Whenever I see a cockroach in the house, my body automatically jolts into kill mode. Even if I’m outside, but the roach is close enough to my house where I suspect that, given enough time, it’s possible that the little guy might somehow randomly make its way into my domain, that’s enough of a potential threat to warrant extermination. And it’s more than just fear, it’s a physical sensation. I see a cockroach and the insides of my body feel like they’ve all contracted inward, trying to find their own hiding spots to get further away from the gross little bug. My skin crawls, my breathing accelerates, I don’t know what’s going on, but just looking at a cockroach has a very real effect on my body and mind.
But the other day I was looking for something in the basement. I moved a stack of plastic containers and, while I stood on guard, always prepared for a potentially hidden roach infestation, a daddy long-legs crawled out from behind a corner. And my heart kind of melted a little. I thought, aw, look at that, a daddy long-legs. And I just kind of watched as it went from one side of the room to the other, finding a different pile of junk to hide behind and make his home.
His. Look at that. I was already anthropomorphizing the little guy. If he hadn’t disappeared against that far wall where I keep my skis propped up for the majority of the year, there’s a very real chance that I might have tried to lure him upstairs with me, maybe I’d have even given him a name, tried to figure out some way to prevent him from pulling another inevitable vanishing act.
The daddy long-legs had probably been living downstairs in my basement comfortably for generations. He probably has a whole family that he’s a part of, a mommy long-legs, at least a dozen baby long-legs. As I sit here and imagine his long-legged family tree, I can’t help but ask myself: why doesn’t any of this bother me the same way that a cockroach does?
Because shouldn’t daddy long legs be scarier? I mean, they have giant spider legs. Spiders are scary. And yes, I know that daddy long-legs aren’t technically spiders. But what about the urban legend that a daddy long legs has enough poisonous venom to kill an elephant, but they don’t have the fangs necessary to get that toxin into other animals? That’s even scarier. Have you ever heard that? Maybe it’s not a real urban legend. I’ve never actually bothered to look it up, but that’s what all the other kids used to say when I was in grade school. Still, it sounds at least plausible. I should want to, at a minimum, keep my distance.
But there’s nothing, no killer instinct, I’m a daddy long-legs pacifist. I see a daddy long-legs and I can’t even imagine how I’d go about killing one if I were forced to. It doesn’t make any sense in my head. But give me a giant cockroach, like a mouse-sized, giant clicking, hissing flying cockroach, and I don’t care how messy the clean up is, I’d stomp it out with my bare feet if necessary.
What’s wrong with me as a human being that I assign such very different values to insects? That’s got to be some weird sort of evolutionary hiccup. Cockroaches must have done something to my ancestors back when nobody had yet evolved past anything more complex than a lemur. And now that we’re the dominant species, it’s hardwired in, that I’ll be damned if I let those cockroaches think that we’ll ever forget whatever it was that happened eons ago that causes us to continually lash out at them as a species.
But yeah, I can’t see any way of roaches and humans ever reaching an understanding. It’s always going to be them living in the shadows, us ready to stomp and kill. I guess as long as I don’t have to deal with earwigs, I’ll be OK. Have you ever seen an earwig? Oh man, I got a chill running up my back just thinking about them. Thankfully I’ve never seen an earwig where I live now, but when I was a little kid, we’d go camping upstate every summer. And by the end of each week, the tiny little holes where the wires slipped through the nylon to prop up our tents would be filled, I’m talking jam-packed with hundreds upon hundreds of earwigs.
They’re just like little cockroaches, only smaller, and they always travel in straight lines, like ants. And they’ve got these little chompers toward the front of their bodies that, well, I’ve never let them get close enough to find out if they can bite, but I imagine they can. And in my imagination, it really hurts. Fuck earwigs.
But daddy long-legs, I don’t know what you did to escape my paralyzing fear of the rest of the insect kingdom. Whatever it is, keep up the great work. It’s actually a pleasure running into you every now and then. If all pests and vermin were as pleasing to the mind as you were, we’d all be in great shape, just terrific.