Coming from a cold weather state, I’m accustomed to looking for a certain set of perks in an apartment. I’d comb Craigslist postings, praying to see the words “heat included!” Gym facilities were a major plus, and free parking was always a coveted amenity. Even better, covered parking – be still, my shovel-weary, frozen-fingered, snooze-button-loving heart!
Apartment hunting on island, however, was a whole different ballgame. We didn’t have any illusions about having an air conditioner, as we had read up on the price of electricity and had an inkling that we wouldn’t be able to afford running an A/C unit on a regular basis anyway. (Spoiler alert: We actually did get an air conditioned apartment and that dormant unit taunts me every morning as I straighten my hair while trying not to slip in puddles of my own sweat. I glare at it every night as I try to fall asleep; its cool breezes haunt me in my dreams…)
No, we had no delusions of grandeur for our island apartment. Safety was paramount, and ceiling fans and a nice breeze were high on the list of desirable features. But we completely underestimated the holy grail of island apartment amenities: “monthly extermination included.”
We’re clean people. Meticulous, even. We keep everything but unopened canned goods in the refrigerator. Counters are scoured on a weekly basis, trash emptied promptly. Nary a plate is left in the sink overnight. But when you’re living on a tropical island, it simply does not matter. Your sanitation efforts will be in vain, because each and every month, despite the valiant efforts of the exterminator you are compensating so well, the insects of the surrounding bush are going to make their presence known.
Our formal introduction to the inevitability of insect inhabitants began mere days after moving into our apartment when I caught a glimpse of movement out of the corner of my eye while getting ready for bed. I turned and saw what I thought was a small hummingbird perched on the wall in my bedroom. Despite having never seen an all-black hummingbird in my lifetime, I just assumed that must be what it was. After all, up until that point, I was blissfully unaware that enormous flying cockroaches even existed! Yet this cockroach had a distinctly avian build, more bat than insect, and was much, much bigger than any cockroach I had ever seen before. And this winged monstrosity was far from my kitchen, where I am somewhat accustomed to greedy cockroaches making the occasional appearance in search of crumbs. No, this massive cockroach was hovering in my bedroom, in a disturbing proximity to my sleeping space.
Needless to say, we slept on the couch that night.
We vanquished the first gigantic cockroach, and several of its brethren, with a healthy dose of Raid before the exterminator finally made his long-awaited appearance. The exterminator’s visit lulled me into a false sense of security, comforted by my delusions that we had won the war against the pests indefinitely.
We may have won the initial battle, but the war against the wide array of creepy crawly creatures was just beginning. We quickly became accustomed to seeing spiders that could easily be mistaken for starfish. We were very nearly defeated by an infestation of ants, each of which was nearly microscopic on its own and only became visible when clustered in the small armies that descended upon our kitchen. We even encountered a tiny scorpion…in our bedroom.
(We slept on the couch that night, too.)
Beyond the once-a-month extermination, we’re on our own as far as the bugs go. We did send our landlord one complaint about a wasp’s nest, and were rather unceremoniously presented with a can of wasp spray and wished good luck. But we are not completely alone in this battle. We have found allies…in the form of lizards.
I won’t lie – I did not take to our reptilian roommates immediately. Actually, the first time I spotted a little green lizard darting across my bedroom, I was completely horrified and bolted to my laptop to fire off an indignant e-mail to my landlord. I expected a response that was apologetic – or at the very least, sympathetic. What I got, essentially, was this:
“Good morning, Ginger! Congratulations on spotting your first lizard! Consider yourself lucky – lizards will eat spiders, cockroaches, and other horrifying creatures that want to live with you! Hopefully it will make hundreds of baby lizards in your apartment and you’ll never have to be exterminated again!”
Humph. Not quite the response I was hoping for. I pouted for a bit (and, um, slept on the couch for about a week), but I quickly realized my landlord was right – the lizards did ameliorate our bug problems significantly. They were even kind of cute, and I had always wanted a pet.
The lizards still occasionally irk us, though. We often see more lizard turds than we do actual lizards, which makes us uneasy about exactly how many reptiles are lurking unseen in the apartment. There was also a brief period where we had a rash of tiny newborn lizards appearing throughout the apartment. They must have been abandoned by their lizard parents because we soon started finding dead baby lizards on a daily basis. We gave them the most dignified burial we could in the form of a prompt toilet flushing, which my husband solemnly termed, “burial at sea”. But we felt really badly that we didn’t know how to save them – we’ve developed a bit of a soft spot for the little buggers.
On the whole, I have adjusted to sharing our living space with insects and reptiles as best I can; they don’t bother me so much anymore (although spiders will forever remain my husband’s area of expertise). What other choice does an island girl have? Keep the kitchen fastidiously clean. Don’t tick off the lizards. Seriously consider buying stock in Raid and Sure Shot.
And if all else fails, there’s always the couch.