Updated: Jul 13
When I was twelve-years-old, I flew on a plane by myself for the first time to visit New Orleans — or “N’warlins.” It was summer vacation and plans were made for me to fly down there from Minneapolis and spend a whole month with my cousins. I suspect there was something going on in our household that made the idea of one less child to worry about appealing, but I don’t know this for certain. What I do know is my brothers were fifteen and sixteen at the time and they were a handful.
The thought of traveling on my own wasn’t so scary because this was a time when kids like me had free reign to wander around. A time before the faces of abducted children appeared on milk cartons. My parents didn’t really care about where my brothers and I went, as long as we were home for dinner. We had autonomy in who we played with, and whose house we would hang out at. We were let loose until our moms came out to the front porch to call their children back when dinner was ready. Some of the moms in our neighborhood literally rang a bell — each bell had a different sound and we could tell whose mom was doing the ringing. My mom just came out and yelled, “BRAD, SCOTT, LAURA…DINNER!”
Back in those days there wasn’t anyone from the airline officially accompanying children on flights. Flight attendants, or “stewardesses” as they were known then, would be aware of a child traveling on their own, would be extra nice, give you a soda-pop of your choice — which of course is free but I thought it was special — and a pair of flight-wings to pin on — a cheap imitation of what the pilots wore, but I loved it nonetheless.
This was a time when you could go to the gate if you didn’t have a ticket, and my cousins greeted me as I got off of the plane. When I exited the airport, it was like walking into a wall of moist heat. It was July in the deep South, something I’d never experienced before. It gets very humid in Minnesota in the summer, but the temperature and humidity in Louisiana was something I’d never felt. It made my lungs feel heavy and within a few feet of the door I felt my pores open with sweat.
Also within a few feet of the door, I spotted something sitting on the edge of a decorative cement planter that I’d never seen. An insect of great size — about four inches long — waving its long antenna at me like a greeting, as if to say, “Welcome to N’warlins!” I thought it was some kind of beetle but when I asked, I was informed by my cousin that it was a cockroach — and that they fly! Cockroaches up North don’t fly, and they don’t tend to hang out in the open. I stared at it as we walked by, willing it not to move. Thankfully it stayed put. I never encountered another one… until now.
I’m currently living in Cathedral City, CA. The desert lifestyle is new territory for me. Hot but dry with Palm Trees in every direction. Last week I met my first rattlesnake while walking my dog — the sound of the rattle was shockingly, and thankfully, loud. I’ve been a bit jumpy ever since.
It primed me quite nicely for the high-pitched noise that came out of my face hole a couple nights ago when I turned on my bathroom light. Sitting on top of my Waterpik, like a grotesque Jiminy Cricket, was a gigantic cockroach. I recognized what it was immediately even though it’s been more than forty years since I’ve seen one like it. The memories of my trip to Louisiana rushed back.
I screamed, I admit it, but this beast was not the least surprised by me. At all. If he’d had a little top hat on, he surely would have tipped it. Aren’t they supposed to scurry away when lights go on? Perhaps he was impressed with my scream, which I’m guessing was a high B flat, maybe even a C. I left the bathroom and did my own form of scurry around the casita I’m living in, now sputtering a grossed-out nervous chuckle. It had scared the bejeebers out of me and my heart was racing.
I’m not a fan of crushing insects. Give me a good zit to pop any day of the week, but I can’t stand the crunch of a bug body. I wasn’t sure what I should do. I grabbed my phone to take a picture of it so I could confirm what I already knew to show the owner of the building. As I re-entered the bathroom I found it sitting on the counter. This time it put on a little dance for me, clearly inspired by my earlier vocalization. I snapped a few pics of it before it made its exit, stage right, over the edge of the vanity into an area out of sight and reach.
I slept with the bedroom door closed that night, which made no sense really because the critter could easily find its way to my room if it wanted. My dreams were filled with images of large creepy crawlies. Not restful.
The next day it was nowhere to be found. That is at least until the evening when I grabbed my towel to dry my face after washing it and the ghastly thing came out like a flash across the wall. One would think I would be prepared, knowing it could still be there. But no, I think I howled even louder, and then burst into laughter at my reaction, ala Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.
Not willing to have another restless night, I looked around for something big enough to trap it and get it out of the house. I grabbed a clear plastic food storage container and a small folded paper bag from the recycling.
I went back and found it right where it was, perched on the wall. This really was a bold little fucker. It was not scared of me in the least... until I popped the box over it. He looked at me through the plastic, a bit shocked that I had the audacity to do it. He started to act a little nervous for the first time.
I tried to maneuver the paper bag onto the wall so I could slide the box over, trap the bugger and get it outside. I promptly dropped the paper bag and it fell directly into the open toilet. Son-of-a-bitch.
Not wanting to take the container away for fear of a shift in Jiminy’s cheerful disposition after being trapped — I really didn’t want the thing flying around the room — I looked around to see what was in reach to use as a clever cover. There wasn’t much but the hand towel, it would have to do.
I slid the box around on the wall until he stepped onto the container, then swiftly covered it with the towel. It worked! Oh my god, it actually worked. Now I just had to get it outside.
I had not thought that far ahead and realized I had already locked the sliding door for the night. Miraculously, I was able to get the door unlocked and opened using my elbows — it’s amazing what one can do in a pinch. I slid the door closed behind me to prevent any other unwanted intruder to enter while I got rid of it. I went to the back wall of the yard and flung the damn thing out over it. I thoroughly checked the towel to make sure it hadn’t clung to it, and jumped for joy to find nothing there. Success!
Now that I didn’t have that uninvited guest, I was able to rest easily. But I may have to boil the parts of my Waterpik before I can use it again.