad!

MACK!
Yeah! Dad! Dad will kill it! Dad will punch it! DAD!

MICHELLE
DAD! HELP! DAD!

CAL
(Walking in from the living room)
What's going on? (Looks up) Argh! DAD!

JOE
(Running in from upstairs)
What? What happened? (Looks up)
Oh. I thought there was a fire or something.

MICHELLE
I wish there was a fire so we could use it to KILL THAT ROACH.

JOE
I'll kill it. Here, give me something.

MICHELLE
If you try to kill it while it's up on the ceiling it will jump down and land on you! 
Or worse, what if it's one of those flying roaches? THEY FLY.

JOE
(Holding up a vegetable cutting board)
Here, can I use this to kill it?

MICHELLE
Why...what...you...that's a cutting board. We put our food on there.

JOE
I'll wash it off!

MICHELLE
But why of all the things in this whole house could could possibly use to kill a giant insect 
would you use a cutting board? Find something else! Something disposable!

JOE
I said I'd wash it off!

MACK
(Pointing)
Argh! It fell!

MICHELLE
It fell? Where did it go?

MACK
I don't know.

(NINA, not really sure what we're all screaming about but excited to partake, 
proceeds to walk under the ceiling where the roach had been, laughing with her mouth open.)

MICHELLE
Gah!
(Scoops up the baby)
Look, it's like in that Iron Chef America, where Bobby Flay jumped up on his work station to "raise the roof" like a douchebag, and Morimoto was pissed because Bobby Flay didn't respect his cutting board by getting his shoes all over it, and it was a chef's ultimate dishonor. So my point is: you're worse than Bobby Flay.

JOE
OK, I'll use this thing.
(Holds up one of the baby's board books)

MICHELLE
SOMETHING DISPOSABLE.

JOE
Where is the roach even?




MICHELLE
Argh! It's right there! On the smoke hood, like, two inches from your head! 
It's looking right at you!

JOE
(Shrieks girlishly, smacks the roach with a mini legal pad of scrap paper)

MICHELLE
Did...did you get it?

JOE
Yep. (Holds up a ten-inch cockroach* by one of its filamentous antennae.)
I would have washed it, you know.

MICHELLE
Well, next time why don't you kill it with your toothbrush, and wash that off.


Anyway, there is no point to this story, except to say that roaches are disgusting, and if anyone has any of that special Chinatown killing chalk I will take some of that right now. THE END.

* Only very slight exaggeration


41 comments:

  1. The worst two weeks of my whole educational career was the weeks in honors english when we had to read that book, followed closely by Enemy of the People. Uugh! I still have nightmares.

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  2. Anonymous10:42 AM

    omg, I also hate roaches-- like, panic attack level hate whenever I see one. Once, in med school, they had to fix my dishwasher because it was totes busted, but they had to get some kind of part or something, so left it overnight pulled away from the wall with a ginormous hole in the wall for all kinds of nasty creatures to walk through. And when I went into the kitchen at 1am to make some coffee (ahhh, med school all-night study sessions, such MEMORIES) there was a 6-inch large cockroach sauntering along my kitchen floor. Little fucker ran under the oven and I shut the kitchen door, almost passed out from fear, went to go find my tallest pair of boots, put them on, and went back into the kitchen to find and kill the little bastard. He finally came out from under the oven after what seemed like an eternity (but was only two minutes,) and I took my Swiffer wet jet and repeatedly smashed him over the head with it-- like literally, just kept hitting the thing until it stopped moving and then hit it a few more times for good measure. I then put on a pair of oven mitts to pick up the carcass, and flushed it down the toilet, then immediately burned the oven mitts. I swear, my legs were shaking so much, and I couldn't hardly breathe the entire time. Roaches. GROSS.

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  3. I was in tears at the end, when you suggested he kill it with his toothbrush and then wash it off! Bwahahahahaha! I recently had a roach in my apartment. I yelled at the cat to kill it, all while beating it (roach, not cat) to death with a feathery wand cat toy. Then I sucked it up with the vacuum. EEEsssh giving myself the heebie-geebies just thinking about it!

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  4. medrecgal11:40 AM

    OMG, this has to be the grossest post I've ever read on your blog. EWWWWW!!!! Nasty critters, they are, luckily I've only seen one, in a college dorm room. Scared the bejeezus out of me. I have a cat who'd probably want to play with a roach if she ever encountered one, but I'd have to throw her in a closed room for a few minutes while I threw something heavy at it from across the room (if I wasn't having a total panic attack, which would be entirely possible). And I just about died laughing between the post and Kimmy's comment above.

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  5. Yeah, why do guys always want to use things that are inappropriate for the job such as trying to kill a roach with a cutting board that touches food you eat? My husband would do things like wash his paint brushes or his oily hands in the kitchen sink. I get that you are washing your hands/paintbrushes but don't you think the residue leftover might not be okay if you put food in the sink? Glad Joe finally killed that thing!

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  6. Omg I hate roaches too....but the stories you guys have told!! HILARIOUS!!!! lol After 20 years of apt living, I finally have to deal with roaches, and Michelle, that Chinese roach chalk crap does not work!! My mom brought me some like she was passing on the Holy Graille and we chalked everywhere! They just sauntered across and gave us the evil eye!!! Finally got some motels (hotels?) and it seems to be working, along with some outside exterminating help!!! STILL laughing at Kimmy!! I have cats too, and they are too slow, they want to play with it, and I am afraid it will get away so I just kill it and they look at me like I stole their favorite toy!! Thanks Michelle I needed that!!!!

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  7. OMG I just realized I posted under my boyfriends google! lol

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  8. The flying roaches and the spider crickets (I seriously would smash one, go to clean it up and it would be gone!) are my most hated insects! UGH.

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  9. Vacuum. The appropriate weapon is a vacuum with a long wand. You then have to vacuum something behind it because, hand-to-God, a spider vacuumed by my mother once crawled back out of the wand on top of me. And then you seal the bag and throw it away.

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  10. Aargh! I lived in RI my whole life until we moved to Texas for one long year. That's when I met my first roach, which was the size of a small squirrel and which I found lounging on the wall in the kitchen one morning BEFORE I HAD MY COFFEE.
    I could not call Orkin quickly enough.

    Ack!

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  11. Never heard of the Chinese roach crap, but during my last pregnancy I found that the Chinese hemorrhoid crap did not work either. (Neither did any American or other such hemorrhoid crap.)

    You are lucky you have Joe! My husband is more afraid of bugs than I am. He tried to attack the hornworms on our tomato plants with a pinwheel, for chrissake.

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  12. Anonymous3:18 PM

    The chalk!! My first apartment, first year at university was roachified, and the landlord waxed lyrical about something he called "Chinese medical chalk" (but then didn't bring me any. And bug-bombed the place instead). Haven't remembered about it till reading this!

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  13. Ok - so I'm reading and agreeing and reading and agreeing - and then BAM. You just had to put THAT picture there....didn't you. ACK.
    Also was just in North Carolina (from Oregon) and got reacquainted with these disgusting beasts. Yuck.
    Please post a link to the magic chalk. I was going to say "thanks" but then I remembered that you posted THAT picture.

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  14. Also, when we lived in Florida, there was a kitten in our house dressed in a roach suit. Not kidding. Carry on with the roach therapy.

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  15. diatomaceous earth is what you want. fine and jagged enough to pierce the exoskeleton of roaches.

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  16. Anonymous4:14 PM

    Do you have quarterly extermination? I live in South Carolina and consider it pretty much essential.

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  17. Anonymous4:38 PM

    First snakes and now roaches!!! You are surrounded by nature, eh? :)

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  18. Chinatown chalk! OMG that thing is miraculous. Never saw the roaches after that (no exoskeleton or anything!).

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  19. The only chalk I know about is GREAT for ants. It is illegal in the US and I would love to get my hands on some.

    Any time I find a trail of ants I just chalk where they are coming from and they'd be gone in 20 minutes. Leaves less dead ant shells then spraying and there is no odor. And they never come back from there again.

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  20. Anonymous6:42 PM

    When I lived up in Wash Heights, we were unlucky enough to have roaches (unsurprisingly). My husband lined all of our cabinets with combat gel which worked really well for a while. Then one day as I was cooking, I saw a GIANT COCKROACH THE SIZE OF MY FOOT out of the corner of my eye run across the room. I screamed and ran out of the kitchen. My husband comes in, admits that he had noticed little nibbles in the combat gel and had been trying to figure out for a week if we had suddenly combat-resistant super cockroaches and that he hadn't told me because he was worried that I would "freak out."

    Turns out there were mice. UGH. Therefore, I have never cooked again.

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  21. Ew ew ew! I grew up in south Florida, with Palmetto bugs. They were everywhere, and I do remember turning on the kitchen light and seeing them refusing to move, calling my bluff. I also remember laying in bed, petrified and frozen, listening to them fly around and land on the curtains. Once I woke up and there was one curled up in the palm of my hand.

    In south Florida, they were big enough to wear saddles. I haven't lived in FL in more than 20 years and I still have PTSD-like reactions to skittering things.

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  22. Anonymous8:49 PM

    Lifelong southerner here. My three step process for keeping those suckers away:

    1. Seal all the baseboards in your house.
    2. Check sinks, dishwasher, washing machine for leaks. Fix any that are found. Palmettos are constantly seeking a water source.
    3. Buy http://www.bengal.com/gold_roach_spray.html. Must be the gold version. Spray it under sinks, behind fridge, behind dishwasher, in garage. Mentally prepare yourself first for what is about to happen, which is every palmettobug in your house to come out and die. There may be hundreds (I speak from experience). You must endure this torture to win your freedom from them. It is well worth it.

    You may need to repeat step 3 every six months or if a new water leak causes an uptick in roaches.

    That stuff is LIQUID GOLD. If I could marry it, I would. Nothing has been more effective at keeping roaches away.

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  23. It's called diatomaceous earth... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diatomaceous_earth#Pest_control

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  24. Anonymous10:47 PM

    OMG YUCK! Go build yourself one of those "brand new construction" homes and get that soy insulation that you spray into the walls. yuck yuck yuck. I could NEVER live in NYC. My envy of the big apple is OVER. Bless your heart this ordeal is over.

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  25. I'm no weak-willed miss, but I confess: when it comes to bugs, I make it a practice to delegate to (ok, I make it a practice to screech for) my husband. It helps that he is a biologist and not freaked out by the biggest, hairiest insects around. He catches them with his bare hands, even! Just shakes them nonchalantly out the window, while I sit there freaking out. Roaches are the worst. When I was in the Peace Corps we had the flying big ones, and unfortunately there was no husband on the scene then, just my site-mate and me, running around shrieking. Good times.

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  26. P&S 20034:08 AM

    Yes, I totally remember that Iron Chef episode! Morimoto should have punched Bobby Flay instead of just sternly berating him.

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  27. Anonymous7:28 PM

    Roach chalk!

    http://www.amazon.com/Black-Flag-Roach-Killing-Chalk/dp/B002S4NZI0

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  28. I'm a born and raised New Orleanian, we know how to kill roaches, so listen up! First off, yes to the Bengal spray. It's made in Baton Rouge and is the only spray anyone in New Orleans will buy, the Raids and Black Flags of the world are a waste of money. Secondly, boric acid is your best friend. Use it everywhere. You can get it in a powder form or as tablets or pills that you can toss under counters or in cracks. B and B. Bengal and Boric acid. And maybe Joe's shoe.

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  29. I'm a born and raised New Orleanian, we know how to kill roaches, so listen up! First off, yes to the Bengal spray. It's made in Baton Rouge and is the only spray anyone in New Orleans will buy, the Raids and Black Flags of the world are a waste of money. Secondly, boric acid is your best friend. Use it everywhere. You can get it in a powder form or as tablets or pills that you can toss under counters or in cracks. B and B. Bengal and Boric acid. And maybe Joe's shoe.

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  30. Michelle, it's taken me two days, TWO DAYS, of quickly flipping past this post in my Feedly, to bring myself to actually read the thing, because that image that you included---it was right there. It just kept showing up, freaking me out. so finally just now i read it. and your description about how you feel about roaches is about 1/100,000th the loathing/revulsion/fear/aversion/squeemishness i have toward the things. It's so bad I can hardly see the word, let alone a photo of the creepers. I am sure i need like, a hypnotist or something, cause the trauma, it's just that bad. But i'm glad i read it, because this may be the only thing i have in common with you. which thing is kinda pitiful, when you think of it.

    do you know if roaches live in highrises in NYC? cause i'm writing from an 18th floor penthouse apartment right now, and it's super nice and clean and everything's white and minimalist, with stone and mirrors and beige--which means a roach would totes stand out in here. but in all the times i've been here i've never seen a single bug. the owners said that this high up is "above the bug line", meaning it's too high for pesky bugs to be a problem. no flies, mosquitoes etc. but i'm not sure about roaches. i sure hope not.

    i hope your next post is about fairies riding unicorns through rainbow meadows filled with magical flowers. something to clear the image and mitigate the horror this post inflicted. ♥

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    Replies
    1. I grew up on the 19th floor of a building in Murray Hill in Manhattan. So...yes. (There is a bug line? Really? Can't they, you know, climb?)

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    2. Kandiboo11:37 AM

      i live in a "60th" floor high rise in Hong Kong (realistically, it means roughly 40+ floors or so after deducting the floors with "4"s and believe me, there is no such thing as a bug line. roachies live a good life climbing up drains in kitchen and proceed to proliferative at an astonishing rate.

      so yes, roach probably live in your highrises in NYC.

      Delete
  31. Anonymous5:44 AM

    Thanks, Michelle. I live in GA too and have been thinking, "Where are the roaches this year? Maybe they finally died off". Now I'll be hypervigilant, waiting for them to strike at my place too :). BTW- I've found that running the AC on a high setting from sunset to 1 or 2 am seems to help deter them (that is peak roach activity time and we know they are look for somewhere warm and humid- believe me I did LOTS of research last year when I first had to deal with them, even). Though I live in a one bedroom apartment, so this is probably not a good economic option for you.

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  32. Anonymous6:40 AM

    haha that was hilarious. you're a great writer. so glad you're writing more frequently. I'd like to note that I, being the loyal reader that I am, checked your blog at least once a week even when you were on hiatus for over a year. Also, I'm glad you are spending more time with your family. It's always a better decision to do something that makes you happy and disregard what other people think.

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  33. Anonymous3:11 PM

    Midnight, year 1 of med school, bent over a cadaver with my study group when, honest to god, a palmetto bug fell out of the ceiling onto the back of my lab partners head while she was bent over inspecting the abdomen. Then crawled into our body. I **STILL** have nightmares about this.

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  34. 12 years in the same downtown Manhattan pre-war building, and thankfully I've NEVER seen a roach. I have two dogs though ... I wonder if it's like cats and mice?

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  35. Anonymous6:02 AM

    I burst out laughing out loud, and it took a long while to stop. Thanks!

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  36. Anonymous10:25 PM

    Holy crap, can a sister get a spoiler alert?? It is a completely involuntary reaction to scream at the TOP OF MY LUNGS whenever I even see a picture of a bug, let alone a roach. (I used to cover up pictures of bugs with post-its in my biology books. That damned Drosophilia.) I also nearly spit my beer all over the computer laughing at your reactions. I'm pretty sure my roommates think I'm psychotic now.

    It took the scariest image (maybe ever) and the funniest thing I've read in awhile to persuade me to un-lurk and say hello! I'm a Wellesley sister/former NYC-er/current med student, and I absolutely love your blog and comics. Everything rings just a little too true. :) Thanks for continuing to share!

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  37. Anonymous4:59 PM

    Funny!! I don't think anyone actually likes roaches or at least I hope to never meet someone who does. Growing up in the south they tend to head indoors when it rains a bit. Yes, they fly and some will fly right at your head causing any sane person to scream like a girl!!!

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  38. Le Tiffany4:54 AM

    Have you met... The centipede? Far, far worse than any brazen cucaracha I've encountered. Blahhh!

    Try Sevin dust. It apparently slices up their tiny little legs and leaves them incapable of haunting the rim of your toilet seat or any other obscure region of your house.

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  39. You are funny. Thank you for writing again.

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