It's Our Turn: Commencement, cockroaches and chaosThe cockroaches and I learned to keep separate spaces – except the time they invaded the inside of my microwave. I noticed one day I couldn’t read the numbers on the clock. Cockroaches had gotten in the holes in the back of the microwave and grew so large inside – no doubt sharing my Hot Pockets – that they couldn’t get out. Those little fellas found their new abode had relocated to the Dumpster.
By: Crystal Dey, Alexandria Echo Press
Graduation - the beginning of a new adventure in a person's life.
It was May 2003. I had just graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead. It only seemed fitting, being the gypsy that I am, to move to a far away land and discover life anew.
So, where to? I'd already experienced Minnesota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado. I started researching places I always wanted to visit. New Orleans was on top of the list - but too expensive and as misfortune would have it, the destination for a vicious hurricane named Katrina.
A year later I was finally ready. In October 2004, I set out for the land Ponce de Leon scoured in search of the Fountain of Youth - Florida. I was tired of snow and had never lived in the "South" before. I learned quickly that Florida isn't considered part of the South; it's kind of its own territory.
Over the river, through the woods, across cornfields, up and down mountains and thousands of miles of asphalt I was on my way to sunshiny Tampa. My first palm tree sighting was in Georgia. Next stop - home.
Home turned out to be in the ghetto. Odd, Avalon Village looked so nice online. How bad could it be? I checked in with the office, took the grand tour and signed the lease committing to a year in what locals called "Little Mexico."
As I was marveling at my new surroundings, while simultaneously unloading the U-haul, a woman approached. My hopes of making a friend were quickly dashed when she said, "You picked the wrong hood girlfriend," and kept walking.
Hmm, maybe it was the North Dakota license plates on the U-haul that made me look like a honky. I hadn't realized I even picked a "hood" prior to my arrival. But, I'm an Iron Ranger and Rangers can live through anything so I kept unpacking - until I encountered something we Rangers don't see every day.
The song "La Cucaracha" started playing in my head from third grade music class. There were cockroaches scurrying throughout my kitchen cupboards!
I, as calmly as I could, walked over to the apartment office to inform the manager of the obvious problem. Not so obvious I found out, as she pulled two bug bombs out from underneath the desk, told me to set them off and leave the apartment for a few hours.
So I did. I went to Walmart to pick up some Rubbermaid containers I knew I'd need to keep the cockroaches out of my kitchenware. As I stood in line hearing chitchat, but not understanding a word of it, I realized everyone was speaking Spanish and I was suddenly very aware of my pasty-whiteness.
I highly recommend the experience, not the cockroaches, but the getting out of your element part. It puts life into perspective.
Back to that life. I returned to Home Sweet Home and cleaned everything possible with bleach water. I didn't even want to know what the crunch under the carpet was or the tick-tick-tick in the walls at night. I was living an adventure every day.
At night I had live music and entertainment outside my apartment door. I think I saw an episode of C.O.P.S. through my living room window once and the squatters who lived downstairs were very polite.
The cockroaches and I learned to keep separate spaces - except the time they invaded the inside of my microwave. I noticed one day I couldn't read the numbers on the clock. Cockroaches had gotten in the holes in the back of the microwave and grew so large inside - no doubt sharing my Hot Pockets - that they couldn't get out. Those little fellas found their new abode had relocated to the Dumpster.
I'll always remember the people I met, the friends I made, the beach on my birthday in February, Crabby Bills crab-shack and the day that guy looked at me in my bikini top and shorts and said "Da-haam!" I am pretty sure it was how the sun reflected off my whiter-than-the-sand skin that evoked his response; he was that beautiful Caribbean mahogany shade.
So, while I did pick up a few things living in Tampa like "ya'll" and "soda," they can keep the cockroaches. I'll take my Minnesota mosquitoes and bug dope.
Graduates, I leave you with this: Take a chance on your own adventure but beware of the $99 move-in specials. Sometimes the swimming pools turn out to be cesspools.
"It's Our Turn" is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.