Monday, April 26, 2010

To Kill a Mockingroach

There is an ancient and forboding song about them. "La Cucaracha," it warns, "La cucaracha, ya no puede caminar."

Ancient. Foreboding. If I were only married to someone who is fluent in Spanish, I might know what it means, but it can't be good. Scratch that, I don't want to know what it means. One thing I've learned from the Gipsy Kings is that I enjoy international music a good deal more when I don't understand what the words mean (all of their songs, my wife explained to me, are about love and food...destroying my notion that "Bamboleo" was some kind of ancient, Aztec war cry. No more listening to that at the gym).

I've been battling roaches for the last 3 weeks. As mentioned in my previous blorg, I recently bought a house that was a "short sale." That's a nice way of saying that someone who lived there before us thought of mold as "being green" and of roaches as a reduction in the "protein" category of the grocery bill. Suffice to say, the house had plenty of both.

I've never lived in a house with roaches, and I intended not to. Until recently, I thought I had broken that promise to myself. My initial approach was to declare war on the roaches.

Motivated by a sense of duty to my family (and my wife's threat to call me at work, belittle my masculinity, then call "a real man named Terminix" every time she sees a single roach), I charged in.

Surprisingly enough, roaches don't take themselves nearly as seriously as we take them. In fact, I've become convinced that they live to just tell a single joke. It's not a very good joke. If roaches were collectively more intelligent, they might work up some decent material. But if it's worked for them for this long, I guess I shouldn't knock it.

The joke has come to be known as "Playing Dead."

Allow me to relay the first time I fell victim to this classic prank.

Having purchased a home that I knew to have roaches, I began doing the requisite homework. I read every website on Al Gore's entire internet about eliminating roaches. Actually, my wife did. She is fluent in Spanish, so I thought she would be better suited to combine modern technological advances with the understanding of ancient wisdom contained in "La Cucaracha."

We were doomed. "You cannot eliminated roaches" the websites stated, "you can only minimize the nuisance that they cause." Apparently, roaches pre-date humans by eleventy-billion years or so, and will probably still exist after the earth has been sucked into the sun. They can survive a nuclear holocost. Rumor has it that even an entire Lady Gaga album has minimal impact on them (that was a bad joke...but I've had that song, "Telephone" stuck in my head for 2 days...and that is a bad song, deserving of a bad joke).

So I roach-bombed the house. I bombed as if the world depended on it. The package said the bombs would cover 2,000 square feet, each. So I used 8 of them in a 3,000 square foot house. One side note...and consider this me copyrighting an awesome idea...they need to make bug bombs that are designed like grenades. How satisfying would it be to hold the pin of a bug "grenade" in your teeth and say, "have fun in hell you cock...roaches" (in the vocal styling of John Wayne's "fill your hand you son of a b-word" from "True Grit," of couse). You pull the pin, toss the grenade into the house, slamming the door and sprinting away, only to dive as the simulated explosion and accompanying sound effects give way to the anti-climatic "hiss" of the fumigator spraying it's poison into the air. That, is an awesome idea, if I do say so myself.

The morning after the initial bombing, I gingerly opened the door and surveyed the carnage. It had apparently rained roaches. I had never seen anything like it. As I strode across the roach-littered floor, I felt like Jesus must have felt when He walked on the water...if the water was crunchy and made entirely of dead roaches. Gross...but entirely satisfying.

Or so I thought. As I walked into the basement, I was elated to see even more "success" littering the floor. "Fabulous!" I thought, "Who said these things are difficult to kill?" It was only the sound of what I would describe as "muffled chuckling" that caused me to lean in closer to the killing floor.

I leaned closer. I heard some snicking, and then, unable to contain himself any longer, one of the roaches began kicking his legs! The joke having been blown, all of them broke out into uproarious laughter and began to kick their legs like the first roach had done.

Unfortunately for the roaches, I was carrying a bottle of Raid in each hand, and their little joke turned into a massacre that will go down in the annals of roach history. This assumes, of course that Raid actually kills them. More likely, my spraying them with a poison similar to the stuff that had just failed to kill them was the roach-equivalent of my clapping and crying "Encore!"

But the experience left me with a nagging question: There were hundreds of them who risked death to play that little prank, and I bet they were fully willing to sacrifice everything for the satisfaction my child-like laughter. Why?

The best I've been able to come up with stems from our good friend, evolution. Roaches probably haven't changed much since their appearance on the planet. Neither has their sense of humor. This must be the only joke that they are programmed to tell. Their "roach-strategy meetings" must seem awfully boring to the non-roach eye. "I say we stick with the material that works! We just need to "sell" it more! They'll get it this time, if we really commit to the gag!" the passionate, but aging Republican roach will state.

"But 11,000 of our best men died yesterday," the dissenting, Democrat roach will cry, "we need to try something different! Let's give up and survive to play the joke another day!"

"But that would blow the punchline, dadgummit!" yells the toothless, old, gold-mining roach.

And on and on it would go.

All I can really say is that having played over that scenario in my head numerous times has made me feel a lot more sympathetic towards the disease-spreading little buggers. Not that I've stopped trying to slaughter them en masse or anything. It's just that each time I've tried to murder them, they've used their same material...just trying to bring me some joy with a simple joke.

Their numbers have dwindled lately. I only see the occasional straggler, wandering around the ghost town that once was the roach capital of Catonsville. Mind you, I don't believe that I've been successful in killing them in any significant numbers. Only that I was such a bad audience that they decided to take their act elsewhere.

In my dreams I can hear the roach-elders telling their grand-roaches about the good-ol' days. How people would laugh and laugh each time they told their joke, and it never got old. Times were good...back then. Then along came a bunch of young-uns who had no appreciation for the billions of years of history and planning that went into that joke.

"NO RESPECT!" the old roach would yell.

"Settle down, Grandpa," the little ones would say, "Doc says it's bad for your heart when you get your dander up (apparently roaches are stuck in the 1940's as far as roach medicine goes)."

While I feel some slight remorse for essentially heckling them out of the house, my wife indicated that I made the right choice. "Really," she said, "it was either them or you."

I try to rest easy in the realization that my attempts at humor don't make her scream and spray me with Raid. Or at least they don't make her scream.

Hopefully that was some stuff of life.


  1. Hilarious! :) I even giggled some! I feel your paim Nate, and if you need the name of a good pest company... let me know.... if you find one! LOL

  2. Bless you my brother. You are pretty funny. I decalre Zephaniah 2:8-9 over the roaches. They shall be like Moab and the Ammonites (like Sodom and Gomorrah), you are like the remnant of God's people (they will insult and taunt you no more), your house is the land. You will plunder them and inherit it! :-)

  3. i suggest getting some roach bait things and putting them around to kill the last little stragglers. the roaches climb in and then unknowingly take the bait back to their little roach families- how's THAT for a joke you little suckers!

  4. Brilliant. I'm so jealous. Not of the roaches, but of their fine tale you've just spun.
    Absolutely brilliant. So brilliant, you've made me sound British.