Tag Archives: infestation

I’m sorry it has to be this way, Mr. Cockroach

I walked into the kitchen and I saw a cockroach. It was a big one, which, despite that gut-wrench reaction that made me want to immediately pack up and move, was kind of a relief. I read something in a short story years ago about how if you see a really big bug, it’s probably just a loner lost inside your house, an event more than a trend. It’s when you start seeing little cockroaches on a regular basis, that’s when you know you have a problem, an infestation.


And like I said, that was in a short story, a work of fiction. I write fiction and I make up stuff all the time, little convincing sounding facts, just whatever pops into my head really. And so I don’t know why this provided me any comfort. I’ve never looked it up to confirm or deny its validity. But for whatever reason, whenever I see a big cockroach, I cling to this potentially made-up snippet of fact, that it’s not a big deal, that its presence in my house is an accident.

It doesn’t happen all the time, but they show up with enough regularity that I can never just enter a room without bracing myself for a potential intruder. I’m being mostly paranoid. It’s really no more than one bug every three months or so. But that’s enough. The basement is even worse. Aside from the bugs, one time about a year and a half ago we had a squirrel trapped downstairs. I’d open the basement door and just catch a glimpse of its tail before it disappeared between this hole where the pipes from the washing machine made contact with the wall.

So even though it’s not a super regular occurrence, I’ve still been surprised enough times that I’ll turn on the lights and my body is constantly ready for a possible attack. Because you have to attack, as soon as you see the cockroach, your only option is an immediate kill. If you let even half a second slip by where you hesitate, where you consider a course of action, you’re screwed. It’s going to disappear, you’ll never see it again, but you’ll never forget about it either. It’ll be everywhere and nowhere at the same time, constantly projecting its image in your peripheral vision in the form of phantom blurs and mistaken appartitions. And who’s to say that the shadow you can’t be sure you really saw wasn’t the cockroach? I mean, it’s got to exist somewhere, right?

I saw this cockroach in my kitchen and with lightning fast survival instincts, it vanished underneath the Swiffer sweeper. OK, at least I wouldn’t have to go moving around furniture to flush this thing out. But this put a lot of pressure on my next move. Should I move the Swiffer and go for a targeted strike? Or would it make more sense to slam my foot down on the broad surface of the mop, hopefully knocking it out without giving it a chance to find a more secure hiding spot?

I decided that, in an effort to not destroy my Swiffer, I’d give a little nudge, wait for the cockroach to make a run for it, and then I’d come crashing down with a final stomp. When I tapped the handle, I saw it move a little bit, but the pest must not have seen any available avenues for escape, so it went around to the other corner of the mop.

And it just stood there, most of its body obscured by the hiding spot, but its head and antennae clearly visible. I wanted to be like, “Hey, buddy, I can see you.” Like when I come downstairs and my dog is “hiding” in between the two couches. I’m almost insulted, like did you get in the garbage? Huh? You don’t think I won’t know something’s up?

But these thoughts shot through my brain over the course of maybe a half of a second or so, because remember what I was talking about earlier? Roach. Urgency. Kill. I brought my foot down, hard. As I got a huge wad of paper towels, so I could clean this thing up without having to feel its body against my fingertips, a part of me wished it didn’t have to be this way. Why the need for such strong reactions? My crippling fear, the surge of adrenaline that surely might be put to better use during aspects points in my life. There’s really no choice, I mean, I couldn’t have that thing free in my house. But can’t there be a simpler way? One involving a little less panic and stomping and skin-crawling sensations of existential terror?

I’m not freaking out

Don’t tell me to stop freaking out. How about you stop freaking out? I’m not even freaking out. You think this is freaking out? You should see me when I’m really freaking out. Just, you chill out, all right? How about I won’t tell you to stop flailing your arms in the air if you don’t tell me to get down from this chair? Because I’m not getting down, not until we see where it went, it might still be in here.


There it is, I just saw it, I think it went underneath your jacket. Why didn’t you use the coat hangers? I’m just saying, if that thing gets in a pocket, if it’s pregnant, you’re going to take it home, it’s going to get in the walls, your walls, that thing’s going to multiply, fast, I think just one of them can carry enough genetic diversification to supply a dozen generation’s worth of population, that’s going to be some shit man.

And yeah, one little bug, that’s not such a big deal, but do you know what an infestation looks like? Seriously, you’re not going to have a free second man, you’ll see them on the walls, inside every pocket, you might as well get rid of those coat hangers now, too little, too late, they’re all going to get inside. And I hope you get used to shaking out your shoes before you put them on. You like that crunching sound? Or what if it’s a really small one, and so it just lives in there, hanging out in between your toes, you’ll be like, what’s that itch? What’s going on?

There it is! It’s right behind that box. Do you know how many of those little guys get carried around every day inside boxes just like that? It’s the corrugated material, you can fit like a whole city’s worth of bugs right inside one box. That’s why I don’t let any boxes inside my house. “Not so fast,” I always tell the UPS guy before he even has a chance to knock at the door. “Just leave it down the block. I’ll get to it.”

And I don’t care how many packages I miss out on, because you might get used to those trails of little baby bugs running from crack to corner, but what about the alpha bugs? Huh? Those giant ones that survive into old age, they’re like three, four inches big, I’ve seen a few of those a few times, they were everywhere at my old restaurant, like in the basement, there’d be puddles of standing water and I’d just see the shadows of their antennae from like five feet away.

No thanks, and you tell me stop freaking out, please, this is how it starts, I can’t believe you’re not pushing me off this chair, this is the safest spot in the room. Here’s a little tip. Throw out that jacket. Because yes, I did see it run from underneath your jacket over to that box, but how can we be sure that it was the same one? I mean, do you honestly think that there’s only one bug in this whole place?

No, there’s got to be hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands. I think that’s like a rule, or a rule of thumb, it’s like for every one that you see, there’s got to be like a hundred thousand in the walls. I’m telling you, they’re bred to never get caught, most of these things go their whole lives without ever being seen by a person. But they’re there.

Throw out the jacket. I’m throwing out everything. I really don’t care what my neighbors think, because whatever it is they’ll say, they’ve probably already said it, calling me crazy. You get to like a block away from your house, you strip down out of all your clothes, I’m talking naked, I know it’s tough to believe, but you just got to do it, and you run to your house.

Because what’s the alternative? Huh? I’d rather be naked and have everyone think I’m a little crazy than risk carrying a colony of those assholes back to my house. Because imagine you have just one hiding out in your pocket. You know what that means? You’ve probably got at least a hundred squirming around in your boots, like in those little spaces in between your shoelaces and the holes where you tie those laces through.

I’m not crazy! OK, you think I want to throw all of my stuff away? Because I will. I’ll toss it all out, I’ll burn it, I’ll run bare-assed to a new apartment, I’ll start totally from scratch, it’s the only way, OK? This city’s crawling with them … just … I saw it! It’s right there! Kill it, just step on it, but don’t let the eggs get on your shoes! They’re everywhere! You stop freaking out! I’m not freaking out!

One time I got overrun by hundreds of spiders in Canada

When I was a little kid, like eight or nine years old, my grandparents took my brother and me on a road trip to Ottawa to hang out with some of our Canadian relatives. We were in town during Canada Day, and one of my cousins rented out a hotel suite downtown for a big party. The place was huge, I remember lots of rooms, a giant balcony overlooking the city, it had the perfect up-close view for fireworks.


Everyone was having a great time, but, and I remember this vividly, as soon as the sun set, all of these giant spiders started crawling out from everywhere, from under the furniture, from inside the vents in the ceilings. I’m not even exaggerating, there were hundreds of them, big brown ones, probably the size of a quarter, and they took over the suite. The balcony got hit especially hard, it was like you wouldn’t notice them, not just by looking out the window, because their dark bodies blended in with the night sky. But by shifting the view, or just by walking close enough, you could see they were an omnipresent force, hanging from their invisible threads, it looked like, if they wanted to, they could have covered the whole sliding door in a sheet of thick webbing.

I’m creeping myself out just thinking through this twenty-year-old memory. Actually being there, a little kid in a foreign country on a hotel floor that was being slowly overrun by spiders, I was freaking out big time. But what could I do? I looked around, all of the adults were acting like it was no big deal. I gave my grandma a nervous face and she dismissed my concerns, like I was being a baby, like I shouldn’t be afraid of a few spiders.

And now looking back, I still don’t understand what was going on. Because if I were there right now, of course I’d be scared, at the very least I’d be visibly uncomfortable, squirming around, swatting away at imaginary itches and tingles I’d feel across my body. What was going on here, are Canadians exempt from the near-universal fear of a spider infestation?

Or was everybody just being super polite? I’m having this imaginary scenario play through my mind, it’s my Canadian cousin, he’s in the hotel lobby booking a room with the receptionist. “Well sir, our standard rooms do fill up pretty quickly, especially on Canada Day,” and he’d be like, “I see, well, I guess I’m looking for something kind of affordable. What are your standard rates?”

And she’d lure him in, “Actually, we do have an executive suite available, it’s got plenty of room for all of your guests, plus there’s a great balcony overlooking the center of town. The rate is exactly the same as any of our standard rooms.” My cousin would be skeptical, “I don’t know, this sounds a little too good to be true. What’s the catch?”

Of course there would be a catch. “You see sir, the suite, again, it’s fantastic, but there’s a little bit of a spider problem.” And maybe my cousin would hesitate. But that’s a hard offer to pass up, suites are expensive, surely a group of adults would be able to handle a few spiders. “All right, I’ll take it.”

Cut to the party, people are inches away from being devoured by arachnids, but nobody wants to hurt my cousin’s feelings, after all, he was the one nice enough to pay for the entire party. It would be extremely rude to mention the spiders, or even acknowledge their existence. So everybody put on a show of having a great time, all while trembling on the inside, counting down the minutes until it was OK to make an exit.

I don’t know, I have trouble believing the accuracy of these old memories, even though I can still see them, congregating in spider clusters in the corners, by the legs of the furniture. Maybe my traumatized childhood mind embellished what actually went down. Who knows? But for real, there were a lot of spiders. I’m not making it up. Sometimes I still get nervous in hotel rooms, even if I’m nowhere near Canada. I’ll run down to the receptionist right before dusk, I’ll be like, “You guys don’t have any sunset spider problems, do you? Because if you do, just tell me, I won’t get mad, I promise, I won’t even ask for a refund, I’ll just leave, you can still rent out the room. Just, come on, no spiders, right? Promise?”