5.12.2009

On Cockroaches


Who says law reviews aren't useful?















If there's one thing I dislike about New Orleans, it's the cockroaches. Well, actually, there's the crime, too... So if there are two things I dislike about New Orleans, it's the cockroaches and the murders. Possibly in that order.

Besides a time when I went down the wrong alley one night in Bangkok (wearing sandals - you should've seen me dance), I never experienced cockroaches before coming to NOLA. Having experienced them, what do I think?

They disgust me. They enrage me. They creep me the you-know-what out.

We live in an older house here at S. Liberty, and while we aren't infested with cockroaches, we get them from time to time. We use traps, we duct tape strategically, and we counterattack in force when invaded. Unlike the tiny lizards that sometimes appear in the stairwell and the sunroom, there is no hope for symbiosis on the cockroach front.

When cockroaches show up in force, though, it's amazing. There's no household-unifying experience like a fight against multiple cockroaches late at night. Any low level disputes between the respective Greek city states of the apartment are quickly forgotten in the face of the more pressing Persian onslaught from the east (if someone reads that as a 300-style slight, apologies). Boots, sandals, brooms, newspapers, cleaning sprays, and, yes, even the Charleston School of Law's Law Review are brought to bear. Phil E the slayer of cockroaches was fond of using the GQ magazine left by his predecessor, Gylfi the Icelander.

My friend Aaron pinpointed why I hate cockroaches last night: they destroy the sanctity of the home. They're very fast, they can go upside down on ceilings, and they can squeeze into the tiniest of cracks and crevices. They infiltrate where nothing but NSA bugs could otherwise infiltrate, eliminating the feeling of safety in one's home, and most disturbingly, in one's bedroom.

I've had a cockroach crawl on my arm last year while I was sleeping, and I woke in the wee hours to find one crawling in my hair this year. Absolutely unforgivable. Hearing them move in a room at night - even when they aren't touching you - is bad enough.

It's simply something to deal with in the South and in New Orleans, though. Sometimes, when I'm stalking the latest little friend in the bathroom, I stop and watch him, dress shoe in hand. He stops, a foot below the ceiling, feelers wagging, seemingly cleaning his first set of legs.  I flash back to Professor Ortiz-Robles' freshman English lecture on Frankenstein and the concept of the "other."  I think of Gregor.  I wonder, for a moment, if there's some way to live together without fear.

Then I realize there is not.  I take no comfort in the distinction that "the big ones are from outside and don't actually live in the house like the small ones."  This thing in front of me is violating my personal space.  It's twenty times larger than some spider I would give a pass. And it's over my head. And it may burst into flight at any moment.  I thrust with the broom.

The cockroach lands in the tub as planned, and, as it scurries wildly and in vain at the smooth corners.  I approach, a cold hard heel at the ready.