Quantcast

«

»

Aug 11 2013

Cock Roaches: A Cautionary Tale

“Where you see one, there are hundreds more you can’t see,” my stepmother said. She’d gone with me to look at apartments. She’d pulled open a drawer to reveal a dead cockroach beneath. Other than that, the apartment was just what I was looking for, and the managers said they’d take care of the pests before I moved in. So I signed a lease.

It was fine for a while, but then I began noticing the occasional roach. Nothing horrible, and I’m not easily squicked out by insects, but still. You expect to live roach-free when you’re paying to live in a middling-decent place. So I called the managers, and they called the exterminator.

That seemed to help, but within weeks, the roaches were back. And breeding. Roaches big and small, bold and cowardly, multiplying exponentially. The more persistent ones got the Rolled Up Magazine o’ Doom. But for every one I whacked, it seemed a dozen more would flood in. I kept the place exquisitely clean, took out the trash promptly, swept up – and still they swarmed. They left their detritus everywhere: droppings, corpses, egg cases. People say that cockroaches scatter and hide when the lights go on, but not these. Bold as brass they were, and positively preened in the spotlight.

Cockroaches feeding on a mango stone in a gully somewhere at manila bay. Image and caption courtesy Ric_K on Flickr.

Cockroaches feeding on a mango stone in a gully somewhere at manila bay. Image and caption courtesy Ric_K on Flickr.

The exterminator became a regular presence. And he did try. But, as he explained, we were fighting a losing battle. Management was trying to handle the problem one apartment at a time, but that just meant the roaches could skitter off one apartment over and wait until the poison was no longer potent before swarming back. You’d get a few of the dumber ones, but the rest would survive. And management wouldn’t take the sensible step of having the entire building done.

So the roaches thrived.

Even when we fogged my apartment, that didn’t stop them for long. They’d just scamper off, then come back.

In the end, because management wouldn’t adequately handle the problem, I had to move to get away from them. A few stowed away in boxes and plagued me in the new place, but weren’t as successful there (probably because of rather more aggressive pest control), and a second move rid me of them entirely.

But I wouldn’t have had to deal with that if the first complex had done the right thing to begin with.

Our community has a cock roach problem.

We’ve tried to eliminate them from some of our spaces, but they skitter off and hide in safe places until they can sneak back to plague us. So far, many of the people in management positions have done the slumlord thing of denying the problem. Some have done what my complex did: the minimum, never adequately dealing with the problem. And some have done a brilliant job of ridding their spaces of cock roaches, but without a coordinated, concerted effort by all in the community, the cock roaches will always have a safe place to go. And we’ll always be plagued with them.

That’s unacceptable.

We shouldn’t have to deal with this problem. It’s not something you can just put up with. No one should have to carry a metaphorical Rolled Up Magazine o’ Doom to fend the cock roaches off with.

We have choices.

We can do our best to force management to face the problem and deal effectively with it.

If they refuse to do that, we can move. Build our own community and keep it cock roach free. It’s difficult and expensive, but may be the only thing left.

Because ignoring the problem is no longer an option. These predatory men I’m talking about aren’t like real cockroaches, annoying and gross but mostly harmless (and in some ways, beautiful and fascinating creatures you may not mind having around, if you enjoy critters). Our infestation is one of men* who feel entitled to harm, assault, traumatize, and sometimes rape their victims.

I’m not willing to live in a community that includes them. Nor, I daresay, are you. But I’m not yet willing to leave the community to the cock roaches. I’d rather try to force the orgs into throwing them out first. It shouldn’t be the victims who have to flee the community.

I want to see the victimizers unceremoniously tossed out, and never allowed to return. We should demand no less.

 

Inspired by Amy.

 

*Yes, women can be predatory, and it isn’t any more acceptable. But the overwhelming majority of perpetrators are, in fact, men. And so I will not use the generic people here.

9 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    Bjarte Foshaug

    …we can move. Build our own community and keep it cock roach free. It’s difficult and expensive, but may be the only thing left.

    This has been my thinking for quite a while now. As it stands, every major skeptical organization is either run by roaches, or more concerned with accommodating “the roach faction” than protecting the leaseholders. I’m happy to be proven wrong, but I strongly suspect that driving the roaches out at this point is going to be way more difficult and expensive than building a new house and never allowing the roaches to get in in the first place. It shouldn’t be difficult, since the roaches probably don’t want to enter a house that’s been specifically designed to be roach-unfriendly. Personally I love the concept of Atheism+ precisely because the roaches want nothing to do with it.

    I’m not willing to live in a community that includes them. Nor, I daresay, are you. But I’m not yet willing to leave the community to the cock roaches.

    I don’t see it as one community with some “deep rifts” in it. What we have are (at least) two separate and irreconcilable communities. And it’s a good thing, since that means we can forget about “infighting”. Because the roaches (those I have come to think of as “the other skeptical community”) sure as hell don’t belong in my “ingroup”.

  2. 2
    tuibguy

    Excellent analogy. I don’t want to be associated with cockroaches, and if someone tells me they have seen a cockroach I am quite willing to accept that person at his or her word without demanding evidence.

  3. 3
    Kevin

    And if someone says “there’s no direct evidence that cockroaches do damage”, or “cockroaches have an undeserved bad reputation,” or “you’re giving cockroaches a bad reputation”, you’ll have identified … a cockroach.

  4. 4
    Scr... Archivist

    Dana, I just want to chime in here to say how good your writing is. And turns of phrase like “the Rolled Up Magazine o’ Doom” just make me giggle. Thanks for this.

  5. 5
    Gregory in Seattle

    Having grown up in Tucson, where cockroaches are a native species, I know your analogy all too well.

    I personally like the idea of setting the… um, “cats” after the roaches, claws and fangs extended. But as you so aptly illustrate, going after them one at a time only culls the stupid ones out of the population.

  6. 6
    Onamission5

    Your roach analogy reminds me of something so I’m going to piggyback a bit and I hope you don’t mind…

    Many years ago, a girlfriend of mine and I traveled across the country to a southern state for a music festival. Staying at her parents’ house, I went to use the bathroom one day and out from the baseboards crawled a huge cockroach, quite bold and content to be where my feet were without fear of me stomping on it. I freaked, running out to the living room where my girlfriend’s family was located and informed them of the giant roach, what should I do?? They laughed. Roaches are normal, a part of life here, they said, yes they are gross but you get used to them after a while, besides, they hardly ever come out in the day, they are usually content to patrol the house at night, yes we know they carry all sorts of disease, but what you gonna do?

    Cue moving to FL some years later, similar experience to yours with the apartment except our landlords engaged in blaming us for the roach problem that was there when we arrived, saying we must have caused the infestation with our dirty habits (of living the normal lives of busy people with children) because none of their other tenants had complained about roaches before, imploring us to spend hundreds of dollars on plastic containers for our cupboards so the roaches wouldn’t be tempted by our food, we should put our pets on a schedule and keep the pet food dishes clear of leftovers after every feeding, take our garbage out daily, vacuum daily, and engage in all other sorts of “common sense” hypervigilance maneuvers because they were completely unwilling to admit that the roaches were a problem they should deal with. *We* were supposed to alter our lives according to the habits of the roaches, *we* were supposed to spend money we didn’t have to protect ourselves from a problem that our landlords weren’t even willing to admit existed, let alone take steps to solve. We were forbidden on threat of eviction from using “chemicals” on our own. We were forbidden from calling in experts to help us. We tried to follow their instructions, we tried to be good, compliant tenants, but the problem kept getting worse, and after a year of exhausting hypervigilance and increasing denial+hostility from the property owners, we finally gave up and moved.

    These experiences mirror my experiences with calling out sexist bullshit, trying to hold people accountable for actions which harm others. The roaches are everywhere, what do you expect, what you gonna do, besides they’re mostly hidden in the walls which is perfectly natural and it’s your fault they come out because you tempted them so you just have to get used to it and suppress your horror and hang your clothes up where the roaches hopefully can’t reach, seal up all your food, show some self discipline, and take your shower/eat your breakfast/attend that conference/frequent that space anyway. Or move, and leave the problem behind for someone else to fall unsuspectingly into.

  7. 7
    One Day Soon I Shall Invent A Funny Login

    “…we can move. Build our own community…”

    And what has happened with A+ that prevented it from being that new community? Or might it still?

  8. 8
    CaitieCat, getaway driver

    This is really excellent, Dana. I’ve no doubt we can probably all guess the likely reaction at the local roach motel (roaches check in…their morals check out): proof of cock roach infestation.

    My only concern might in some circumstances be the dehumanization aspect, but I’m not completely sure that this is avoidable, or that avoiding it would be desirable, given the level of vitriol and abuse being thrown by them. It is both easy and hard to recognize them as being part of society: the behaviour so far outside the normal bounds, and yet entirely predictable in the aggregate by social privilege theory. I suppose we each have our lines beyond which we find it hard to recognize humanity in the other; I’m pretty sure my line is this side of vile bigotry and abuse, that is to say, I find these behaviours hard to recognize as human or humane. I want to dissociate myself from a species which can behave in these ways.

    Excellent writing. I hope I’m clear the above is only musing, and not in any way accusing; if anything I’m anticipating an objection, and pre-writing my answer to it. I think the metaphor is apt, concise, and easily comprehensible, making it a pertty great piece of writing.

  9. 9
    CaitieCat, getaway driver

    Or possibly a pretty great piece of writing. One of those.

Comments have been disabled.