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Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Wednesday, August 2, 2000

A roach in the ear
worth two on lanai

IF this column doesn't make sense today, it's all Susan Scott's fault. I got about 37 minutes of sleep last night after fighting off a B-52 bomber cockroach invasion and then worrying that as soon as I fell asleep, one of the buggers would crawl into my ear.

Susan Scott is this paper's ocean columnist and, as I mentioned earlier this week, she and her husband have just published a book called "Pests of Paradise."

I spend a lot of time writing about pests in paradise so the book was a must-flip-through for me. It is a study of every biting, nipping, stinging, poisonous critter in the islands. (Another Star-Bulletin columnist said the book is incomplete because it doesn't list pests like City Councilman Andy Mirikitani. I thought that was kind of mean. I'd never say something like that.)

Anyway, so I'm reading about the treatment for spider bites, scorpion stings, toad secretions and botfly infestations and having a pretty cool time because I've got no beef against those guys. Never seen a botfly. Spiders don't bug me. Don't touch toads. Scorpions, so far in my life, are merely theoretical. Then I hit the section that covers cockroaches.

Now I've always had a primordial reaction to cockroaches. I detest them with every ounce of my being (that's quite a few ounces). I abhor them. They fill me with disgust. (See: nauseate, repel, repulse, revolt, sicken.) You get the picture. There is no love here.

But other than they're being filthy flying vermin hell-bent on taking over the world, I didn't think they were too dangerous. Then I start reading Susan's essay and discover that one thing cockroaches do in Hawaii is crawl in people's ears. In fact, "ear invasions" are common.

I found this report extremely upsetting. And that's coming from someone who once had a cockroach in his mouth. (It's a long story involving the water jug I take to bed with me. The roach entered my mouth when I took a sip of water. I won't describe the feeling of having a roach in your mouth, but trust me here, it ain't peaches 'n' cream. I ejected him onto the rug and yelled to my wife: "I HAD A COCKROACH IN MY MOUTH! GROSS!" Down on the rug, the little guy was dazed, probably thinking, "I WAS IN A HUMAN'S MOUTH! GROSS!")

According to "Pests in Paradise," cockroaches crawl head first into the ears of sleeping people and then get stuck. You have to go to the emergency room and a doctor has to excavate the bug out of your head.

To me, that's a helluva lot more gross than having a roach in your mouth, although, frankly, I don't want them in any orifice.

A few days after reading that, Hurricane Daniel petered out near the islands. Instead of bringing rain and wind, the tropical storm turned Oahu into a sauna. The big roaches like to come out and play when the weather is windless, hot and moist. Last night, it was so quiet and muggy you could hear a pin sweat.

"It's roachy," I said to my wife. "I can feel it."

Sure enough, within minutes three or four bad boys were crawling on the outside of the screen door, seeking entry. I blasted away with my air pistol (seven pumps of air will blow a roach across the driveway) and gassed them with Raid. It was quite a battle. Only one got into the house. When no others could be seen trying to breach the perimeter, we went to bed. But I couldn't get my mind off my defenseless, open ears. Thank you, Susan. I can't wait to read about centipedes.

Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802
or send E-mail to

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