The cockroach and the complainer

My flatmate Cy says he saw a cockroach in the bathroom yesterday. Damn it. We've already bug-bombed my room, so Judith says we'll bug-bomb the entire house next.

From years of cockroach experience, though, it's hopeless. Once the roaches are in, they're in.

To have any hope of getting them out of the house, we'd have to clean every room like never before.

We'd have to vacuum and spray every inch of carpet.

We'd have to pull the stove out from the wall and sweep away the crumbs that are under it.

We'd have to retrain all the flatmates to stop leaving cupcakes on the kitchen counter overnight.

All these and a hundred other areas of the house are perfect roach-hiding habitats, and until everything glistens in the sunlight, we could bug-bomb every room every week and it'll only keep the roach colonization "under control," but it won't eliminate them. 

A few cockroaches almost certainly rode over with me when I moved here from San Francisco, so it's my fault, and for that I'm mighty dang sorry.

Roaches are forever, though. They're a curse that can't be reversed without hiring an exterminator, paying whatever price the pros demand. And even then, hell, I've never dealt with a pro exterminator, and I'm skeptical.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

It's the same at every job everywhere, I know, but I'm tired of some of the bullshit on Telegraph.

Today my neighbor-vendor began haranguing me as soon as I put my backpack down and started setting up the table. He wasn't even an old enemy; just another middle-aged white man, selling candles on the Avenue. I'd seen him around, but we'd never before been near enough to speak to each other. 

I dropped my pack on the asphalt, started un-bungeeing my table and merch, and said good morning to him.

"You're two inches into my space," was his reply. At first I smiled because he had to be kidding, right? He wasn't kidding.

Yeah, my stuff was over the line, but there was nothing else in those two inches, and it wasn't my intent to claim that sliver of pavement in perpetuity, like the American flag planted on the moon. It was just my backpack and notebook, out of the way, for as long as it would take to set up my table.

"No problem," I said, sweet as I could pretend to be. I moved my backpack far into my space, then unfolded my table, but it wouldn't fit, because the vendor on my other side was several inches into my space.

It happens. White lines mark the vendor spaces, but the lines are years old, faded, only a few inches long, and probably weren't measured quite right in the first place.

See, some of the vendors have tables 4'2'' long, but sign up for four-foot stalls. My table is about 3'10'' in length, so it fits in on Telegraph better than I do, but not this morning.

So I approached my non-complaining neighbor, and explained the situation. Asked if I could help her shimmy her table a bit to the north, so I could fit my table into my space and stay out of the next vendor's space. She said sure, and I walked around to help lift her table.

The complainer, though, said, "You can't leave your table like that," because indeed, my freshly unfolded and still empty table was over the line, into his space.

"Uh, I'm helping these ladies move their table a little, so I can squeeze into my allotted slot." Very zen, I hadn't raised my voice, hadn't said anything rude, though of course I wanted to.

"Yeah, well," he said, "you can't leave your table like it is."

I didn't want to start the day screaming at my vendor-neighbor. If you can help it, you never want to work all day next to someone who hates you. But it was already too sunny and my Mr Nice Guy act was ended.

"If you'd shut the fuck up and quit nagging at me, I'd be out of your space already," I said, and then me and the other vendor lifted her table and put it down a few inches up.

The complainer was still complaining, so I asked him whether the tree up his ass was pine or birch, as I moved my table out of his turf, and started unpacking my merchandise.

"And you're still in my space," said the complainer from the next booth. "Move out of my space!"

I sighed, reminded myself that I'm (usually) a pacifist, and crouched down to look very closely at the faded line on the curb. That's the only indication of where one vending stall ends and the next begins, and it was probably painted before I was born. You can barely see it. It's an inch-wide white line, six inches long, and it's only at the curb; after that it's a guess. Absent a divining rod, everything's a guess, but the very edge of my table might have been on the line.

"My table might be on the line, but it's my line as much as yours. I ain't moving until 5:00, and until then, you can french-kiss my pimpled white ass."

You want petty? I can be petty, and nothing much could be pettier than our argument. All three of us vendors had room to sell our stuff, and after moving the other vendor's table, I had enough room that I could've moved my table another inch away from that man's precious imaginary line. But I didn't, so I worked all day next to someone who hates me.

From Pathetic Life #15
Thursday, August 24, 1995

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

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