I consider myself a veteran.
In Jerusalem, I watched a mouse jump out of my room, pursued by 2 roommates and a young cat just getting the hang of the chase. I caught a (harmless but disgusting) spider the size of a small plate that had wandered in from the garden and heard my roommate scream when he discovered a giant moth that had chosen the tight space in between toilet bowl and toilet seat to die. And my first conscious act on my first morning in the goldene medine, in Brooklyn, was to slay a roach with my right sandal. With time, I got used to various infestations. In Washington Heights, e.g., we took to rinsing every plate twice: after and before each use and I never left my food out unsupervised. I've woken up to a rat floating in my Upper West Side toilet (these big American toilets with big water basins) and, incensed, immediately wanted to freeze it to send it to my landlord. I should add that my street was called "rat alley" by the locals. That, of course, beat “crack alley” which was the next block. Once, I even had two kinds of mice: tiny little grey balls living in the oven and slightly bigger ones that came out only around 1:30 from underneath the radiator in the living room.
Then I moved to the Deep South.
I learned to catch half-dead bugs in paper cones (they can't climb out fast enough) and release them outside where they belong. I don't gag anymore when I feel them wiggle inside the cone either. I also discovered that people have bug philosophies. One friend is convinced that they come out to die in the middle of the living room when there's no movement for a while and they feel it's "safe". Of course, here, the bugs are a little bigger and take a while to die. Having wandered into the bathroom while a giant roach was hugging the bristles on my tooth brush, my brushes are now permanently housed in these little travel cases and I bought a bunch for visitors, too. They look something like this and I feel much better since I have them:
And then, last night, after a long day, I bought some crispbread, took out the hummus I'd just made and plopped down in front of the telly to watch be-tipul, my latest addiction (I brought back the first 2 seasons). The crispbread was a bit crumbly so I got a knife to spread the humus and, incidentally, looked down--to see literally dozens of little crawly things escaping the slice I'd just broken in half. I started sobbing hysterically and only calmed down after I'd spend a half hour on the phone. This morning, a colleague told me that she takes out a slice and waits a minute for any bugs to come out. They call this civilization? How can people put up with this?!