He really deserves a medal

By Mir
August 16, 2010

I know I’ve told you before about how really, the biggest adjustment for me in moving south was the seriousness of the bugs around here. The insects in Georgia are just not screwing around, man, they are here to REPRESENT. As such, having a Bug Guy is—to my mind, anyway, and those of any sane people with whom I’ve spoken—just not optional ’round here. Having a maid is optional. Having curbside trash pick-up is optional (if you don’t mind driving to the dump). Having a company that will keep creepy germ-encrusted twitchy exoskeletons filled with SQUICK out of your house is NOT OPTIONAL.

Bug Guys typically come and treat the house once a quarter. Then, if you have some sort of problem, they’ll come back and retreat as many time as is necessary, but once a quarter pretty well keeps things under control. EXCEPT. I learned early on that the week after the Bug Guy comes, it’s inevitable that a few bug sightings are going to happen—the poison drives ’em out of the crevices and sometimes IN rather than OUT.

But that doesn’t make it any less disgusting.

So a few evenings ago, I sauntered into my bathroom, not a care in the world, as I am wont to do. I believe my pants were halfway down when I happened to glance at the far wall and spotted a palmetto bug roughly the length of my PALM.

[For those of you who are new here, and/or for whom the appellation “palmetto bug” is unfamiliar, allow me to clarify: a palmetto bug is a BIG-ASS COCKROACH, and they flourish here in the south. We call them palmetto bugs because that’s the proper southern way to pretend we don’t live in a state infested by cockroaches.]

I pretty much SHOT out of the bathroom, pulling my pants back up as I ran, and started calling for Otto. My tone of voice sent him running, probably expecting to find me bleeding out at the kitchen counter or something (“It’s only a flesh wound!”), so he was almost (not quite) relieved when I told him I needed him to kill a bug for me.

Armed with the tools of annihilation (a spray bottle of 409 and some paper towels), Otto bravely entered my bathroom, ready to do battle. I came in long enough to point out the offender and then retreated.

After a minute, I heard a lot of banging around. That seemed like a bad sign, so, wanting to wish a happier resolution into existence, I called out, “Did you kill it?”

“No,” called back Otto. “It, um, went into your bin, here.”

We’ve now lived in this house for three years, so naturally my bathroom still has a giant Rubbermaid tub filled with miscellaneous objects sitting in the corner. Ahem. And the palmetto bug? Dove into the bin. Otto was now rummaging through it, and the bug was (he said) “burrowing deeper and deeper” as he looked.

“Fine, I can throw away everything in the bin, but if you don’t find the bug, I CAN NEVER USE MY BATHROOM AGAIN,” I offered, ever helpful.

After another minute or two, Otto decided that the logical course of action would be to take the entire bin out onto the porch. I agreed that that was a great idea. Otto asked me to get the door for him. So he came along with the bin full of stuff and ONE MONSTER FACE-EATING BUG, and I tried to stop dancing with horror long enough to open the porch door.

Of course, we’d forgotten that palmetto bugs like to hang out on the porch after dark, so I opened the door and said “Go!” and Otto went out and set the bin down, and I stood there waiting to see what he would do next, and he said, “THEY’RE EVERYWHERE! SHUT THE DOOR!” and I slammed the door shut and briefly considered locking it. But I would not put it past those fuckers to have little lock-pick sets, quite frankly.

Eventually Otto returned with my bin, swearing that our unwanted visitor had flown away, and I made him promise that no other bugs hopped in, and I put the bin back in my bathroom. But I have been using the bathroom in my office a lot more, lately. Not because I’m scared or anything, you understand, just because it’s easier to pee when you’re not concerned that you’re about to have your face sucked off.

Otto laughed at me for quite a while, and tried to rationalize various crazytalk like “you could kill it yourself, you know” and such, but whatever. I reminded him that killing bugs is totally in his contract, and he said he knows. This somehow evolved into a discussion, last night, about the various things we do for each other, and (as always) lead to my feeling like he does many things for me and the kids and I, unfortunately, do not bring a whole lot to the table. This conversation wrapped up with me brightly assuring him, “But that’s okay, because what I lack in general personableness and organization I make up for with… ummm… extreme neediness and general neuroses!”

I am a very lucky woman, married to a saintly and patient man.


  1. elz

    My husband was at the ranch with the kids this weekend and I texted him that there is a bug in the house and YOU NEED TO COME BACK AND KILL IT. He was unmoved. Had to kill the thing myself. I totally agree-calling them Palmetto bugs is bull-oney-flying Damn Cockroaches. Gross!

  2. Beachgal

    ugh, i hate those damn palmetto bugs. hate hate hate them. i am not a girly girl by any means, but nothing makes me wig out more and squeal in terror like cockroaches and spiders. blech. My preferred method of removal is that air duster spray for computers…it freezes them long enough to scoop them up and flush them!!!

  3. JXB

    Even in NYC we have these same bugs. The locals euphemistically call them “water bugs.” Is it universal that we cannot acknowledge that there are gigantic flying cockroaches in or constantly trying to get into our homes? One crawled in last night when I was closing the fire escape window, and I think it is in my sofa. We may have to move and leave the furniture.

  4. Karen

    If you can believe it, I’m the exterminator in the house. Yup. The MAN is a whimp. I bury the dead things, I pick up the poop, I clean up the throw up, I dispense of the bugs. And I hate them just as much as you do.

    SOOO.. you married more wisely than I. That’s just all there is to say about that. *sigh*

  5. Sheila

    Look on the bright side – the bug could have made its grand entrance the other day when you were deep in the throes of your stomach ailment. Talk about losing your sh*t…

  6. Momsy

    Beachgal is my new hero! My spider killing son just left for college and my younger son hates them as much as I do. I’m totally going to try the freeze and dispose method.

  7. Suzie

    Our similar drama last week was thanks to my cat … he brought in a Mouse to play with. Silly me for thinking that having a cat would keep the mice away!

    I often feel like my poor husband also ended up with the short end of the stick. He came in to a ready-made family, as well, and has taken the job and run with it. It seems like each year, his duties increase.

    I do my best to be sure he knows how appreciated he is, and how much I am aware of all he puts into our family. The girls also do a good job at showing appreciation. And the three of us are pretty awesome, so I think he (like Otto) ended up with a good deal ;)

  8. Melissa

    One more reason to be thankful I live in Denver. We had cockroaches in Texas…no thank you.

  9. Megan

    EWewewewew. Am dancing up and down trying to keep both feet off the ground – because YES I’m in a totally different state but those evil insects are omniscient and once you read about them they KNOW and they COME AND GET YOU. Ew.

  10. Tracy

    Being a city girl and now living in the country, I can relate to these palmetto bugs. And yes, they are giant and unpredictable because they can fly. YIKES! I would be the same way, only that organizer thingie would NOT be back in my house. lol That Otto, what a sport!

  11. Amy Kate

    I am a GA native, and we are moving to San Diego, CA this upcoming Saturday (!!!!) I was really sad about leaving my friends and my family until I was sitting in the bath three days ago and a “palmetto bug” materialized out of thin air and flew across the room and into MY HAIR. After the proper amount of screaming and yelling and flailing around my husband ran in and removed it. I can only thank God that we are moving so he is home during the day to help pack. I rewashed my hair and took a pill upon exiting the tub. Needless to say, I am no longer sad about leaving. I won’t even discuss the coyotes and our neighborhood BEAR, either.

  12. Jan in Norman, OK

    From January through Easter in 1989 I worked at an outdoor theatre doing a Passion Play in Florida (Don’t ask; it’s a long story). In addition to the palmetto bugs/waterbugs/giant mutant cockroaches, there were HUGE spiders. One day I heard a rustling sound in the bathroom; it was a spider as big as my hand. When spider get big enough to make noise, something is just wrong!!!

  13. Karen

    On cockroaches: We’ve got some big ones in Maryland, but at least they don’t fly. I’ve got some chemical sensitivities, and we’ve got a bunch of indoor cats, so poisons are not an option. I’m about to spread diatomaceous earth around as soon as it cools down enough to turn the fans off.

    Suzi with the mouse — One of our cats has been known to bust out a screen and bring in mice to play with. The last time was about a year ago. She broke out at night, and had brought in several mice by the time we woke up and discovered what was happening. The one that she let escape in the house was pregnant, affording the cats about 6 months of entertainment before the last one was finally killed, New Year’s Eve (and wasn’t that a charming site to return home to).

  14. Little Bird

    Assuming my honey and I ever make it to the co-habitaion portion of our relationship, you can be certain that he will be the designated spider slayer, cockroach clobberer, and killer (or at least remover) of all things that are not supposed to be living with us.
    I once came across a roach so big that when I threw a book on it (a phone book mind you) IT DIDN”T DIE. It didn’t even phase the thing. It was the size of my hand, and I could have probably stood on it and been taken for a ride. I hate bugs. All of them.

  15. StephLove

    Thank you for not posting any pictures. That’s all.

  16. s

    we have VERY large spiders at our house – they seem to love the leaf litter outside, which is fine, but STAY THE HECK OUT of my house. HUGE bottles of aerosol hair spray work well – it slows them down enough that I can smack them with a big shoe and then clean the mess up.

    PS if you are on a conference call for work and spot a spider, go on mute before screaming at the top of your lungs…lesson learned.

  17. tuney

    I totally read “bug guy” as “big guy,” so I mentally got to Otto the Brave before the Bug Guy, Spreader of Liquid Death. I live in a Civil War-era house that hasn’t been fully renovated, so there are lots and lots of holes. I’m getting to the point where I no longer scream and run, but just take off a shoe and whack them. I still scream, but it’s more along the lines of, “DIE, MOFO. DIE.”

  18. Katie in MA

    I think I lost it somewhere around, “…and he said, “THEY’RE EVERYWHERE! SHUT THE DOOR!” and I slammed the door shut and briefly considered locking it. But I would not put it past those fuckers to have little lock-pick sets, quite frankly.” HA HA HA!!! You guys totally need to make a home-made horror movie with fake lock-picking bugs. Your adoring fans demand it!

  19. Kethrim

    My fiancé hates spiders, so I take care of them for him. (Also, I bought a bug vacuum which helps a lot). I can take care of most bugs except the really squicky ones, like earwigs. *shudder* He gets to duty of taking care of those.

  20. Rachael

    I have that same aversion to… mice. And apparently, baby possums. My husband just happened to come home from work because he forgot something, only to find me on top of the washing machine, screaming. I’d seen something scamper across the floor and into a closet. As it turns out, it was a baby possum, not a mouse. But I screamed like a mad woman just the same. I even have a picture to comemerate my misery.

  21. christine

    We have a strict rule in my house: If I call my husband in to kill a bug, he doesn’t tell me if it runs away. He still pretends to squash it and flush it (because that’s the only way to make sure it’s REALLY dead), and tells me he completed the job. If I know there’s a bug still running around, I won’t go into that room again. ewwwwww!

  22. Lucinda

    That is why I will never live in the South.

  23. Susan Mitchell

    First time commenter, but this hit home with me. I’ve lived in the South all my life and a roach will make me run and scream every time.

    Imagine my horror when a few weeks ago I went into the bathroom to do my makeup and leaned in to gaze in the mirror and there was a big roach just to the side gazing back..we were just millimeters apart. I ran and screamed and hubby came into kill it, but it had dissappeared. It took me a very long time to use that bathroom again…and to this day I still look all around the perimeters of the room before entering just to be sure.

  24. Alison

    One day when we lived in Manhattan I picked up a potholder and underneath it was a bug the SIZE of the POTHOLDER. My scream is still hanging in the air over New York. My husband killed it, but I don’t know how–at that point I was as far away as I could get in our 10 x 14 apartment. My friends at the office called it a water bug, but to me it was a cockroach who had wandered into something radioactive.

    And don’t get me started on the size of the rats in the subway.

    Have a lovely day!

  25. Kristen

    I think this might be the first time I’ve seen any version of the F word on this blog. I had to read that sentence twice to make sure I was reading it correctly. More than anything else, that drove home your hatred of the bugs. And I’m right there with you on that.

  26. StacyQ

    You prompted me to post about a bug that climbed on my back in the pool on our vacation. I have pictures! You might not want to look.
    The good things: One reason to live in the mountains

    It wasn’t a roach, though. I think roaches are pure evil. And malicious. I lived in Arizona and walked into the bathroom to find one PERCHED ON MY TOOTHBRUSH. Living alone, my only way to deal with them was to RAID them until they stopped moving. I’d have puddles of RAID all over my counters, but it wasn’t good enough to hit them, I had to see them STOP MOVING. I don’t live in Arizona anymore.

  27. BethR

    So, I come home from a lovely relaxing weekend with a friend last night and turn on the light. What’s the first thing I see? Palmetto bug, hanging out on my paper towel roll.

    I don’t need this.

  28. Little Bird

    You had to bring up bugs. And I had to comment earlier, so I suppose that what JUST happened was destined. I felt a tickle by my ear on my neck. I sorta brushed at it and it stopped. I didn’t think anything about it. THEN I felt that very distinct tickle-crawl across my arm. I looked and it was a big(ish) spider that was missing at least two legs. And it was grey. I say “was” because it is now just a smear on my sheet. Yes, I will be changing the sheets momentarily. But my spider slayer was NOT here and I think he and I are going to have to discus that.

  29. the celt (jessica)

    Shortly after I had moved into my first apartment by myself, I went to take a shower and saw the largest freaking cockroach I have ever seen in my life. I immediately called my landlady (she lived downstairs below my apartment) and told her about this gigantic cockroach in my shower.

    “Oh, no,” she said, “those aren’t cockroaches. They are waterbugs!”

    Yeah, we have a word for those bugs, too, to make ourselves feel better about having them around. Luckily, I never saw tons of them (we saved huge amounts of bugs by the lights for our psychotic June bugs instead).

    My biggest fear is spiders (seriously), so my husband is the spider-killer around here. We do not save spiders and take them outside. When I lived alone, my dad made me a bug sucker thing that kills them, but I can’t even get close enough to a spider (the nozzle is probably a good two feet long), so my husband uses that for me for the smaller ones. One thing I love about having moved quite a bit further northward is the lack of GIGANTOID spiders that I can literally mow over and kill with the blade when I’m mowing the lawn. Anything that big is not a bug-thing but a killer animal with eight legs. And all those eyes! *shudders* Anyway, okay, I don’t miss those spiders at all. (Is it any wonder I have spider issues when they are that big?) I’ll have to tell you about the huge lemon Pledge-scented spider some other time when I haven’t used up the the entire section allotted for comments to expound on my own neuroses. (And my husband is eerily similar to Otto: very calm and useful while I’m just…neurotic and weird.)

  30. Alicia

    The hairs on my head are all tingling.

  31. Mon

    I am single, live by myself, and am having a black widow spider “issue”. I smashed 2 this morning with a shovel. Got 2 more when I got home with wasp killer spray (I heard it worked better than spider killer spray, but who knows). I have had the heebie jeebies for over a week now from the BWSs. Please send one giant palmetto bug up here to MD that would like to munch on some venomous spiders. In that case, I’ll take the cockroach over the spiders any day. *shudder*

  32. Cele

    I’m sorry I’m laughing. You should hear me sqeealllk! when I meet a snake. So really I have not room to laugh. I’m sorry.

    Hail the bug disposing hero.

  33. meghann

    I hate those things, with the fire of a thousand suns.

    I consider myself an independent, modern woman. I can lift heavy things, do basic carpentry, and can repair plumbing. One palmetto bug (or tree roach as they were called where I grew up in Texas), and I am up on a chair, twitching, and yelling for my husband to swoop in and rescue me.

  34. sandy

    FLYING cockroaches???? I am not a girly sogirl and can deal with a wide variety of grossness. But if we had FLYING cockroaches I would either leave the state or get some of Beachgirl’s computer spray and wear it in a holster like a gun so I’d always be ready to do battle. Yuck. Double yuck.

  35. Brigitte

    Every time I’m hating on winter, I’ll think back to this post. Thank you. :-)

  36. Rachel

    We just moved here from TN and you would think such close proximity the bugs would be similar. Um yeah no. What is up with the bugs here!?! Insane. Not digging the bug thing here in Georgia either. And we just signed up with a pest control company this past week who will be out here every 3 months religiously! *shudder* on the Palmetto bug. I pretty much don’t sit outside on our deck ever because of the bugs. And I am not a weenie girl either. Seriously.

  37. kristen

    OMG. I had my first run-in with a “palmetto bug” (whatever, it’s a roach!!!) a couple of weeks ago. We flew from Philly down to Roswell, GA to visit my in-laws and we went out to a Bahama Breeze and were sitting outside enjoying pina coladas. I happen to turn to my left and in the darkness, I see DOZENS of nasty black roaches crawling all over the place. We high-tailed it out of there!!

  38. J from Ireland

    It made me giggle that you said “fuckers” I just can’t imagine you would ever say that!!

  39. kathy

    big-ass cockroaches (the flying ones, you know) are not the smallest bugs we get. But I hate them the absolute most. We have had excellent success with boric acid (where the pets don’t go) and diamotaceous (sp) earth. We can’t get either down here so we have friends mule some donw. Non toxic and works like a charm. REALLY works on the nests.

  40. Sue @ Laundry for Six

    We rented a cabin in South Carolina once. I went to the bathroom in the middle of the night and had to turn on the light to find my way back to the bed. Right where I had been laying was the biggest ASS palmetto bug on Earth. (Maybe the same one?) I didn’t sleep for the entire week.

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