Billiam ‘Wartime Consigliere’ Clary and I have a sort of love-hate relationship with bugs: we hate them, and they love how messy we keep our house. Of course, in Thailand, bugs are scarier, faster, and more widespread than anything I’ve seen before. Coming from a brown recluse-infested city (whose bites can result in this), I was relieved to hear that at least the spiders aren’t dangerous here — only everything else. The first time Bill and I came to notice this bug problem was during our first few weeks here — we were marveling at how much faster the ants are here — moments before Will almost took a big gulp of ant coffee that he had placed on the table for mere seconds. Our old apartment was plagued by maggots. Not everywhere or all the time, but they certainly came in waves, and we became pretty familiar with their life cycle. I realize this sort of infestation might bother most people, but determined as ever, Billy and I took it in stride, only finally cleaning house when we realized that all the little bites over our bodies must be from these constantly-hatching flies.
We didn’t have an ant problem, and our roaches were cute translucent things that visited for only a season. Sure, we had ‘horror bathroom,’ a flickering-light bathroom so filthy it depressed me to linger in there for more than a few seconds, but by our standards, our bug problem was ‘under control.’ Since Will and I seem to be embroiled in what might be considered a perverted form of ‘cleanliness chicken,’ a battle of wills that probably originated from college laziness, we tend to let these hygiene problems really get away from us before we go about doing anything. It’s a miracle neither of us have gotten sick. At college, after breaking the thermostat in a temperature battle, we endured sub-zero temperatures in our rooms for days rather than call to get it fixed. Letting trash or dirty dishes pile up in America (especially a cold environment like Vermont) isn’t such a big deal, but in tropical Thailand, it’s a big no-no.
Moving to a house became a whole-new ballgame. Our beautiful 2-story house and garden has but few faults — the more egregious of which include lack of sealing, awkward low points (with resulting stagnant water pooling), and neighboring swamp. We keep all our windows open all the time, but even if we closed them, there are gaps so big you could drive a truck through on every warped doorframe or cracked windowframe. Prior to some home-improvement, our house even had an outdoor kitchen (!). And we have ants. Not just a few western-style, steal-your-picnic, military-marching ants that I’m used to. We have a lot of ants, and they’re small and fast. Ant highways and biways divide our house, they cover any open food after only a few minutes, and they diligently and rapidly skeletonize every other dead insect or animal in our house — nothing is left but the wings of dead roaches after only a half-hour.
The ants are aren’t our only problem — spiders, roaches, geckos, maggots, the occasional rat or giant centipede…we have lots of pests, all of whom are seemingly constantly at war over what must be very valuable turf – our kitchen. Bill and I have a decent amount of fun keeping track of the rise and fall of all of these warring creatures — a dangerous Game of Thrones, if you will, with Will and I acting as checker and balancer, buying the appropriate pesticide if one faction gains such a powerful advantage that they threaten our wellbeing. Therefore, I’d like to think I’ve been pragmatically acclimated to the presence of two or three roaches when I enter my kitchen at night. I welcome them as old friends, lament the encroachement and irreverance for the dead these new ants have, or discuss the constantly-changing politics and intrigue governing their petty wars (“Where did those big ants go? Their armies disappeared almost overnight.”).
Our ‘laziness machismo’ forced us to ignore this for the time being. It was only when Will witnessed the miracle of life – a slew of baby cockroaches bursting from a dead adult’s carcass – did we decide to crack down and do something about it. It was time to go to war, so we set a date.
We knew we had a coackroach problem, but even we were surprised by what came next. We were armed to the teeth with smoke bombs, mega-strength bug spray, plastic gloves, and traps. Assaulting one of the more suspicious cracks in our kitchen tile, we weren’t surprised to see a cockroach or two flee from under the tile. Easy kills — we drew first blood. Unfortunately, these scouts were followed by more roaches (adults, adolescents, and nymphs) than I’ve ever seen in my life. Will and I hopped around spraying these charging bugs in shifts, finally getting into a routine that ensured us certain victory. Fortunately, we noticed a large number of them flanking us before it was too late, so we split up and fought on two fronts — Will at bathroom drain detail, while I continued to cover the crack in the tile. For the better part of an hour, we stood, head on a swivel, killing a constant stream of bugs from what must be an expansive underground network on our respective fronts, occasionally sliding to cover each other’s flanks or rears for runners.
Tensions were high — the room reeked of bug spray, sweat, and pasión, but it was becoming all-too apparant the tables had turned — our assault was turning into a last stand. Their numbers were too many and our cans (and heads) were feeling decidedly too light — we had to revert to melee (stomping) in order to conserve ammo. After what seemed an eternity, the stream seemed to be slowing down, so we made the call – detonated a 3-hour bomb, and didn’t come back to the room until much later that night.
Our blitz proved successful, and our subsequent clean and trap-setting is a shock ‘n’ awe campaign of unparalled military genius. It’s funny, because a few days prior, Will and I discussed going into the pest control business together.
It was the best Easter ever.