The Traveling Teacher


Buggin’ out in Florida

Holly McElwee

Contributing Columnist



“I love Florida. I want to live in Florida. Can we move to Florida?” These phrases were often heard on our recent family vacation. With its sun, sand, and surf, Florida seems to be the perfect place to live. Or at least it did until we met one of its less desirable residents.

It was a quiet morning around our condo. Our teenage daughter, Anna, was still sleeping, and the rest of us were enjoying a nice vacation morning with a lazy breakfast and some television. The beach was waiting for us whenever we happened to make an appearance.

I’d just sauntered into the kitchen to fetch a glass of water for our youngest daughter, Olivia. Upon my return to the living room, I realized we had a visitor — a cockroach who was scuttling across the floor. I jumped and let out a yelp, spilling water as the cockroach darted under and around furniture. By this time Olivia had spotted the beast, and she started screaming. As I called out his name, Dan ran in from the other room to see what the hubbub was about. “Grab the vacuum,” he hollered, so I grabbed it from the closet.

The cockroach, meanwhile, seemed to know something was amiss because it made a beeline for the entertainment center cabinet. By this time I had procured the vacuum cleaner, but being unfamiliar with the particular model, I couldn’t figure out how to unattach the hose. Dan rushed over to help me as the cockroach decided to take a trip up the wall. Olivia screamed at the top of her lungs, a noise that aroused the curiosity of the neighbors, I’m sure.

Finally, we got the hose loose, and Dan sucked the cockroach into the vacuum just before it disappeared behind the entertainment cabinet. At that exact moment, Anna flew out of her room, hair askew, eyes wild. “What’s going on out here?” she shrieked. All we could do was laugh. “It was the world’s biggest cockroach!” I told her.

We leaned down to examine the cockroach (also called a palmetto bug) through the clear wall of the vacuum canister. “Is it dead?” we wondered. Just then it twitched to the collective “Ewww!” of the gathered company.

Knowing that we couldn’t leave a live cockroach in the canister where it could perhaps escape and torture us again with its presence, we decided the canister contents must be dumped and disposed of. A trash bag was procured, but we couldn’t figure out how to empty the canister. “This vacuum!” I sighed in exasperation. Meanwhile, the cockroach continued to show signs of life, which brought on a fresh round of screaming from Olivia.

Finally, the contents were emptied, the bag was tied, and I delivered to Anna with directions for taking it to the trash chute. “Why me?” she protested, completely nonplussed.

“Perhaps you won’t sleep through all the drama next time,” I replied, and she sulked all the way to the trash chute, holding the bag at arm’s length as if the cockroach would burst forth at any moment to chew on her arm.

Finally, we returned to our quiet morning. The vacuum was put away, the girls were calmed, and Dan and I settled onto the patio with coffee and the sound of the ocean in the background. Olivia emerged on the threshold to give us her final assessment of the situation. “I do NOT want to live in Florida!” she exclaimed. Indeed.

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Buggin’ out in Florida

Holly McElwee

Contributing Columnist

Contact Holly McElwee at [email protected]

Contact Holly McElwee at [email protected]

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