I am writing this at an outside table at Starbucks which is located near my apartment in Novena. I have been forced to temporarily leave my abode while fumigators spray poisonous concoctions to rid my apartment of cockroaches. I do not have an infestation of these nasty little insects however I have seen a couple in recent weeks and I lodged a complaint with my building manager Mr. Tan.
I was not expecting such a prompt response to my complaint from Building Management. When I arrived home this evening and was walking to the lift lobby Mr. Tan rushed up to me. He was as usual accompanied by one of the dopey and surly security guards.
I heard Mr. Tan before I saw him.
He yelled, "Mr. Peter. Mr. Peter the cockroach men are here"
I jumped a little in surprise at the sound of Mr. Tan's voice. I was not expecting to see him and he appeared suddenly.
"The cockroach men Mr. Tan?" I enquired
"They are here to poison the dirty insects in your apartment"
"Now Mr. Peter"
"This is not particularly convenient Mr. Tan" I advised.
It was 7.00pm on Monday evening and I had planned on just plonking myself on my couch and watching some television. I have had a relatively long and full day at the office battling and bantering with the English for whom I work.
The cockroach problem that I had related to Building Management a few days earlier was grossly exaggerated. I had used it in an effort to deflect attention from the issue of the flying of my Tibetan Prayer flags on my verandah. Building management have asked me to remove these flags following a complaint that was lodged by my insane Danish neighbor Jens. I wrote about this a couple of days ago and I am not going to repeat the saga again here.
The security guard who was accompanying Mr. Tan was standing behind him during this conservation and I noticed a little smirk appear on his face when I mentioned the inconvenience. I am at war with the security guards of my complex. We have had a number of confrontations since the forbidden fruits episode last Chinese New Year. I exact my revenge on them daily by rapping on the security room window whenever I depart or arrive from the condominium building. They are always asleep and I wake them up.
"You will fumigate this cockroach too?" I asked Mr. Tan - nodding to the security guard.
Mr. Tan looked puzzled and the security guard looked panicked. It was a bit of a rude comment to make but I was a tad annoyed by his smirk and the fact that that my quiet evening at home was to be interrupted.
"The cockroach men are here now Mr. Peter" Mr. Tan repeated.
"May we let them into your apartment?' he asked.
"I guess so Mr. Tan" I sighed.
"How long will this take to do?"
"It will only take twenty minutes" Mr. Tan advised.
"However you must not enter your apartment for two hours after they have sprayed"
"Two hours Mr. Peter. The spray they use is very poisonous and if you breathe it in you will become most sick"
"I don't want that" I responded.
"Let me go up and get changed and then we can start. Can?"
"Can" Mr. Tan responded.
About ten minutes later there was a knock on my door and when I opened it there were two men dressed in full-on chemical warfare suits and wearing respirators on their faces. They were carrying big bottles of chemicals with spray nozzles attached. I let them in and asked them how toxic was the poison that they were going to use. One of the guys took off his respirator and informed me that it was very toxic.
He told me that the cockroach is a very hardy insect and they can survive for up to a month without eating at all. He also told me that cockroaches can survive without air for up to an hour and can recover completely after being submerged in water for half an hour. He informed me that experiments had been done to prove this. The cockroach man also told me that it is believed that cockroaches might in fact inherit the earth if there was ever a nuclear holocaust. The Fumigator said that cockroaches had a radiation resistance that was fifteen times higher than we human beings.
I learned quite a few interesting facts about cockroaches this evening.
I then left them to it.
On the way out I saw Mr. Tan and the security guard lingering in the lift lobby area and I suspect that they were waiting there for me. I informed Mr. Tan that I would return in two and a half hours and that I would like the security guard to enter my apartment before me and to sit there for five minutes to determine whether the air was still poisoned and dangerous.
I told Mr. Tan that if the security guard choked to death then I would give it another half an hour before I re-entered. I feel some shame that the Security guard looked terrified and that he visibly winced with anxiety at this suggestion but Mr. Tan nodded his agreement.
I then laughed and told them that I was not being serious.
The security guard looked greatly relieved so I told him that I only wanted him to sit in my apartment for two minutes to see if it was safe. He winced again and I gave him an evil chuckle as I rode away on my bicycle.
So here I am at Starbucks. I have had a very nice bowl of Ramen for my dinner and I am now sipping on a double shot vanilla latte whilst I am writing this. I am waiting for the cockroach poison to dissipate. An hour and a half has passed since the fumigation commenced so I have at least another hour to go before it is safe to return home.
There are apparently about thirty different species of cockroaches in the world and the tropical cockroaches of Asia are the biggest.
The word cockroach is derived from the Spanish word cucaracha. There is quite a famous Mexican song called "La Cucaracha" which is all about a cockroach that has lost one of it's six legs and can no longer walk properly. The song was written and became popular during the Mexican Revolution. This revolution commenced in 1910 and went on for ten bloody years. It was basically a civil war. Whilst the lyrics of "La Cucaracha" might seem a bit silly it is politically symbolic.
It is a revolutionary song.
I have had a pause in my writing whilst I had an enjoyable conversation with an English tourist who sat at the table next to me at Starbucks. He initiated the conversation by asking me if the bicycle that I had parked next to my table was mine. I told him that it was. I could tell that the English tourist was a Northerner from his distinctive accent so I gave him an "Ay oop" and he seemed genuinely delighted at this and gave me an "Ay oop" straight back.
"Ay oop" is a distinctive Northern English greeting that means 'hello'. I have a Barclays bicycle and it is the only one in existence outside of the city of London. I have described how I acquired this bicycle in a previous piece that I wrote entitled "The Bank Bicycle". It was acquired quite legally and legitimately.
The English in Singapore often ask me if the Barclay's bicycle program also operates here on the island and I mostly tell them that it does not. However I sometimes tell the odd English tourist that it does and I send them off on a wild goose chase. My response depends on the mood that I am in and how annoying I find the English who ask this question of me.
The Northerner asked me how I acquired the Barclays bicycle and I told him that I had stolen it from London. Let me emphasise again that I acquired this bicycle both legally and legitimately and I just felt like telling the Northerner a bit of a tall story. I do this sometimes.
I spontaneously lie.
He seemed quite impressed at the fact that I had stolen a Barclays bicycle and I spun him an elaborate tale of how I had cut up the bike and posted it piece by piece back to my house in Singapore. I have no idea why I spontaneously concocted such a story but it entertained the both of us for quite a while.
I asked the Northerner if he wanted to take the bike for a bit of a ride but he declined. I was secretly relieved at his declination as he was a big fat lad and he may have bent the frame. As he left Starbucks the Northerner told me that he was off to meet up with some of his Northerner mates and that they were going out on a drinking frenzy. This did not surprise me in the least as the Northerners who I know here in Singapore are vast consumers of alcohol.
They are drinking machines.
I gave him a loud "Ay oop" as he left Starbucks which he returned with gusto.
"Ay oop" may also be used to say farewell.
I shall return now to my hopefully cockroach-free apartment where I pray that I will not be poisoned by residual toxins. As I ride my bicycle back into the complex I will rap loudly on the window of the security guard's room at the gatehouse.
I will awaken the sleeping guard.