Monday, January 23, 2012


The most horrific and immediate encounter I ever had with roaches was when I lived in a squalid little studio in downtown LA. I moved there to be closer to my evening job, which was teaching at a vo-tech school.  (The school was right on the border between the Crips' turf and the Bloods' territory – in other words, the Gaza strip. But that is another story.)
You have to understand that I was fairly broke at the time.  And it was LA, where rents were through the roof.  I had tried the roommate thing with fairly disastrous results  (I seem to be a magnet for harmless nut-cases). I could not afford much in the way of a place of my own, so when I found this studio, I was thrilled and grateful and determined to make it work.
I knew there were roaches in the building. How could I not? The fire doors in the halls were decorated with four inch, smashed roach corpses. But I was confident I could deal with it.
First, I bought some of those electrical plugs that make a whining noise too high-pitched for human ears, but which is intensely distasteful to bugs. Then I made sure I kept everything clean and covered, took out the trash regularly, etc.
For a while, that was fine. It seemed to be working.
Then, I don't know what happened, but it stopped working. I saw them lurking in the corners, watching me. I saw them scurry off to hide in the bathroom. Worst of all, at night they got in bed with me and ran up and down my body. EEEEEEWWWWW!
Something had to be done, but what?  I am categorically opposed to poison. I will not live in a poisoned environment, so I couldn't fumigate or put out those roach trap thingies.
Who am I kidding? I couldn't poison them because I am Buddhist and, honey, it's ag'in my religion.  (I have been Buddhist for nearly 30 years now.) AND I am unwilling to live with poison.
But I remembered how Darlene had dealt with the mice. And I wondered what would happen if I tried it on the roaches. 
Darlene lived in the end unit of the cabins I stayed in when we all went to massage school in the mountains of Northern California. For whatever little rodent reason, as the weather cooled the field mice decided that of all the cabins, hers would be the most comfortable as a winter vacation home.
So they moved in and began gnawing on the woodwork late at night.
She couldn't sleep. She fixated on the noises, "Gnaw, gnaw, gnaw."
And although she is not Buddhist, she is opposed to killing things, so she had a problem. One night, in total desperation, she sat up in bed and addressed the mice. "Mice," she said, "listen up.  This is my home and you are keeping me awake at night. I don't want to hurt you, but we cannot share this space. So I am offering you a deal.  I will put food out for you in the ravine, if you will move out and not bother me.  But if you don't move out, I am going to get a cat."
She kept her word and put food out for them every few days.
And the mice moved out.
And this IS a true story. I was there.
So, I thought, if it works for mice, maybe it will work for roaches.  That night before I lay down to sleep, I had a chat with my buggy little crew. 
"OK, guys," I told them, "this is how it is.  This is MY home, not yours.  You are in MY space, and you are being very rude. We cannot share this space. However, you have the entire rest of the building to run around in. The neighbors on the left are not careful with their food, and my neighbor on the right is a crazy guy who never cleans house. You would like it there much better than here. So I am asking you very nicely to please not be in my unit. I have nothing to offer you that is better, except that the other places in this building are much more roach-friendly. So please, don't come here any more. Thank you."
I know it is hard to credit, but the fact is the roaches apparently passed the word around and left me alone after that. I never saw another one in my apartment. And all I did was ask nicely. Well, I also got a couple more of those shrieker-plug things. I cannot tell a lie.
I realize I sound like a delusional nut-case.
Too bad.
I have since tried the same thing with ants in Georgia.
Just call me The Bug Whisperer. It worked on the ants too.
Oh—one tip: make sure the shrieker-plug things are close to floor level.