Thursday, May 7, 2009
The Austin Chronicles: Everything is Bigger in Texas
In San Francisco I lived behind a taqueria. Near many taquerias, an Italian restaurant and a handful of corner markets, all off an alley filled with the garbage, recycling and compost bins of all the aforementioned establishments in addition to multi-family dwellings, half of which were populated by twenty somethings with limited housekeeping skills and questionable hygiene. And I never saw a cockroach. Not once. Then I moved to Texas.
Texas doesn't just have cockroaches, it has four different sizes of cockroach:
There are the small ones.
There are medium sized ones that fly. Yes, they fly. And they like to aim for the head.
There are the large ones that you don't want to kill because it feels like you are squashing a small rodent.
Then, there are the extra large "tree roaches" that I did not have the pleasure of meeting until they hitched a ride with a roommate who moved in from Houston. These are the ones that are as long as a salad fork, and when you approach them with your good-for-you-and-the-planet bug spray, they flex their muscles and give you the finger.
I'm not afraid of cockroaches. I certainly won't run out of the room. You've got to keep an eye on these suckers before they disappear. Even the giant ones can squeeze under the baseboards, and then reappear in your sock drawer. Everyone from Texas told me that they are normal. It's a hot and humid place for most of the year, so they kind of come with the territory. Uh, uh. No way was I going to spend two years with roommates that ate my food and didn't pay rent. Besides, I'm a California girl. Cockroaches aren't normal. They are the harbingers of food poisoning. And, they are gross. Oh, and did you know they like to walk on the ceiling and then let go every so often? Hell, no.
Luckily my sister came to visit shortly after I moved in. She had gone to UCLA and lived off-campus. Few people know that four neighborhoods surround UCLA: Bell Air, Hollywood, Frat and Sorority Row, and the student ghetto. If you don't live on campus, or have parents that are willing to pay for an apartment next to the Starbucks that Drew Barrymore goes to, or tan yourself into oblivion in a sorority, you live in what once was a neighborhood of quaint California bungalows, and has since been soaked in decades of cheep beer. Which means that amidst all the underage drinking, you also have cockroaches.
My sister was also not willing to live among bugs that would survive the apocalypse, so she discovered the wonders of boric acid. Forget chemical laden sprays - good old fashioned boric acid. I mean, it even has a cowgirl on it - obviously meant for Texas, right?
So, we did what any good Texan does, we went to the Home Depot (that, dear reader is another story entirely). But, we weren't sure if the 20 mule team was enough for Texas roaches, so the two sisters from California who had been in Texas all of a few weeks asked an employee. I'm pretty sure they'd taken him off a ranch in Lubbock and slapped an orange vest on him that day:
"Does boric acid get rid of all kinds of cockroaches? Even the really big ones?"
"Nah, you need something stonger."
I swear to god, he shrugged his shoulders and spat out chew right there in the Home Depot. But, I kind of wanted my security deposit back, so we asked him to point us in the direction of the boric acid, instead.