I have often been asked about the name of my blog, and I assure you, there is a story. I didn’t just decide arbitrarily to hate cockroaches, even though they are vile little creatures.
Long, long ago, I studied biology at university. My lovely Animal Physiology lab partner Willard and I decided to do a research project on cockroaches. I don’t know what possessed us. I’m sure there was a logical reason but I can’t imagine what it might have been.
Our professor took a jar of cockroaches out of the fridge, and told us to pin the bugs to our dissection trays right away. Stupidly, we thought we would just cut the heads off instead.
And that’s how we learned that the little buggers could fly, even without heads. After we discovered that a cockroach could be cut into 5 separate pieces, and each piece could survive for days, we decided to switch to using crickets for our project. There’s a reason it’s Jiminy Cricket, not Jiminy Cockroach!
My first encounter with a cockroach outside of the lab happened soon after I had arrived in Japan. Let me paint you a little picture. It was about 10:30 pm, I was in my PJs, turning off the lights in my cozy little apartment, closing the curtains, and feeling a pleasantly sleepy. My glasses were off because I was just about to get into bed; everything had a lovely, hazy fuzziness to it.
I reached up to turn off the light above my stove when something skittered out of the fan. The fact that I could see this scurrying creature WITHOUT my glasses should give you an indication of how big it was. I can barely see my hand in front of my face without my glasses.
My heart was pounding like a marathon runner’s as I quickly found my glasses and came back to check out my uninvited guest. He sat there proudly, the king of his small domain. His brown metallic skin glistened in the dim light, and his long antennae quivered slightly in the breeze. I stopped dead, and stared in revulsion and horror. He stared back serenely confident on his perch atop my baby oranges.
A cockroach. A really, really big cockroach. In my apartment. I could hear the voice in my head getting hysterical. Oh my gosh. Oh my GOSH. OH MY GOSH!!! It’s a bloody, great $#*$# cockroach!!! What the @$#*%^# do I do now?????? I had trouble killing them at university, even with an entire lab full of scalpels at my disposal.
Normally I like to scoop up bugs gently, and throw them out the nearest window but nothing short of a cattle prod was going to work with this guy. Keeping the monster in my sights, I slowly inched my way towards the enormous can of bug spray my predecessor had thoughtfully left. I had wondered why it was such a large can…
Slightly suspicious, he followed me with his beady eyes, his antennae twitching in my direction. I stood back, took aim, held my breath, closed my eyes and sprayed. I opened my eyes to discover that I apparently had the non-cockroach-killing kind of bug spray. Mr Cockroach glared at me, took flight, and dive bombed my head. No wonder they say cockroaches would probably survive a nuclear bomb!
At this point I’d like to say that I remained calm, and using the essential skills I learned in my biology labs, I wrestled the monster to the ground, hog-tied him and threw him out the window without breaking either a sweat or a nail.
Sadly, I have to admit that I screamed like the proverbial girl, idiotically threw the can of bug spray at the kamikaze cockroach, and ran in circles shrieking and waving my hands frantically above my head. After a few minutes of pure, mindless terror and idiotic behaviour, I started to feel a little embarrassed, and stopped to assess the situation.
The cockroach sat once again on my baby oranges, only this time, he didn’t quite look so sure of himself; I was pleased to notice that he had developed a bit of a twitch. On my hands and knees, I slowly retrieved my can of bug spray and took aim again.
This time there was no flying, just really fast running, again directly at me. But I was ready for him. I chased him around my apartment spraying bug spray and hollering, “Die, you stupid #$&*^@ bug, die!” And suddenly to my complete and utter astonishment, he did. He was headed towards my bedroom at full tilt when suddenly he flipped on his back, twitched a few times, and stopped moving. I prodded him fearfully with the broom but there was no response.
Feeling quite pleased with myself, I turned to pick up a piece of newspaper to squish him in. When I turned back, he was gone.
PANIC!! I ran into my room, slammed the door and stuffed a blanket in the crack under the door so that the cockroach couldn’t sneak in while I was sleeping… not that I thought for one second that a mere door would stop the cockroach who was clearly a member of the living dead.
I then faced a major dilemma. Did I leave the light on so that I could see the zombie cockroach coming for me? Or turn the light off so as not to attract more undead cockroaches?? In the end I opted for light off but I put a flashlight and the can of bug spray right beside my futon.
Let me just remind everyone that I slept on the FLOOR. My sleeping arrangements were charming and rather nest-like but they did make me easy prey for all sorts of many-legged creatures who wanted to share my warm bed. The upside was that I could hear them coming, each tiny foot making a loud tap tap tap as they skittered across the floor towards me.
The next morning after a long and restless night, I spent about 10 minutes searching my apartment for the corpse of the cockroach. I refused to believe that I had emptied half a can of bug spray on something and it was still alive! But there was no sign, the cockroach had vanished. I took that as further proof that it was an unnatural sort of cockroach.
I put my lunch in my backpack, and headed off to school. In the staffroom, I opened my backpack, took out a book, and choked back a scream when I saw who was sitting on the book. The undead zombie cockroach.
I played it cool. Glancing around, I surreptitiously flicked him off my book onto the floor where he slowly and laboriously began to drag himself across the floor towards me, twitching every few steps.
Dropping my book with a loud clatter, I channelled my inner Scarlett O’Hara. I clasped my hands to my heart, emitted a girlish, quavering shriek and said: “Oh my! There appears to be a REALLY large cockroach on the floor! How ever did it get there?”
Instant pandemonium. The poor bug didn’t stand much of a chance after that. Between the burly gym teacher, and the strapping young kendo coach, the monster was defeated.
Thus began my long, and not-so-loving relationship with cockroaches. I don’t know if I’m just lucky, or if the cockroaches are seeking me out to revenge their relatives that I chopped up in my lab. Whatever the reason, wherever I go in Asia, I find cockroaches. And I really wish I wouldn’t because I really hate cockroaches.