I will never forget the first time our eyes met. I stood there for moment, taken aback by the sheer mammoth-ness of what was before me. It was dark and shiny like a freshly polished pair of patent leather shoes on Easter morning. I cocked my head to the side and quickly forgot what I went into the bedroom for as I pondered this thing on my wall. I moved a step towards it, and in the split second that it took for my brain to go from “What is it?” to “Oh my gosh, a roach is in my bedroom!” there was lift off, and the gargantuan monster was flying straight for me. The scream that left my throat at that moment would put a slasher movie victim to shame, as I shot off down the hallway, running for my life. I barely survived my first run-in with a Palmetto Bug, the hard core thugs of the insect world.
The Palmetto Bug – isn’t it charming how us folks living below the Mason Dixon line give even the nastiest of creatures a country club name? If you are like most people in the South, you have the exterminator on speed dial. You might even have them on your Christmas card list. The truth of the matter is that you can bleach every inch of your house, sweep up every crumb, and seal every crack or crevice, but you are still going to have bugs in your house. However, until I was an adult in my own home, I never had the displeasure of coming across this gangsta of a bug, this mutation of what I knew every other roach to be. Maybe it’s because I live closer to the nuclear power plant now, and they just grow ‘em bigger out this way. Maybe when I was a kid, my tough-as-nails mom swatted them before they made it to my line of sight. Or maybe they just never came into my house back then because they were scared to death of my dad like everyone else. Whatever the reason, I have found that these bugs will put up a fight if provoked, and it can go either way.
The latest battlefield with these Palmetto Bugs has been in the most intimate of places – the master bathroom of my home, even though this room is upstairs and away from any food source or entryway. Do you know how disconcerting it is to be primping, half-dressed in front of the mirror and spot one of these giant bugs staring at you from behind, probably snickering like a perverted teenage boy? Worse than that was the time when I was enjoying a much-deserved hot, relaxing shower only to tilt my head upward and come face to face with one of these Peeping Tom Palmetto Bugs watching me from the ceiling. Between the slippery shower and the even slippery-er ceramic tile floor, it was nothing short of an act of God that I made it out of that room without a broken bone or concussion. I am convinced these things are creepy little voyeurs.
My first line of defense against these raunchy invaders is to let out a blood curdling scream followed immediately by my husband’s name. I’ll usually stand there, eyes transfixed on the bug while he finishes his sudoku puzzle or catches the last few minutes of whatever alien movie he found on the Sci-Fi channel. During these moments in limbo, I’ll alternate between silent shaking and staccato shrieks each time the creature dares to move.
If I find myself mano a mano with one of these buggers, I break out the big guns – they get the full-on salon treatment. My sure-fire way to kill an insect of any size is to saturate them with hair spray. Oh yeah, this is my Aussie Instant Freeze Spray of Death in a purple can, and it works every time. (Let’s not even get into the human and environmental issues surrounding the fact that the hair products I use also double as insecticide.)
I am at least comforted by the fact that exterminator trucks are common in my neighborhood. Even Mr. and Mrs. Clean will eventually find that their home has become a Roach Motel of sorts here in the sunny, insect-filled south. It could be worse, though. After relaying the gory details of my time in the trenches during the Palmetto Bug War to my neighbor, she told me about the night when she climbed into bed and after a few minutes, felt something crawling on her chest, and well, you can figure out the rest. I can’t imagine how many years of therapy it would take for me to recover from a surprise roach attack in the sanctity of my own bed…and for the sake of all that is good in the world, I hope I never find out.