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03/12 Sunday 09:20AM

help! a cockroach is holding me hostage!

text . Pauline Chan .

I had lunch with my friend, D, today and was half way into my chicken pie when she sat up, wide-eyed and queried me.

"Oh, do you know what happened to me recently?"

"No, what happened to you?" I replied, equally wide-eyed, a green pea flew out of my mouth as I answered.

"I had the most traumatic experience", came the reply and that was the beginning of a story that inspired this account of phobia and heroism.

D, was home alone one night.  Well, that was what she thought.  She was in her bedroom.  She heard a light thud, then a buzzing sound and then, silence. She looked around but she saw nothing. She shook that off as nothing and went back to reading her book. Shortly, the buzzing sound returned, sharp and intermittent.  D looked up again. She searched for the source of the sound and found it.  Her heart nearly stopped and she stepped back in fear, petrified and motionless.

No, I lie.  It didn't happen like that.  Actually she screamed, took off like a roadrunner with her hands flailing in the air and jumped onto her bed.  Not very elegant but that would be more accurate.

D had an encounter with her nemesis - a chocolate-brown cockroach that moves like a ninja and smells like a, err, cockroach.  D was not in the best of state at that time to handle the encounter.  She was very very pregnant. Overwhelmed with an outpouring of hormones, she was emotional beyond reason too.  She shuddered every time she caught a glimpse of Mr. Roach as it appeared from behind the dresser – it looked as big as a Teletubby, that’s how she saw it and I won’t argue with a pregnant woman. She bawled uncontrollably and sadly, allowed her imagination to take over her sanity.  She stressed over the possibility that the cockroach would suddenly take flight and fly kamikaze into her hair.  She decided to solve that problem by ducking under the duvet.

Next, she worried that it would crawl into her bed and gnaw through her night shirt and feast on her skin.  She couldn't leave the room because the offensive bug occasionally stood guard at the door. At this point, I asked her why she didn't just wait for Mr. Roach to disappear behind the furniture and make a run for the door.  She said she couldn't risk stepping off the bed and running to the door, Mr. Roach might decide to head for the door at the same time and meet her there.

No, there was no way out - she was being held hostage, by a C-O-C-K-R-O-A-C-H!

This was becoming too much for her to handle - she reached for her iPhone, called her husband and beseeched him to return. He was out but he agreed to come home, which would take a little while (if you take into consideration D’s state of mind and sense of time, it’s forever). She called her Dad, who lived half-an-hour's-drive away.  Apparently Dad listened patiently and finally asked a question in a tone that was loaded with testosterone but lacked sympathy, "But what can the cockroach do to you?" (I nearly choked on my drink while trying to suppress, with a paper napkin, both a gaffaw and my drink from being ejected unceremoniously onto D.)

You may think D's reaction was a tad over the top, but if you have a phobia and had to face it head on, sideways, dead or alive, you will understand the earth-shattering effect it has on a person.  I have seen men who usually leap tall buildings in a single bounce (metaphorically), reduced to a nervous hamster when confronted by their nemesis.  I once had to rescue an athletic, egotistical, condescending, iron-pumping, heartless alpha-male from a non-violent cicada that flew into his apartment.  He rang me for help and when I got to his apartment, he hid in his kitchen, and left me to slay the flying demon on my own. True story.
Now, back to my friend D. After 20 minutes of agonizing under her duvet and fearing the worse that a cockroach can do to her, her husband came home.  He spent a good amount of time shifting furniture to uncover the frightened cockroach, so he can eliminate the horrible intruder and save his wife.

There is good news and bad news. The good news (to people with katsaridaphobia) is: D's husband managed to send poor Mr. Roach to bug heaven. The bad news is, there are 4,500 species of cockroaches, of which 30 species are associated with human habitation. They are some of the hardiest insects on the planet. Some have been known to survive up to 3 months without food, a month without water and even radiation. Tropical ones are MUCH larger.

I hear that in Singapore and Malaysia, taxi drivers sometimes use pandan leaves as cockroach repellent in their vehicles. That might work in the bedroom too.

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