Learning how other people think is one of my favorite pastimes.
This week, while buying a broom at the hardware store, I stood in line with a northern woman who has been spending part of the last four winters in Melaque. Each time in a different bungalow. Each time with a different landlord.
Noticing the two cans of Raid in her hands, I asked her if she was having an ant party. Her response took me off guard. "No. Cockroaches. I found a cockroach in my house." I was taken off guard because if I do not see a cockroach at my house at least once a week, I suspect that Mother Nature has slipped into menopause.
Sometimes, I cannot help myself in conversations like this. Rather than leaving well-enough alone, I told her how I did not mind the cockroaches until they started biting my scalp in the middle of the night. They are now on the very limited "shoot on sight" list.
I should have left it there, but I had to add the scorpion and wasp stings, the nightly beetle invasions in my bedroom, and, of course, the swarms of Aedes aegypti (the local mosquito that brings the gifts of dengue, chikungunya, and Zika -- as well as yellow fever elsewhere). I overdid it. Her parting shot as she left the store was: "I am ordering my landlord to fumigate the place."
One of the ongoing discussions amongst northern tourists is the effect of the periodic spraying from the vector control trucks. The spray's primary target is the above-mentioned Aedes aegypti and its attendant diseases that take an ongoing personal and economic toll in these villages by the sea. There is an underlying angst of not knowing what is being sprayed, but the biggest concern is the death toll from the spray.
Whatever is being misted into the air kills almost all insects. Within hours of the truck passing, my patio is strewn with dead insects -- primarily butterflies and skippers. The place looks like a fairyland Somme.
Mind you, I am not a pacifist in mankind's battle with the insect and arachnid worlds. But I eschew genocide in favor of assassination.
Like the cockroach-loathing woman at the grocery, I am a Raid assassin. I keep cans in the kitchen and my bathroom to dispatch flies, mosquitoes, and cockroaches. The rest of the animal kingdom is safe from my deadly gaze. Well, with the exception of scorpions. But that is why God invented sandals.
Later in the day of my cockroach-snuffing conversation, I was in my bathroom and noticed movement on the floor. Odd, jerky movement. A cockroach, thought I, as I reached for the Raid can.
It turns out I was wrong. It was a cricket. The odd movement was caused by the amputation of his left front leg. Without it, he looked like a drunk performing road-side sobriety tests.
I put the Raid down. Crickets are not on my hit list. In fact, like the Chinese, I enjoy their presence. I have never caged one as a pet, but I find their night-time chirrs almost meditative.
Before I could pull out my camera and snap a portrait for you, he wobbled out-of-sight behind the toilet. But I swear he was wearing a top hat and spats, and carrying a furled umbrella.
So, to paraphrase Barbara Fritchie, shoot, if you must, the old gray heads of cockroaches, flies, and mosquitoes, but spare Jiminy Cricket.*
He still has some people to chirr up in the night.
* And, yes, I am aware that an ode to the sanctity of cricket life in Mexico is beyond ironic. But, being eaten for dinner is a far greater destiny than being gassed like a Syrian Kurd.