Anyone who knows me knows one unassailable fact: I hate bugs.
I don’t mean I just don’t care for them. I am fairly certain that most people don’t like bugs. Well, except for maybe entomologists.
What I mean is I have an irrational and oversized fear of anything small that crawls, flies, or – horror of horrors – can do both. This fear has put me in precarious positions in the past – nearly wrecking my car once, then actually breaking my wrist another time.
Which of course begs one serious question to be asked: Why did I ever, in a million years, think moving to a Caribbean island would be a good idea?
Yes, there is endless sunshine. Sure, the soul warming temperatures are enjoyable. Of course, it is nice to wear shorts and tank tops 365 days a year. But therein lies the problem. The whole “endless summer” idea also means that all the little things that fly, crawl, or scurry never seem to die.
It appears that unless an insect falls victim to a can of bug spray or aggressive flip flop, they are free to live la dolce vita until, eventually, they succumb to old age. And while they enjoy the good life, they simultaneously grow to gargantuan proportions.
Of course, it isn’t like I hadn’t dealt with bugs before. I grew up in the Midwestern United States. There, I was surrounded by bees, hornets, spiders, beetles, and other assorted creatures. For the most part though, I could pretend they simply did not exist. At least until one bold bug or another mistakenly entered my carefully climate-controlled universe. At which point he or she would be quickly and efficiently dispatched to seek eternal salvation.
The other saving grace about bugs in the Midwest is summed up with one word: WINTER. Besides a few wily spiders who moved inside for the season, nary was there a hornet, mosquito, or beetle to be seen between December and April. I don’t know if they all died, hibernated, or went on a long vacation, nor did I ever care. All I knew was that I was relatively bug-free for a few blissful months.
And although I’m not a huge fan of winter, I do have to give it props for keeping a lid on the bug situation. The climate-induced hiatus that arrived in late November meant Midwestern bugs never had time to grow into terrorizingly larger or faster versions of themselves. Mother Nature’s version of Midwestern USA insect population control was greatly appreciated by this bug-fearing lady.
But things aren’t quite so convenient in the tropics. Oh, no. Here there is no seasonal reprieve from insect torment. They hang around all year and usually present themselves as mutantly exaggerated versions of their mainland counterparts.
With luck on their side, island bugs have 365 days to figure out evolution and morph into some kind of insect transformers. If you’re not familiar with the flying cockroach and never wish to be, I suggest staying away from any Caribbean island.
Which brings me to my present predicament. Every morning I wake up and mentally prepare myself for the unplanned encounters I am sure to experience. Grabbing that clean laundry off the line? Say hello to the black and white bug with the pincers from hell hiding in the bath towel. Doing a little furniture re-arranging? Mind the scorpions tucked away under your favorite chair. Grabbing that item in the back of the dark, cool cupboard? Be ready to do the drop and dash when something unidentifiable scurries behind the neighboring can of beans.
I could go on, but you get the idea.
It doesn’t matter how vigilant you are at insect control, either. Perpetually opened doors and poorly installed windows are simply an invitation to the bug world to come on in and cohabitate. And even if you do manage to screen off every opening and caulk every crack, don’t gloat quite yet. Scientists have proven that cockroaches can flatten themselves like pancakes to slide through millimeter thin gaps, then resume their former shape.
Understanding this, you have to ask yourself, Really, what’s the use? As the Borg would say, resistance is futile. You might eradicate a few unwanted guests and win that day’s battle, but they will win the war. They. Will. Always. Win. The. War. This, my friends, is an island truth.
And so, with no feasible alternatives in sight and with a relocation off the rock completely out of the question, I have learned to become more at peace with my uninvited housemates. I am slowly accepting that they are as much a part of Caribbean island life as pretty sunsets and beach days. You have to take the bad with the good, right?
That isn’t to say I don’t let out involuntary screams when I flick on the bedroom light and see a fat black roach meandering along the baseboard. Or that after seeing said roach, I relocate to the guest bedroom for the night. Because they couldn’t possibly be in there too, could they?
But I’m trying hard to take a more measured approach to my insect encounters. Less screaming, more zen. After all, I’m not getting any younger, and those frenzied reactions of my youth can’t possibly be good for my heart.
Plus, I’m feeling more compassionate as the years go by. I even rescued a drowning cockroach from the swimming pool a few weeks ago. Literally with a ten-foot pole (aka the pool skimmer net). But still, I relocated him to the far corner of our garden rather than letting him die a watery death. Or worse, giving him hope by fishing him out only to decisively squash him with a flip flop. I’d say that’s progress.
After all, this really is the bugs’ island. I’m just visiting. I may as well be a decent guest.