Roaches, Lizards and Slow Internet Part 1

My Internet is screwing me up. Since Thursday, it decided to go on strike and slow my connection down to the speed of a dial-up connection. I feel like I’m back in 1998 where I had to dial and patiently listen to the dial tone before getting connected to cyberspace.

This is not good for me as I rely heavily on the Internet for work, entertainment and more mind-wasting entertainment. In fact, the Internet is my sole entertainment outlet at home. I don’t even watch TV. Fuck, I haven’t even switched on my TV for 5 weeks.

Since I was bored, I decided to wash my dirty dishes. While washing the dishes, I realized that beside my weekly laundry, I haven’t done any house-cleaning for more than a month. While my room is still quite neat as I have little possessions with me, layers of grime and dust and other stuffs I don’t even want to think about (food particles, pubes, snorts) have started to build up and collect in places.

Furthermore, winter is about to end (holy crap, its 27 degrees currently!) and this means spring is coming. And when spring is around the corner, it means that the insects are probably waking up from the long hibernation.

So it means that the house pests will be back again.

I’ve been relatively lucky so far. The two months I’ve been staying here, I have not encountered any house pests like cockroaches, geckos or even ants. In Singapore, ants were a common sight everywhere, especially in my grandma’s kitchen. But here, if I leave my honey out on the kitchen counter overnight, no ants will launch a major assault on the honey container.

So while washing the dishes, I made a mathematical formulae:

Dusty, grimy room + end of winter + insects waking up = house pest invasion (x 3)

And out of all the house pests, the ones I really, really hate are cockroaches and lizards.

I remembered when I was young toddler, my grandmother used to babysit my brother and I. At that time, my grandparents were still living in those old shophouses in Beach Road. Of course, a few years later the Singapore government tore it down (and a whole row of other historical shophouses) and now its an empty plot of land facing Bugis Junction Shopping Centre.

The whole neighbourhood is gone.

Apparently this is economic progress that the Singapore government like to talk about.

Anyway, my grandparents had two shophouses. Both were combined together, so just imagine a semi-detached home, but the shophouse version. The neighbourhood where my grandparents stayed was slightly run-downed but it certainly did had the “old, rustic charm” even though it was just 10 minutes away from Singapore’s CBD. Of course, with a very old neighbourhood, you get a lot of cockroaches, geckos (lizards) and rats. Especially when there’s a lot of open drains around.

One of my most distinct memory was playing with a cockroach with my brother and grandmother. I know it sounds downright creepy but its true. I think my brother and I found a large, adult cockroach in the living room and started playing with it. At that time, the concept of cockroaches were not instill in us. Neither was the concept of fear.

So we treated the cockroach like some toy car. Moving it along the floor while making vrooming noises, laughing while its feelers and legs tickled us. Up till now, I’m surprised that neither my brother nor I shoved the roach in our mouth as food. I think we got a lot of common sense at that time, though I can’t say for now.

My grandmother saw us playing with the roach. Now, if I remembered correctly, instead of spanking our bottoms and ‘confiscating’ our insect playmate, she joined us.

Yeah, she actually played with the roach with us. At one point, she took the cockroach and stuff it into her mouth. Both my brother and I were agog with amazement at her daring. And she actually started chewing on the roach, making crunching sounds.

If you think the above was true, then you’ve just been fooled by my grandma.

It was actually a magic trick. A few seconds later, she opened her mouth to show us that the roach disappeared, only to have it ‘appear’ magically in her right palm. Of course, both my brother and I were downright impressed and we made her do it again and again.

I can’t exactly remember what happened next and what happened to the roach. But I think the roach finally managed to escape from us, suffering from severe psychological trauma:

Roach-that-was-toyed-with: “GUYS, DO NOT EVER GO INTO THAT SHOPHOUSE! A WITCH AND HER GRANDCHILDREN LIVE THERE!”

Roach colony: “Are you fucking with us?”

Roach-that-was-toyed-with: “NO! I’m not! THEY WILL FUCK WITH YOU!!!!!!!!!!”

Yeah, it probably went down like that.

So at that point of time, I wasn’t scared of roaches. But then, some time during my life, I became afraid of roaches. I don’t know how or why, but I just became afraid of them. No, I don’t have a phobia of roaches, I just get very, very squeamish around them.

I learned something new during psychology lecture (I do pay attention sometimes) that if a lab monkey, who is not afraid of snakes at all, sees a wild monkey jumping nervously around when it sees a snake, the lab monkey will ‘learn’ from the wild monkey that snake = bad and thereby the lab monkey will ‘learn’ the fear of snake. Something like that.

So I can say that I probably learn the behaviour from someone. Who? I’m not sure.

All I knew was that one incident happened when I was a kid. At that point, my dad was still living overseas so my mom raised three kids with the help of a maid. One night, a cockroach decided to invade our house and my mom, worried that the cockroach might go after my younger sister while she slept, decided to launch a full scale war on the lone roach.

So insecticide in one hand, newspaper and toilet paper in another, my mom, maid and my brother went after the cockroach. With my usual bo-chap attitude (couldn’t give a fuck), I volunteered to ‘protect’ my younger sis and sat at one corner watching the war effort.

I was a bit scared because it was midnight by then and with my mom waging an all-out war, I thought that the cockroach must be one of those ghosts hellbent on destruction. An overactive imagination from watching too many Hong Kong ghost movies.

So at one point, my mom, maid and my brother cornered the roach behind the TV. I was sitting on the stairs with my sister watching the whole process. Just when I thought it was over, my mom/maid/brother said they couldn’t find it. Somehow, the cockroach managed to perform a ninja move and disappear in front of their us. I was still in my bo-chap mode, so I told my mom just to leave the front door open and the cockroach will find its way out.

As soon as I said that, I felt a “thung” on my head, as if something dropped down on me. I reached up and felt some squirreling feelers and legs and then the ugly realization dawned on me.

Mr. Nightcrawler-Cockroach decided to teleport onto my cranium.

The next second, I think I almost screamed the house down. I started jumping like a crazed boy and tried to sweep the roach away from my head. My mom, maid and brother rushed to me and started smacking me on the head with newspapers.

As if that helped.

The roach finally managed to dislodge itself from my hair and fell onto the ground. Knocked senseless by the impact from the ground, it wobbled around, a bit punch-drunk before it was gassed to death by a ton of insecticide, sprayed by my maid.

That incident left me a bit traumatized for a few hours and probably contributed to my squeamishness around roaches.

I thought that as I grew older, I would outgrow the squeamishness. But no, a recent incident proved that I still have the squeamishness.

It happened in Singapore and I was sitting beside my bedroom window using the computer. As it just rained a few hours ago, the night air was quite cooling so I left the window open. One thing I like about the after effects of rain in Singapore is that it can be very cooling. But the other after effects I hate is that it brings out ALL the insects.

Insect 1: “Fuck, my house is completely drenched. I feel so drenched. I hate being drenched.”

Insect 2: “Same here. Hey I got a BRILLIANT idea!”

Insect 1: “What? What is it? What? WHAT?”

Insect 2: “You see that window with the BRIGHT LIGHT on? Let’s fly towards it!!!”

Insect 1: “Great IDEA!”

So with a “THUNK” at the side of my head, a flying cockroach tried to do a kamikaze on me. I think the other couldn’t make it.

The brave, stupid cockroach landed onto my desk, stunned. And me? I stood up and screamed the whole house down and dashed out of my bedroom. My grandma (the same one who played cockroach with us) and my brother were in the living room and looked at me in surprise, wondering what the hell happened.

“Co…cock…cock….cockroachess…” I slowly croaked out to them. After my brother managed to translate my garbled information to my grandma, she went to the kitchen, grabbed a wad of paper towels and calmly strolled to my bedroom while I cautiously followed her from behind.

And there, in all its big, shiny glory, the cockroach crawled around on the wall. My brother offered to do the dirty deed but my grandma just waved him off and went after the roach. She missed on the first try and the cockroach scuttled away. But on the second try, she SCOOPED that thing off the wall and wrapped it up in paper towels.

Having done that, she turned towards me and pointed at me with the hand that was holding onto the cockroach (I was inching away from her). She then proceeded to lecture me about being a man and that I should not be scared of an INSECT and that I was not a kid anymore. With an exasperated sigh, she went off to flush the roach down the sewage via the toilet bowl. All this while, my brother pissed himself laughing.

My brother is not squeamish about roaches. In fact, he’s the one who always goes after the roaches or house pests. Sometimes, if there are no insecticides or papers around, he’ll go after roaches with his bare hands. After he catches the roach, he and I would always have this conversation:

Me: “Quick, flush it down the toilet bowl (I love toilet bowls, they are like my saviour).”

Him: “Dude, its just a roach. Its only an insect. We should not harm it.”

Me: “This is no time to discuss Buddhism or karma. For fuck’s sake, just flush it down now!”

Him: “(Observing roach very closely) I think I just throw it outside the window.”

Me: “Then it’ll just come back.”

Him: “No, it won’t.”

Me: LOOK, roaches have been around for 300 million years. They are hardy survivors. One less of them will not harm their population. This roach can blame its bad luck for being caught. Now, can you please flush it down the toilet bowl?

Him: “Heck, no.” (Proceeds to throw roach out of the window).

Me: “Great, fucking great. Now the roach will come after me when I’m sleeping because I’m the bad guy who wanted to flush it down the toilet bowl.”

This conversation happens frequently during our younger days. But now, my brother will usually catch it with a wad of toilet paper and squeeze the life out of it. And when he squeeze it, he’ll squeeze it really hard because he wants the roach to die a painless and humane death and doesn’t want to flush it down the toilet when its still alive.

Sometimes, I think my brother has more quirks than I have. And my parents says I’m eccentric.

For me, the roach is going to get the toilet, dead or alive.

P.S. I’ll talk about lizards some other time.

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