Saturday, June 15, 2013

When Cockroaches Happen to Clean People

“Britt, how many roaches would you say we kill a day?” I heard Scott call casually over his shoulder from the front seat of the rental minivan we were sharing with our new friends.  We had just gone grocery shopping and he was talking to the husband, Luuck (pronounced Luke).  Apparently the mention of “cardboard" and the common knowledge amongst boaters that it's a vehicle for roach eggs gave Scott the go-ahead to tell our compadres about our little, er... situation. “I mean, like, two or three at least, right?” he continued with a shrug.  Like it was no big deal.  Like we were discussing flooring options: hardwood or wall-to-wall? Hmmmm....

What the HELL!?!?

I wanted to die right there.  I mean, what was he thinking making our cockroach issue (it is NOT a problem!) public?  I thought we had an understanding! It was supposed to remain our dirty little secret until we got rid of them, at which point we'd talk about our former pests much like people reminisce about the Depression Era and shudder as we recalled "the time we lived with roaches".  I mean, we are clean people.  Cockroaches aren't supposed to thrive amongst people like us.  This should not be happening.

I sat silent while I turned a lovely shade of crimson and slowly looked over to my friend Darcy in defeat, knowing full well that she would never ever come over to our veritable roach motel for a another happy hour again.  Dinner? Ha! Forget about it.  Bring her baby over to play with my baby?  No way, Jose.  It was over (not true, but still, I thought that at the time).  I felt like Hester Prynne with the scarlet letter on my chest, only my "letter" was a cardboard cutout of a German cockroach, antennae and all. "Hi! I'm Brittany...oh, the cockroach on my chest?  It's nothing, really.  Just ignore him...hey, where are you going?"  Gross.

To add insult to injury, Scott prattled on...

“They’re small though, really tiny...” he said matter-of-factly, "... I mean – the biggest we’ve killed is no longer than three-quarters of an inch, wouldn't you agree, Britt?”  I swear to God if I had "go-go Gadget" arms I would have strangled him right then and there.  But being that we were in the company of our new friends and respective children. I chuckled uncomfortably and said, “Um, honey…you do realize our friends are never going to come over again, right?”  If looks could kill.

There is no one, no one who doesn't find cockroaches in a living space completely and utterly appalling.  And rightfully so.  They are synonymous with filth and squalor.  Our roach problem issue has been documented before on the blog - but since we've been cruising, I wanted to keep hush hush about it because, frankly, I wanted to stick my head in the sand.  We've tried the boric acid cookies, we sprinkled Borax powder liberally in nooks and crannies, we tried the motels, hotels and traps and we fogged the boat on six - yes six - occasions.  Useless.  Each time, the little monsters prevailed.  I could almost hear their shrill, high-pitched roachy-laughter echoing from the woodwork every time a new battle tactic was attempted. "Good luck suckers!" I imagined them saying, "You know the Armageddon-style explosion that killed the dinosaurs and all life on earth as we knew it? Yeah.  We survived that! Bwa-hahahaha!" they'd say.  It was - is - maddening.  It's even worse because I am of the OCD variety when it comes to cleanliness and I have begun to take their presence on our boat as a personal affront.  I mean, if there was a holster that could contain a roll of paper towel and a solid cleaning agent, I would wear that bad boy with pride.  I clean a lot.  I repeat, WE ARE NOT DIRTY PEOPLE.

And that's not all!  I'm also compulsive about how we store our food.  Everything is in airtight containers, double or triple bagged and after meals there is nary a crumb for them to munch on.  Unfortunately, I have learned they don't need actual food to survive.  They can happily make a meal of book-binding glue, soap, nylon stockings, grease and dried skin flakes (we will be exfoliating, family-style, on the aft deck nightly now).  To make matters worse, they will even eat their own feces and dead brethren in a pickle.  It is clear we will not be starving them off our boat.

I was at a loss, so I hit the world wide web.  Waving the white flag and accepting the possibility that we might be living with them for a while longer, I wanted to know just how bad roaches were.  Are they really as gross as everyone says?  Did they really spread ebola?  Was my boat indeed a cesspool?  Turns out - none of these things were true.  Cockroaches are actually the cats of the insect world and clean themselves fastidiously - even obsessively so.  According to this article they are not as dirty as people think and the only filth they spread is the filth that they are actually living in and walk across.  Therefore, if you keep a clean house (as we do), you have clean roaches (semi-happy dance).  A human hand carries far more germs and bacteria than a cockroach.  And your cell phone?  Dirtier than a toilet seat.  This news made me breathe a small sigh of relief, however temporary.  They were not, in fact, going to infect my family with a flesh-eating disease.  This did not make living with them any better, of course,  but it was nice to know all my cleaning was not going to waste.  I was actually cleaning our roaches too.

The real problem with roaches is, from what I can gather, is their excrement.  Apparently people are all sorts of allergic to their - er- deposits and this is their true claim to pesty fame.  Luckily, the Meyers family shows no signs of being allergic and I have yet to see any roach poop in our living area (I look, trust me).  The other down side of having roaches (and the bigger one, in my opinion) is psychological.  I now see imagined roaches EVERYWHERE I look.  The errant piece of fuzz that blows across the counter?  A roach.  That tiny crumb that fell off my toast?  Roach.  That little shadow I see across the galley?  Roach.  The coffe ground stuck to the side of the sink? Roach.  The random drill hole in the wall?  Roach.  The stray hair caressing my back? Gah!! ROACH!  I feel like I'm living in the Twilight Zone whereby I see things that are not really there.  I'm pretty sure I'm scarred for life in this regard and I will forever see roaches in every tiny dark shadow and little black speck that crosses my peripheral from here on out.  It could be worse, I guess.

That said, we have not conceded to live peacefully amongst our persistent pests.  Despite the fact that they might share my OCD nature, they still gross us out and we want them gone.  We have a full-blown, real-deal exterminator coming today.  He is going to spread some industrial strength cockroach-killing gel around the boat and we're buying an extra tube of it from him for good measure.  He, and several others we've talked to, swear this will work.  We're being cautiously optimistic.  In the meantime, we'll just keep reminding ourselves that we're the owners of clean cockroaches because - I would like to stress - we are clean people.  And yes, cockroaches can happen to clean people.


Anonymous said...

Ummmm.......... you did not mention if Scott is now living out his life comfortably in the dink........

Lisa Hanneman said...

"Ugh, is that a cockroach on our bed?!?!"
"Oookkkaaayyy, I'm going to let you go now..."

I seriously hung up the phone laughing and thought to myself: cockroach story Blog post is coming.


Unknown said...

This made my day! Made my day in that it made me chuckle... not in that I envied what you were dealing with! You are amazing to have such a sense of humor about this. Love, love, love reading your blog :) Keep us posted on the "situation".

Heather said...

God Love Ya ... I'm pretty sure you are probably the only woman on the face of the planet to ever admit to this "problem" on the world wide web! Way to be brave & look at it this way.. if you are ever starving during a passage they would provide a little "clean" protein. The crazy guy on the travel channel eats bugs all the time.

Anonymous said...

LOL......I can not Believe you 'Survived' being "born" female!

Sabrina and Tom said...

"only my "letter" was a cardboard cutout of a German cockroach" Funny that you would chose a cardboard letter - the transportation vehicle of these suckers. Good luck in your battle.

s/v Honey Ryder Caliber 40 LRC

Dani said...

Great post! This one had me laughing :D. So sorry to hear about your continuing problem with them. Funny I was just thinking about it the other day when discussing bugs we'll encounter out at sea. I lived in an apartment one time that had the vile creatures and I was always jumpy. I am CLEAN, I swear.

I love you blog updates and read them frequently even though i'm far too busy to comment on everyone, keep it up!

Impetuous said...


We have the same problem with ants. We're very close to casting off but at the moment there are new families of ants taking up home on our boat daily. I've learned to control the problem but resigned to it being insolvable until we get gone and the ants would have to swim further to catch us. The flying ones may have me cursing for time to come though.

I wake up shouting at them marching across our ceiling... On closer more rational inspection I often find nothing, but I know they're around... endlessly.

My solution; honey mixed with bicarb of soda - their slow blown treat.

I used to be a vegetarian but we cannot co-habit this boat!

Good luck with your struggle.


Unknown said...

Even the cleanest people sometimes have trouble with cockroaches. It's hard to avoid! We used this great method of roach control in my apartment, and it was very effective, thank goodness. Best of luck!

Cherry Blossoms said...

I am SO glad I found your blog post. I live in a garden style apartment and every now and then we see a roach or two. Just like you I am VERY clean and disgusted every time I see one. I have done everything-hired a professional, used baiting gel I bought from a professional, borax, etc. The best thing I have found is sticky glue traps (so you can see just how many of those gross things are around) and Bengel Gold Roach Spray (they use it in New Orleans where the roaches run rampant). Anyway I hope this helps you--and please know you are not alone!

h.marie said...

Thanks for the laugh and moment of "I'm not the only one". I'd like to just move or burn this place. Ugh.

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