Encroachment #2 ~ They don’t tell immigrants about the roaches.

 We’ll have Manhattan, The Bronx, and Staten Island, Too
Old Song
Not forgetting Brooklyn and Queens, of course 

           No, I really do not like the little buggers. Actually, some of them are relatively large, but any size of roach used to frighten me until I was in middle age. Today, I am no longer terrified of them.
          Over the decades I gradually became inured to them. Mind you, liked and inured are not synonymous. Of the four thousand or so individual species of roach found around the world, only thirty species are considered pests. In many parts of the world—dead or alive—they are considered passable human food. Keep in mind that roaches do not eat live human flesh.
           Four species of these six-legged, eighteen-kneed insects are common pests in dwellings and/or places of business throughout this planet. The next to largest officially designated pest is the American Roach, or Water Bug. It is an inch and a half from tip to tip. The German Roach is smaller by about 3/8 of an inch. The other two pest species are not really common.
          Roaches and I have a long history that began in 1938, at which time my parents  arrived in New York City, the roach capital of this Earth.  
          It might be an exaggeration, although it really seems to be true. Even in the present day, however, New York City still harbors an incredibly huge population of these creatures.
           Mom and Dad insisted roaches did not exist in Austria, but then, my parents were  quite well-to-dp and lived in the better part of Vienna.
          On their first night in our New York City apartment, we were invaded. They came from under the floor, out of the walls, even out of the ceilings! The nightly invasions never stopped. No matter where we lived and where my parents worked throughout the five boroughs of New York City, the roaches were our most intimate neighbors.
           Our apartments were kept scrupulously clean. The smallest crumb was not allowed on the floors. Trash was removed after each meal and put in the cans in the courtyards outside. My parents sprayed with the insecticide Flit . I really think that if flame throwers were legal to use in New York City apartments, my father would have used one. At the end of WWII, DDT was released to the public, and it was incredibly effective. The roaches didn’t totally disappear, but there were appreciably fewer than them.
          In 1942, we moved to a chicken farm in New Jersey. The terror of roaches was replaced by the horror of the six and eight legged members of New Jersey fauna who resented our invasion of their territory.
          Thanks to New Jersey mosquitoes, my long roach rehabilitation began. The most horrible of these New Jersey animals replaced the roach as Pubic Enemy #1. New Jersey citizens unanimously agree on one matter—of the almost countless diversity of the five genera of Arthropods found in New Jersey, the sixty three species of New Jersey mosquitoes are, by far, more dreadful than any other group of Arthropod, including the New York City roaches.
          Decades of intimate and unfortunate contact with every one of these predatory and voracious blood seekers made a believer out of me! In my late thirties, a friend who served on the State Mosquito Commission gifted me with a box that displayed every species of New Jersey mosquito. It was a superb collection—they were all dead. The ultimate irony occurred with that collection. Roaches got into the box, which had fallen open. They ate every last specimen.
          Those endearing roaches have been around for the past three hundred ninety four million years, and some scientists hypothesize they will be the only living survivors on this planet if a nuclear apocalypse occurs. Mythbusters, a favorite show on the Discovery Channel conducted a long-term scientific experiment that has confirmed that hypothesis into a firm Scientific Theory. I believe it.
          We eventually moved back to New York City. It seems amusing now, but I recall my mother saying, only partially in jest, “At last! We are being welcomed by the sociable, endearing roaches! We can poison them. We can step on them. We can spray them with Flit. We can drown them in DDT. Unlike New Jersey mosquitoes, they are not immortal.”
          However, at that time, in 1947, I was terrified of the insects. One walking across the floor would cause sheer, screaming terror. Many long years of terror-rehabilitation lay ahead for me. Thanks to several somewhat dramatic incidents, by 2008, the fear was completely gone.
          Remember: inure – not like.


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