Beetles, Spiders and Scares, Oh My

I don’t recall being afraid of creepy-crawly insects as a child. I may have been, but I don’t remember specific incidents involving bugs that traumatized me. To me, as I think back, they created learning and observation experiences. They were a curiosity.

But all that changed when I was 18. I took Psychology 101 my first quarter as a college freshman and I would often do the reading for that class just prior to it, sitting in the driver’s seat of my car. On one occasion, while reading about conditioning, I believe, I turned the page of the textbook to find a half page photograph of a tarantula staring at me. Startled, and in a desperate effort to escape, I bounced so high in my seat I hit my head on the ceiling, flipped the book away from me so hard it tooted the horn, jostled the rear-view mirror, and landed on the lap of Virginia, my life-size inflatable doll in the passenger seat.

Now, why, you might ask, would I have an inflatable doll in the first place, let alone one sitting in my car. Well, it was for…um…um…another class. That’s it. That’s the reason. That’s why I had Virginia.

But I digress. This article is about bugs and the fear I have had of them since that frightening freshman year tarantula incident.

Ajijic’s seasons bring out different bugs. Some crawl. Some fly. Some get elected to office. But all have put me on a constant state of alert. From the moment I awake in the morning, I am aware of their possible presence. Before I step out of bed, I scan the floor for insectual beings. Then I put on my flip-flops, step to the bathroom, and scan the floor, counter, and shower. Then, as I stand and pee, I look over my shoulder to see if any insects are sneaking up on me.

I shuffle into my entry area, check the floor, walls, and ceiling for any unusual signs of life. But I closely study the base of my front door. That, I believe, is a primary port of entry for the little varmints. The “Do Not Enter!” signs in both Spanish and English are not always effective. I continue to the living room yelling, “I’m coming. And I have Raid.” And I work my way to the kitchen where I examine the floor, sink, and counters. I no longer check the drawers or cupboards as a result of the horrifying spider incident of August 2015.

The primary bug I am seeking are cockroaches. Now, I’ve seen cockroaches in Seattle and New York City, which I would describe comparatively as petite, dainty, and as cute as a bug. Cockroaches here, however, are much larger, perhaps the size of professional football quarterbacks’ thumbs. They are so large, in fact, that they have rearranged my living room furniture overnight.  One was so large, I had to ask it to move as he was blocking the view of my television.

On one occasion, I awoke in the middle of the night, and without turning on any lights, stumbled to the kitchen for some cold water. As I neared my microwave, I realized I could not read the clock. Are we having a power outage? I thought and turned on the kitchen light as a test. It came on. And then I saw it, a cockroach the size of Greater Oklahoma City blocking the microwave’s clock.

I generally do not react to cockroaches with hysteria. I simply grab the Raid and douse them like a policeman maces a young Black man who is smoking 49 feet from a restaurant entrance when the sign clearly says “No Smoking Within 50 Feet.”  If I find a cockroach in the bathroom, however, I spray it with hairspray which is surprisingly effective and leaves them with the most darling bangs.

Again, you might ask, why do I have a can of hair spray? Well, duh, it is for Virginia, my life-size inflatable doll.

I share my home with other insects, too. Flies, mosquitoes, and spiders are common, and ants big and strong enough to lift Chris Christie are everyday roommates. Miniscule black ants are often seen scurrying around my bathroom or kitchen.  I’ve been told some are sugar ants and some are water ants.  While quite similar, they’re easy to tell apart. The sugar ants can be identified by the glucose monitors they carry and the water ants generally tote plastic tumblers, often with bendy straws.

Probably the most annoying insect I deal with are bobos, an almost invisible mosquito that doesn’t bite.  I’m most aware of them at dusk and night when I feel them constantly crashing into some part of my exposed body, forearms, calves, head, neck, feet, or penis. I frequently slap myself hoping I’ve smashed one of those pests, but all this practice has accomplished is introduce me to masochism, which pains me to admit. I hate those damn bobos. But not enough to buy a gun.

I’ve even found, though not technically an insect, one small scorpion in my casita. But I could handle that. My Scorpio mother lived to 98.

I think the most terrifying insect incident I’ve dealt with took place on the patio of the casita next door. It was dark, perhaps 10:00. My neighbor tapped on my window. “Come here,” he said. “You’ve got to see this.” The timing was awkward because Virginia, who hadn’t aged a day since I was in college, and I were rehearsing our act for “America’s Got Talent” in our matching red and silver sequined  Las Vegas showgirl outfits. But I went outside anyway.  “Look at this,” my neighbor said. “It’s a tarantula.”

We had come full circle. This time, however, the tarantula was real, not an oversized photograph of one in a psychology book, testing my reaction.

I looked at it, cowered, cringed, and shrieked loud enough to wake the three cockroaches I’d hair sprayed to death that morning. I ran back to my casita. Thank God I had on my red stilettos or I would have stepped barefoot on a yarmulke-sized beetle-type creature with a face like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.  As soon as I got inside, I kicked off my shoes, jumped on my coffee table and began whimpering and shaking. Luckily, I had Virginia to console me. Two hours later, and calmed down, I climbed off the table. But the moment I landed on terra firma, I saw a hideously shaped horror in my dimly lit entry. I let out a sound-barrier breaking shriek and then realized it was only the shadow of one of my stilettos.

My neighbors told me the next day that I screamed like a girl, which didn’t offend me because I had been dressed like one. But friends who live in the next town five miles away said my shriek sounded more like an air raid siren on steroids and their entire village had evacuated to the hills laden with crosses, ceramic Christ figures, and other religious symbols.

Man, are they stupid! Don’t they know there are bugs up there?

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