The humid summer has brought its usual swarms of unwelcome visitors in the form of flies, cockroaches and ants, and accompanying media reports of how to deal with them. I've read these news items with a certain smugness, because we've escaped such pestilence at our house this year. Plenty of people are complaining, though, and I've been very happy to say, "Oh, I've not noticed a problem".
I got my comeuppance, though, in a surreal episode that dogged me for an entire morning recently.
It started when I opened my wallet at a service station in Hamilton East, and a small brown cockroach crawled out from among my credit cards.
It was a huge shock. There was nowhere to hide. Nowhere to deal with it. The cockroach was highly visible, poking its head above the parapets of my plastic. I was in a tight queue, waiting patiently while a pleasant woman at the till dealt with three young men each paying one-third of their petrol bill, each with add-ons of chocolate, soft drinks and energy bars. My add-on, the brown cockroach, had clearly not been picked up from the nearby shelves.
I was carefully brought up by parents who had social rules for all manner of occasions, but nothing in my past instruction had ever covered the public display of a cockroach in one's wallet.
It seemed a shameful thing to have happened, and there was certainly no obvious adaptation of the famous line, Waiter, there's a fly in my soup.
I panicked, stifled a shriek, flapped my wallet and the cockroach disappeared.
I decided not to draw further attention to the problem, gingerly produced my Visa and Fly Buys cards when it was my turn and fled to the car to rummage in my wallet for the stowaway. There was no sign of it, and I didn't have much time to look because the man in the vehicle behind me revved his engine to indicate he wanted my pump space. I thought guiltily and hopefully as I drove off that perhaps I'd flicked the cockroach on to the floor of the service station.
Next stop was the hairdressers, and I spent more time looking for the cockroach before I went in. Again there was no sign, but I wasn't entirely convinced that it had gone overboard.
I put my handbag squarely on the floor in front of me, and watched it nervously during the appointment, just in case it was there, and made a bid for freedom.
There was more careful handling of the wallet at the till when I paid, but no sighting of wildlife. So I stopped next at my favourite cafe to recover from the trauma with a coffee, but the small cockroach had merely been resting.
It popped its head up again as I pulled out my card. I was right by the counter, where lovely baking was nestling in baskets and platters. The thought of a cockroach loose among this lot was too hideous to contemplate. I had visions of being barred from this place for life.
I ran outside, shook my wallet vigorously, and the damned thing disappeared again.
I found some cash in another compartment of my wallet, quickly handed it over, sat down at an outdoor table, and did another exhaustive search. I swear the cockroach was taunting me. It slithered slowly up my Fly Buys card, and this time I was too quick for it. I swept it on to the footpath, and seconds later there was a small brown corpse beside the table.
"Gotcha," I said loudly, but I kept an eye on it for ages, just in case.
I have no idea how the cockroach got into my wallet. One of my friends suggested it had probably hopped in there when I'd put my handbag down at some place, thus kindly deflecting blame from our house being the habitat of small brown cockroaches. Whatever its origins, I've been shaken by the drama. There has been a lot of "housekeeping" since in my wallet. Anyway, after the coffee, with the cockroach still motionless, I felt brave enough to head for another shop to buy urgent birthday presents.
"Do you have Fly Buys?" the saleswoman asked brightly as she surveyed my purchases.
"Yes," I replied, equally brightly, my brightness being born out of huge relief that a cockroach was no longer guaranteed to pop out of my plastic.
- © Fairfax NZ News