Sleeping With Giant Flying Cockroaches

Who knew crunchy bugs could teach crucial life lessons? Click To Tweet

As a youngster in college, I once had a summer job teaching English to fifth graders living in the boonies.

Now, this place was SERIOUSLY backwater.

The shower was outside, and looked like one of those icky public beach bathrooms, there were spiders the size of my face hanging from the ceilings, and worst of all, the warm weather often brought out the local cockroaches.

Big, fat, near-immortal cockroaches that, some said, had the ability to FLY.


Because the school was so poor and remote, we teachers had to sleep in the first-grade classroom, laying out our sleeping bags on the floor:

Girls on one side, guys on the other.

The situation wasn’t great, but we were there to help the kids, so we gritted our teeth and learned how to

  1. avoid giant spiderwebs,
  2. take showers VERY quickly, and, most of all,
  3. keep the first-grade classroom door firmly closed at all times to avoid letting unwanted pests inside.

But as you can guess, the inevitable happened.

One day, as we were preparing our lesson plans, one of the guys (whom I’ll call Eric) spotted a giant cockroach scampering among the sleeping bags.

“Eeeeek!” Eric screeched, jumping on the nearest knee-high table. “Somebody kill that thing!”

“What? What thing?” said Wendy, another teacher. “Oh no, is it a cockroach? Terence, get the pesticide!”

“I’m on it!” said trusty Terence, racing to the storage cabinet where the school had thoughtfully left a bottle of industrial-strength pesticide JUST for cases such as this.

Pandemonium reigned:

People were screaming and jumping on furniture as Terence chased that bugger all over the classroom, spraying the entire contents of the bottle on the insect.

“Terence, why isn’t it dying?”

“Are you sure you’re spraying it right?”

“I sprayed it a dozen times, but IT’S NOT EVEN SLOWING DOWN!”

Just then, Mack, the custodian, walked by.

Hearing the screams, he poked his head in to investigate.

“Mack, help us!” everyone cried.

Mack located the bug, and with one swipe, crushed it into oblivion.

Relieved, we made our way off the tables, bookcases, and chairs upon which we had sought refuge.

“I don’t understand,” said Wendy. “Terence emptied the entire can of pesticide on the stupid cockroach. Why didn’t it die?”

Eric took the bottle from Terence and checked the label.

“No wonder this friggin spray doesn’t work! …it’s expired.”

Ummm…Is There a POINT to This Story?

Yes, yes there is. It is thus:

You never know when the Giant Flying Cockroaches of your life are going to emerge from their murky hideaways, so you should always be prepared, with a NON-expired bottle of powerful pesticide.

I’m not saying “be paranoid,” but see, the thing is, we KNEW that the place we were volunteering had these cockroaches.

We thought we were prepared, because someone had put a can of insecticide in the closet long ago.

But we never checked the thing to make sure it worked.

What about you?

What “insecticide” are you relying on that may, without your knowledge, actually be expired?

  • A fancy academic degree that is “guaranteed” to help you get your dream job?
  • Your parents’ financial support and a standing invitation to move back into the basement should your startup thing not work out?
  • A relationship (of the friendship or dating variety) that you think will always be there to sustain you?

The thing is, there are no guarantees in life. And many things besides bug spray “expire” if you don’t make the effort to update them regularly:

  • You never know when an academic degree might turn out to be useless in a rapidly changing job market, so you better make it a habit to always be learning.
  • You never know when your family’s resources might not be enough to support you, so you better have savings and more than one “cushion” to fall back on if your entrepreneurial dream doesn’t work out.
  • You never know when a relationship might implode, so you should do what you can to nurture and keep fresh your best relationships, and have more than one friend in your life so you don’t over-tax any one person.

…and so on and so forth.

Otherwise, you might find yourself one day jumping on rickety children’s furniture as a butt-ugly cockroach chases you around.

Of course, even when you DO prepare, you aren’t always going to be able to avoid the cockroaches of life entirely.

But as long as you have the humility to know that you’re not indestructible (unlike those dratted roaches!) and learn to plan ahead, at least you’ll have some defense when the tempest hits.

Whether or not you can find a Mack to help you crush your cockroaches into kingdom come, however, depends on how lucky you are.

But that’s the fun of life, I guess.

Whatever else happens, it will always keep you on your toes.

(And maybe a knee-high table or two, along the way!)

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2 thoughts on “Sleeping With Giant Flying Cockroaches”

  1. Hi Sarah,

    All important lessons aside; and your post is chock full, I had a similar experience growing up in central Florida. We didn’t have air conditioning at home but had screens on the windows so we could open them at night to ease our sleeping.

    The only real problem was mosquitoes. They would find their way in through tears and voids in the screens. It would take a while to kill them all but if you knew the technique, you could have them dispatched pretty quickly and head off to sleep.

    It required you to lie on your back and pull the sheet up leaving only your hands and face “available” to the mosquitoes. As each one landed on your face , a quick swat from the nearest hand did the trick. You would soon be sleeping soundly.

    One evening, at that precise moment when you’re not yet asleep but not still awake either, I felt something hit my chest. Instinctively, I swatted it and immediately realized it wasn’t a mosquito. Being dark in the room and not knowing precisely what it was, I flipped my sheet and heard something hit the ceiling and then the floor. I hopped up and switched on the light to discover I had killed a large flying cockroach (Florida Palmetto bug actually) with my bare hand.

    After a short bout with the heevie-jeevies, I went back to sleep.

  2. Hi Derrick! Yep, the place had mosquitoes too, but your experience sounds much worse. I am impressed by your bare-hand-cockroach-killing skills, though! >.<

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