Warning: Parts of this article may be considered unpleasant, especially for those on the squeamish side. You can stop reading right now. I won’t be insulted. I won’t ever even know. But if you continue, you do so at your own risk. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Snake season is upon us. Of late, there have been several stories in the news about people being bitten by poisonous snakes. This is not a joke. In the past, when I would spot a snake, I would call the snake catcher hired by the Beit Shemesh municipality to come kill the snake. I would often wonder at what point in one’s life would one decide to become a snake catcher and what would contribute to such a decision. Would a snake catcher be an animal lover or an animal hater? Food for thought. My husband once very bravely killed a snake outside our friend’s house. He was my hero, even if the snake was the length of a pencil. Since snakes are potentially quite dangerous, I don’t have to be embarrassed by my fear of them.
Roaches, on the other hand, are another story. I suffer from PTRD (post-traumatic roach disorder) from my Brooklyn days. I was recently working on my husband’s computer when I suddenly noticed a very, very not-small roach running along the wall. It was late at night so it was just me and the ugly (and did I mention not small?) roach. Roaches are not life-threatening but they are beyond gross. There’s no way I was going to step on it because that act would cause whatever I ate for dinner to suddenly reappear. (I warned you, but it’s not too late to stop reading.) But I had to do something. I turned over a garbage pail, which was thankfully empty (my house is always spick and span, you know), and stopped the big critter right in his tracks. He wasn’t going anywhere. I could breathe again. But now what? I wondered if it would be considered tza’ar baalei chayim if I left him there until the morning. But letting him free would be tza’ar baalei chayim for me! I went upstairs and found my husband happily fast asleep. He suddenly turned over, which was my opportunity to pretend he was awake and get his attention. “I see that you’re awake. Can we discuss something?” I asked. Okay, so he was awake because I wanted to discuss something. But I needed him to be my hero again, even if he really was fast asleep. I explained my predicament, and being the nice guy that he is, my husband went downstairs and “took care of” the roach. I didn’t need to hear the sounds or the details. I was just happy that the incident was over. Apparently, I was not the only one on the block to notice a roach, and by the next morning, street-wide roach extermination was arranged.
While such episodes are far from pleasant, they do not even remotely compare to the roach-related suffering we endured when we lived in Brooklyn. Our first apartment was small and quaint and in a great location. But shortly after we got married, I began to notice roaches. How was that possible, I wondered? I had no idea! Spick and span, remember? And the roaches were not exactly where you would expect to find them if you were in fact expecting to find roaches. At first, most of the roaches we found were located in our bedroom. How odd! It turned out that our room shared a wall with our building’s garbage chute. Bad! My husband would put his hat on and feel something moving on his head. Very bad! (You can still stop reading.) He would put his foot in his shoe and...very bad. Our small apartment seemed to have way too many inhabitants. We had no idea what to do. Should we move? Could we possibly take back sovereignty? Roach spray was ineffective. The building exterminator threw up his hands. Such is life in an apartment building, we were told. We were at a loss. Then we had a baby. When we would go into the kitchen at night to prepare a bottle for him, the sound of roaches scurrying away was loud and clear. That was when they still viewed us as rulers of the place and showed some fear, if not respect. But that changed, and they decided that they were the kings and we were their subjects. They had no fear whatsoever. When I would talk on the phone with my friends, they would engage in group conversations and conferences on our bedroom ceiling. The final straw was when a roach planted itself on my baby’s bassinet. On my baby’s bassinet!!! That was it. This was war! No more pussyfooting around. Time to take back control. My husband joined the Co-op Residents Committee and brought in a new exterminator. He made sure the new guy understood in no uncertain terms that the current situation could not continue for one more minute. There was now a zero-tolerance for roaches. None.
The new guy exterminated the building but realized that our apartment would need an extra boost, given who our “neighbors” were. He drilled holes every few feet around the perimeter of our apartment and shot poison into the holes. The roaches were finally gone.
As much as I hate roaches, I did some research and found that there actually is a positive side to them. Roaches are extremely strong and robust. They can go without food for a month. They can hold their breath for five to seven minutes at a time. Believe it or not, they can somehow even survive without a head. Pretty impressive. Overall, they adapt very well to their surroundings. If we have to put up with roaches, at least we can learn from them the art of resilience. But hopefully, unlike roaches, we can survive, thrive, and grow without offending others along the way.