The Dark Side of Southern Life


By Vicki Hughes     Posted April 11, 2013

Living in the deep south, we are constantly enjoying a long list of perks, that people who visit from elsewhere are quick to notice. Fine weather, friendly people, food so good that it makes you want to slap someone, good manners, azaleas, and the inherent right to fry absolutely anything without anyone raising an eyebrow.

But there is a dark side.

Nobody discusses it when you first arrive, because frankly, it’s bad manners to make disagreeable conversation before the mint juleps kick in. However, I’ve been here long enough to be able to speak as a transplanted Southerner. I may not have an actual accent, but I do say y’all, and bless your heart, and I’m a regular at the Piggly Wiggly. In spite of my Southern California roots, the past twenty-five years of living in Dixie have qualified me to speak with some actual knowledge of the southern life.

Here is what they don’t tell you upon arrival through Customs: Roaches.

The south is a roach fest. For those of you in Southern California, this does not mean we have an assortment of great weed to choose from. That’s in Oregon. The south has actual cockroaches. Lawd have mercy! That word is so rude, it hurts my eyes to look at it.

A few nights ago I went to the bathroom to take out my contacts, and when I pulled open the drawer, I discovered a two and a half inch long roach, doing a Fandango with my toothbrush. I screeched, “John! Hurry! There’s a roach, and he’s giant, and he’s with my toothbrush!” Here is a fact of marriage that I will pass along to all you newbies. When you want your spouse to move quickly, with ninja skills, they will generally come at the pace of a sedated snail and make you want to punch kittens. Just know it’s going to happen, and you can cross it off your list of things that will surprise you.

He moseyed into the bathroom (I’m starting to believe that when he hears my bug-scream, he goes extra slow in hopes that it will scurry away before he arrives.) He grabbed like, three squares of toilet paper, and I was thinking, “This guy is not taking me seriously, he needs a HazMat suit and  a flamethrower, not three squares of Charmin.”

I commenced hopping on one foot, issuing orders like a Mob boss. “Kill it! Kill it! Dammit, man, what are you waiting for? KILL!!!!”

He made a few toilet papery jabs that made everything in the drawer jump, and then the roach escaped through the back of the drawer. Thus began my dirty looks, stewing and decrees that it was time for The Enforcer. I told John that he needed to do what had to be done, while I went to shop for toothbrushes.

This is a man who knows how I feel about roaches. Back in the eighties, when we lived in Atlanta, I was eight months pregnant, lying in bed, semi-peacefully, when a gigantic roach fell out of the a/c vent over our bed and landed, splat on my bare thigh. What ensued is what I imagine would happen if a psychotic walrus got tangled in a clothes line hanging with sheets and blankets. John was launched off the bed in my heroic attempts to remove all the bedclothes in one fluid motion, like those guys who pull a tablecloth out from under a fully set table.

It ended up with a familiar scene. An escaped felon roach, with me highly pissed off, issuing death threats and extermination orders. We were so poor back then that we frequently had to make those awkward choices at the grocery store checkout: Beer or toilet paper? But that day, budgets were not even a consideration. I didn’t care if it meant PBJ’s for a month. I declared, “We are calling an actual Bug Man. Today. I don’t care what it costs, it’s not up for discussion. Make it happen.”

Therefore John took my toothbrush moment to heart, and he brought in The Enforcer. For you non-southerners, this is not a guy named Guido in a bad suit. It’s a fine white powder with boric acid which creates a barrier that most roaches won’t cross, except for those on suicide missions, but that’s a story for another day. After you live here a while, and you discover that the chemicals the Bug Man uses are the reason you never see the same Bug Man twice, so you have to make smarter choices.

My greatest concern with putting down the line of enforcement, so to speak, is that I realize that somewhere in my house, there will be a few roaches, already inside the perimeter, who are now trapped inside the line. I call them Desperados. They can’t crawl back to Hell, from whence they came, so they are forced to stay inside, with me, until they have the bad fortune to expose themselves.

This morning, just as I poured my coffee, I saw the skittering out of the corner of my eye. Once these foul creatures come in contact with The Enforcer, it begins to effect them. They lose speed, and they scurry along like they’re looking for their car keys that they dropped.

These slower roaches are a good thing, because it allows me to do my part, of keeping an eye on them, while I bellow for backup. “John! Giant roach! Hurry! Reba has him cornered.” Momma’s dog was nosing the little creep, while John did his bug killing, death march to my side. “Where is the little bastard?”

I pointed to the corner where the roach was being examined by the dog. John took the paper towel he was holding, and gingerly bent over to go for the kill. Except his back has been out for a week. I forgot that. It looked sort of like an early morning exercise show for guys in their fifties, working on their low lunges, awkwardly. We both heard, crunch, and in unison, we made our that’s-disgusting-face. I was relieved to know he’d ended that bug, when he pulled back his hand, and it hopped out, and made a run for cover. John made three valiant attempts, from his now sprawled out stance, all to no avail. It crawled behind the armoire, injured, but alive, and is probably blogging right now about it’s near death experience.

John looked up at me, with regret in his eyes. In our family, we have a hard and fast rule we have learned from watching way too many revenge themed movies. If you get the chance to pull the trigger, do it. Never let your injured enemy live.” I rolled my eyes. “Well, at least he’s injured. We did hear the crunch.” John said, “Yeah, but I’m not sure if that was him, or my back.”

© Vicki Hughes 2013

18 thoughts on “The Dark Side of Southern Life

  1. Momma

    Hilarious!!!’ I learned amout boric acid in Texas. It’s the ONLY acid I have ever used too afraid of a “bad trip” with giant roaches.

  2. Scott Carson Ausburn

    Back in the day when i useta save aluminum cans they were a heaven for cockroaches.Seems they love leftover DP and Budweiser makes them big and strong.They were in the garage in a big trash can but after getting only 5 bucks and some change for 6 trash bags of crushed cans i decided it wasn’t worth it so cans would just go into the recycle bin.Cans were gone but i still had huuungry roaches that were only an ill fitting door away from getting in the house.Time for Maxforce one of the best things i have found to kill the roaches you see and the ones you dont see.I don’t think we can even get close to putting roaches on the endangered list but this stuff will at least get rid of them around the house.No kidding used it about 5 years ago an still no roaches.

  3. Amy

    This was hilarious. And your right the men do move slower when they hear that scream. When my John hears my “spider scream” I hear him sigh, get slowly to his feet, shuffle like a drunk old man to wherever I happen to be, where he will roll his eyes and in a disinterested voice say “where?”

    Did you know roaches can survive a nuclear bomb?

    As a born & bred Southerner I can tell you its not these big roaches (aka palmetto bugs) you need to worry about. The bad roaches are the little itty bitty roaches. Roaches don’t bother me, unless they get on me. However I do not want them in my house as they carry all manner of nasty germs.

  4. Jan Hicks

    being only a mountain girl from central CA – I was very fortunate not to have experienced any roaches until I moved to sunny Orange County – newly married and in a new town, that far surpassed anything Tehachapi had to offer – I get up in the middle of the night to get a drink of water, and just having moved into an apartment it was still full of boxes and unfamiliar floor plan, I turn on a light in the kitchen and about 7000 gazillion roaches go scurrying around – ok it might have only been 3 or 4 – or 1 or 2…I screamed my ex did coming running into the room, willing to be the night in shinning armor, then proceeded to laugh at me….aw the memories…lol…still HATE roaches – of ANY size…can’t even stand to see them on TV…my husband now, just looks at me and says “well kill it, you have the skill”…um not so much….lol…thanks for the chuckle Vicki – you have a way of making your words visible….


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