July 18, 2010

Close Encounters of the Cockroach Kind ©

I fear that I have become too well acquainted with cockroaches over the years. What is it about these insects that cause so many of us to shriek with terror at the mere sight of them? It's not like they're the size of a buffalo…except for that one I saw in the middle of the night with its glowing eyes, ready to pounce on me and eat me (ok, I may have a slightly over-active imagination at times.)

Looking back I can see that I have had four styles of encounters with the dreaded beasts over the years, but before we look at those, let me explain why I developed such an aversion in the first place.

I recall my grandmother telling us a horrifying tale about a cockroach that crept inside her ear while she was sleeping – and it died there! My little eyes opened wide with terror and for years afterwards I imagined this cockroach kicking its legs in its death-throws inside my grandmother's ear canal, while she frantically tried to dig it out!

As a child, my father loved to regale us with stories of his adventures, including the period when he worked as a signalman in the railway. At the time he was required to stay overnight in the signal house and in between trains he would catch a few winks on the floor. In fact, he would sometimes catch more than a few winks. The hordes of cockroaches that lived there would scurry about at night, and dad spent most of his sleep flicking them off when they crawled over him. He said that one night he woke up from a sound sleep and found he was chewing on something!

This may help you to understand my dread of the horrible things and the way I reacted when I was 20. In my flat one night, an enormous cockroach the size of a volkswagon flew in and immediately honed in on me. No matter where I went running, screaming around the room, the wretched creature would fling itself off the wall and come flying at me. Eventually, I managed to snatch the can of insect killer from the kitchen cupboard and bravely went over and sprayed it. It hung onto the wall as if enjoying the view, and so I sprayed it again…and again…and again. I reckon if I'd been courageous enough to get closer to it, the rotten thing would have been grinning at me.

I looked at the can I held and realised it was air-freshener. While I hadn't managed to kill the cockroach, it sure was going to smell nice to its friends.

One of the flats I rented years ago was in a dilapidated old Queenslander  that hadn't been bug-sprayed for probably a decade. Consequently it became cockroach central for a vast crowd of the critters. I used to dread having to use the old bathroom at the back of the building at night, because there would always be at least 20 of them between me and bladder relief.

There was a huge fig tree overhanging a house I lived in another time, from which cockroaches used to dive in for a visit. I developed a very important rule there which I still observe to this day = always check the black toilet seat for cockroaches before sitting down.

I rented a flat in a lovely old house one time that unfortunately had a plague of small brown cockroaches. They all seemed to emanate from next door where the resident, a hoarder, had lived for more than 20 years. It didn't seem to matter what cockroach baits or repellents we placed in our flat, the creatures seemed to be breeding faster than we could kill them.

After termites were discovered in the building, the place was treated for white-ants, and for six glorious months, we were cockroach-free. Then they began to reappear, but the next wave of the bugs were all mutated with shriveled up little wings.

One night we received a visit from an albino cockroach. I thumped the wall next to it, and rather than just flying away in fright, because of its withered wings, the insect simply leaped from the wall and fell to the floor.

I realised that I had discovered a rare albino mutant kamikaze cockroach! ©

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