Friday, March 22, 2013

A computer filled with cockroaches is the catalyst for understanding the divide in American values

What's up? I'm a cockroach, and I'm gonna move into your house.
My career is not my writing. Part of what I do involves restoring and reissuing slightly dated computers to clients who may need them. This week I experienced something that I wasn't expecting, and it left me slightly horrified. A client returned a computer filled with live cockroaches.
Yep...those are roach casings. Nice eh? Are you afraid yet? Your computer
could be a regular old roach motel!
I didn't discover the find until a day later. And by then, they'd had a whole night to escape from inside the computer where they'd built their nest and run around my workplace laying eggs. It's truly grotesque, and we're having the whole building fumigated this weekend.

Upon first opening the computer to spray out the dust with compressed air, I didn't quite realize what I was looking at. The insides of computers are typically extremely dirty. Mine at home isn't because I clean it out to keep it well ventilated at least once a month. The interior of my computer is also well lit with neon, and I think that may bother and deter such creepy crawlies as cockroaches.

So there I was spraying and all of these empty brown beetle-like casings were flying everywhere. I picked up some with my fingers thinking "what is this?"

Then I saw them hiding beneath the motherboard. Small, flat, and very brown roaches with antenna wiggling at me as if to say "what's up?" and "stop spraying us with compressed air cause we're sleepy..."
I see this kind of condition all the time. It's grotesque. I don't know why
people let their machines get like this. It definitely impacts performance.
For the record this isn't the pc that had the roaches. Just one I grabbed
off the internet to show you how dirty pc's can become.
I threw the computer in the garbage. I'm not going to rip out all the guts of an older computer just to get at a cockroach nest and then deal with all the eggs. I'm sure the back of the motherboard is just covered with them and perhaps, the pc probably doesn't even work, as roaches eat the glue on electronics and love the heat generated by computers.

But I didn't act quickly enough.
This is what cockroach eggs look like. Seeing these gives me chills.
When I called the client and told her, "I found live cockroaches infesting the computer you returned to us," she said "Uh huh. So when I get another one?"

She wasn't even surprised.

I repeated, "Um, your computer is filled with cockroaches. I don't appreciate that. We're having to spray the entire building down now."

"So? What's the big deal."

That was my second "horrified" reaction this week. Ever since that conversation, I've been trying to figure out why someone wouldn't be phased by what I'd said. There's also the implication that she knew roaches might be living in it and it was okay to just leave it in my workplace in a torn plastic shopping bag (also covered in eggs on the inside). I wish I hadn't just left the pc for the next day's work load on a chair in our office.

Maybe it's because they live with them and aren't bothered by them. And it makes me realize, how different we are as people. What is offensive to one person is not only fine with another, there's absolutely no way you can explain to that person why you are offended. They simply don't get it, and they probably never will.

It made me see how useless debates are that take place between adults who don't share values. It's just going to be like two big-horned sheep slamming into each other on a mountain. They will never understand you. Ever. And you will always be at odds with that person because you just don't have the frame of mind to comprehend where they're coming from.
Two sets of values that will never ever see eye to eye on anything.
For me, a computer filled with cockroaches is the catalyst for understanding the divide in American values.

Interesting, eh?

And people...there is a moral to this story: Please please please clean your computers with compressed air. Take off the panel, stop being afraid of the inside, and just do it. But don't ever use a vacuum unless it's one made for doing that kind of work. A vacuum can cause static electricity to build on sensitive components and cause you many pains. Compressed air though is a safe bet. If you haven't done this in years, prepare to find spiders and bugs living inside. That's what you get for keeping a filthy pc in your home.

Have a great weekend.


Elise Fallson said...

What you hve up there is Blattella germanica. Very common household infesting cockroach. Not at all surprised to see it infesting a computer. Like you said, they love the heat, obscurity and undisturbed places to aggregate, microwaves, toasters, back of refrigerators are common as well. You would have been horrified to see some of the places and conditions I used to go in to treat infestations. Think of the inside of that computer spilled out over someone's entire house, and it has nothing to do with how rich or poor a person is. Some people just have different standards (or none at all) for hygiene. I'm not convinced however that your bottom image are of oothecae, at least not german cockroaches. The german cockroach will carry the ootheca until just before the eggs hatch. I guess I'd need to get a closer look. But, there is definitely fecal matter. I would have loved to have opened that computer with you. Do you remember how it smelled? *sigh* Now excuse me, I need to go clean out my computer. (:

Sheena-kay Graham said...

That's awful but I think people with different sets of values should debate to get a window into the world of someone else. Will it change their minds? Maybe not but it's not always bad to get a look at a different point of view. Like Elise I'm also thinking about a cleaner computer now. Also thinking of rams, chasing an annoying hiker (don't ask). Have a good weekend.

Brinda said...

I'm still grossing out over here. I think people rarely take the panels off and clean them on desktops. That's a great suggestion for more than cockroach infestation.

I have laptops only, so I don't have to worry about the unknown in a PC tower. That client is well aware of their pest problem and doesn't care. YUCK.

Anne Gallagher said...

Down here they're called Palmetto bugs, which I think is just a polite way to say they're roaches, but they're just as gross. The first time I saw one in my house I freaked out. t-o-t-a-l-l-y. Roaches in MY house? No way.

But down here (NC) if you don't spray at least once a month, they get in and you can't get rid of them. So I spray all the time.

Thanks for the heads up. I never would have thought they lived in a computer. I do clean mine, but haven't in about 6 months. I'm off to look.

Anne Gallagher said...

Down here they're called Palmetto bugs, which I think is just a polite way to say they're roaches, but they're just as gross. The first time I saw one in my house I freaked out. t-o-t-a-l-l-y. Roaches in MY house? No way.

But down here (NC) if you don't spray at least once a month, they get in and you can't get rid of them. So I spray all the time.

Thanks for the heads up. I never would have thought they lived in a computer. I do clean mine, but haven't in about 6 months. I'm off to look.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That is disgusting.
We have a bug guy that sprays our house every three months and it's rare we see one in the house. (And when we do, it's dying.) They freak out my wife, so if that had been her opening that computer, everyone in the building would've heard her scream.
And yes, we clean out our computers often.

Cindy said...

This is a good reminder because cleaning the inside of a computer can be easy to forget about. My Dad used to be an exterminator, so I've heard all kinds of things. Hard to believe someone is okay with living with roaches. I've seen some huge roaches in Florida, but not so much in Michigan.

Lexa Cain said...

I'd DIE if I found that kind of infestation in my house! Excuse me ... I have to go throw up now ...

Kevin Long said...

My computer has been making weird sounds lately and I assumed it was the fan on my sound card going bad. Now I every time it makes that squeal I'm going to check to make sure there isn't some sort of roach party going on.

Thanks for that mental image.

mooderino said...

I expect they were looking for a wifi connection. Cockroaches do most of the illegal downloading, I'm sure of it.


PT Dilloway, Grumpy Bulldog said...

I had never heard of roaches living inside a computer. I suppose I'll have to open mine up at some point to see what's going on in there. Ick.

It is sad that some people become used to squalor. Like my sisters. I mean anymore if I go home there's like cat shit everywhere and yet they don't seem to grasp how nasty that is.

L.G. Smith said...

Just finished with breakfast, Michael. Thanks. :P

Wow, that is disgusting. The very first apartment I lived in on my own on capital hill in Denver had roaches. I lasted two months, and then skipped out on my lease in the middle of the night. *shivers*

Andrew Leon said...

I had when I was growing up whose house was covered with roaches. And I don't mean you'd see that at night when you turned the light on. They were out running around all the time, all day long. Their fish tank was filled with them. I hated going over there.

farawayeyes said...

In the tropics these little buggers are common and some of em are three inches long. Fortunately, I have a 'bug man' come in once a month (not to mention I clean regularly) and I use a laptop.

Opening minds,like opening a computer should be done with a delicate touch. As long as someone is polite, I'm more than willing to listen to 'the other side'. It might not change my mind, but I surely cam come to a better understanding of where the other person is coming from.

Michael Offutt, S.F.A. said...

@Elise: You win the best comment of the day. I luv you bug lady!

As for anyone else, if you'd like instructions on how I clean out a computer, just let me know and I'll email you instructions. Panels are easy to slide off. Just be prepared for the mess within.

M. J. Joachim said...

You know, I simply would never have thought about bugs living inside my computer until reading this post. And as much as I hate cockroaches, I'm more amazed by how many things I've learned from you today. On another note...eeewwweee!!! As much as I use this thing, I believe I'll start looking for bugs to come crawling up through my keyboard...eeewwweee, eeewwweeee, eeewwwweee!!!

SA Larsenッ said...

Oh my, oh my, oh my GOSH!!!!!!!!!! Not much freaks me out. But I was in New York City a while back and almost stepped on one...with bare feet. Yeah, don't ask why my feet were bare. It was a dancer's thing. Anyway, that is awful!

M Pax said...

Yuck! When I lived in VA, they were a given pretty much. We always had roach hotels down and they worked pretty well.

Husband Unit periodically cleans my computer. I get cats breeding in mine...

Briane P said...

Well, first of all, I'm not sure that a person's attitude towards roaches serves as an exemplar as to what is wrong with discourse in America.

The remarks of the computer owner made me wonder what's going on in her life that she so blithely accepts roaches as a part of it? When I lived in Milwaukee, in a dingy efficiency apartment near the bad part of town, I had a neighbor who never cleaned up and got roaches in his apartment. I found out about them when they got into MY apartment, which I generally kept very clean, or at least reasonably clean. I complained so much that the guy eventually left -- I don't know if he was evicted.

But sometimes people's lives are so dismal that roaches in their house isn't even near the top of their list for problems. When we had an ant problem a few years back, we hired an exterminator to come around once a month and keep us ant-free. That's because we (A) had the money to do that and (B) had the luxury of ants being a major problem, which essentially means that we had no really serious problems at the time.

If roaches are not a problem, that either means that there's so much worse in that woman's life that she can't really get worked up about roaches, or she needs help understanding why this is a problem. I think the universe of people who have no outside problems but don't mind roaches would be relatively small.

So while I'm as disgusted as you are, my disgust is equally aimed at a society where a woman's life can be so terrible that roaches don't even register.

Suz Korb said...

Thanks for that! She says with heavy sarcasm.

Seriously though, dude. Major ew!

I'm going to have the heeby jeebies all weekend now. Oh well, at least I don't own any computer towers. And I never will again after reading this.

Suz Korb said...

On the other hand, I think you're right about points of view. Now that I'm an outspoken atheist I've come to realize that no matter how many times I tell believers my view of facts, they NEVER understand. So I give up and that's just fine.

Helena said...

Oh great -- NOW I find out I shouldn't vacuum the cat hair off the front of my computer. And I never knew I should be cleaning the inside of it, so I'll figure out how to this weekend. But I doubt there'd be any roaches in it because if I saw one of those nasty little bugs in my place I'd freak and clean like crazy, and I'm not even a clean freak. But I do know that one bug can lead to millions more, so I'd attack while I still had the advantage.

Matthew MacNish said...

I remember the first time I installed a CD-RW drive in my own PC. It was the first time I'd ever opened up a case. Maybe around 1999. I've never turned back ever since, but I've never found insects inside one, either. That's hard core.

Did you ever see the inside of a Power Mac G5? The compartmentalized cooling system was a thing of beauty.

M. J. Joachim said...

Thanks for the inspiration, Michael:)

David P. King said...

Ever watch "Horders?" *shiver*

I need some compressed air, I think. :)

Liz said...

Ew! I was thinking about lunch, but I don't think I'm hungry anymore.

The last time I was inside the desktop, it was way dusty. Probably should clean it out. But no bugs. I'm not that great a housekeeper, but bugs are a no-go.

As for arguing with someone who just doesn't understand--that's why I don't do it. When a person is ready to hear the other point of view, he'll go looking for it. Until then, it's like yelling in Swahili to a person who only speaks Chinese.

Melissa said...

For such an ewwww post, this left me feeling good. I cleaned inside my tower just the other day. :)
(For the record, no roaches, just dust.)

Donna Hole said...

My first hubby and I owned a TV repair shop and we constantly battled roaches in VCR's, TV's, Stereo's; you name it, the bugs loved electronics. Some customers had the nerve to say the bugs entered their equipment in our store.

The other night my son and I were watching Hoarders and this lady's house was over run with roaches. She ate her food with them like, two inches from the pot. I was so grossed out I couldn't watch.

I honestly don't know how people get used to the sight of those things on their counters and in everything they eat. So gross.


Belle said...

Wow, I feel for you. We get ants once in awhile (like when there is something sweet on the floor) but I can't imagine cockroaches. We don't seem to get them up in the frozen north.
It is amazing she didn't even care she transported those horrible bugs into your house. Very strange.

Mina Lobo said...


::shudders/heaves/pokes own eyes out::

D.G. Hudson said...

Yuk. I dislike cockroaches a lot, having lived in the swampy south.

Perhaps they should make an animated movie about cockroaches so we'd all feel more tolerant, like Elise. It must be an acquired habit.

Misha Gericke said...

Ew ew ew!!! Your post freaked me out.

And yep, I came to the same realization as you after a futile "discussion" with people who disrespected my faith. If they don't give a shit about anything, I can't make them understand the concept of respecting other people regardless of belief.

So... Now I've just taken to ignoring ignorance. Me saying anything probably won't change them, since they're too stupid to realize how out of line they are.

Patricia T. said...

Like your anology. But, not the cockroaches. Creepy. Was it done on purpose or someone's house was infested. UGH!

Richard Hughes said...

I've opened my computer stacks before and found only dust, thank goodness. It was inconsiderate of that person, especially if she knew there were roaches. If she didn't know, oh well, she should have, because they must be everywhere in her home. Obviously, they don't bother her.

Danette said...

I'm not even surprised by her reaction. We have people return books at the library that aren't even theirs with water damage or bugs (usually bed bugs) and they don't get what the problem is. It is a different set of values. And the whole idea that you can change someone's mindset/values is naive. People are more than just a set of ideas and it takes a lot more than just giving them a new idea to get them to change. That's why people who are religious balk at evolution. They cannot accept it because it goes against their whole frame of reality in spite of the evidence.

Glad you explained the point about compressed air. I usually use my vacuum and I better open up the panel- I haven't done that in a long time. You're a lifesaver on the computer stuff!

Christine Rains said...

EEK! My husband is a computer guy, so our electronics are in good shape. Yet he had a friend he grew up with that had a house always infested. We visited them once five or six years ago, and his apartment was crawling with roaches. Even in his computer when he printed off something for my husband. It was horrifying. My husband's friend and his wife didn't even blink at the bugs. My husband and I made an excuse to leave early, went to the nearest hotel, and cleaned everything we wore and ourselves. Three times. Maybe four.

Alyson Burdette said...

Ugh, now I feel like I need a shower. :p People are weird about that kind of stuff. In worked at a salon once and a lady came in with lice. When the stylist told her about it she said she knew and that they had been there awhile so the were 'inactive.' I think people just build up a tolerance for gross stuff with time. Bugs will never no freak me out a little though.

Callie Leuck said...

That is disgusting but also incredibly insightful.

But you can get used to anything, pretty much. I eventually got used to the horrible crickets that were getting into our house at night for a few months. (camelback crickets: the ugliest damn bug.)

Thanks for the tip on how to clean computers. I've definitely taken the panel off before (a lot of people are terrified of breaking something) but I wasn't sure how to clean it so I just wiped the inside surfaces with a cloth. Hopefully I haven't somehow ruined everything forever. No dead roaches, thankfully.

skulldruggery said...

There was no different set of values, the person who left that computer there was a straight up pig! id have told her she will get a new one when she buys it and can come and pick up the one she dropped off! careful if i dont try and sue for the pest control bill! ( but if you have roaches like that i doubt you have any money to pay!) so what ineed! yuck!

skulldruggery said...

id have told her she will get another one when she buys a new computer and gave her the piece of roach infested crap she gave you back tied in several plastic bags! no freakin way are those different values, she was just plain nasty! then i would have presented a bill for the pest control! so what my ass!

Arlen Allen said...

As a self employed computer repairman, I have seen the disgusting pictures posted above. I have to inform the laptop users that they ARE NOT exempt from roach infestation. I have seen laptops with roaches infestations also. Just sayin'.

Arlen Allen said...

Unfortunately, laptops are not exempt from roach infestations. As a self-employed computer repairman I have seen this first hand. I have seen this situation (laptops and desktops) kill motherboards and power supplies. I cringe every time I open a machine that has "critter" evidence.

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

@Arlen: Thanks for visiting. Yeah it's definitely cringe worthy. Good thing I haven't seen it often.