by Prissy Elrod | March 26, 2018

What Really Bugs Me

Prissy Elrod tells how the Sunshine State's tiniest icons cause the biggest fuss

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Prissy Elrod; Photography by Garrett Robinson

It was hump day, a Wednesday. I’d been out of town Monday and Tuesday and was leaving the next day for the rest of the week. I had one day to do what women do. Which, by the way, is everything for everyone.

I left Whole Foods with a carload of groceries. My busy brain was making a mental list of what I still needed to do. I calculated it would take an hour to blow out my long hair. I was dreading the whole ordeal: washing, drying, curling the frizzy strands. A time stealer, that’s what that was. Not to mention the unpacking, repacking, blah, blah, blah.

I was heading north on Thomasville Road when I passed Haute Headz, a local hair salon. A lightbulb went off. I made an unlawful U-turn and drove back to the salon. A shampoo bar, the trend for lazy gals, is what I needed. OK, “for busy ladies” is nicer, although busy and lazy are both ridiculous reasons to pay someone to wash my hair. But I don’t care. Call me a busy, lazy author.

I was sitting in the chair with my hair squeaky clean, feeling so happy. It takes so little to get me there. According to Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages, my language is “acts of service.”

“How do you want it styled today?” she asked.

“Big, real big. That way it’ll last a few days.”

“No problem, I can make it big.” And she did. She teased it high with long, dangling curls, sprayed stiff. It would last for days, if not weeks.

I climbed out of her chair and bounced myself right on out of there, wearing my new prom do. It was dark, almost 6:00 p.m., when I pulled into my neighborhood. I drove the winding road with my bright lights shining. I stopped at the end of our driveway to grab the mail. I never retrieve mail at night, but decided to make an exception. I’d been waiting for Flamingo’s winter issue.

Without street lights, it was darker than dark. We have an extra-large mailbox built inside a six-foot column covered with fig ivy. I jumped from my car and looked inside the galvanized steel box, but it was too dark to see if there was any mail. I reached far inside with both arms outstretched and my head halfway in, felt for the stack and pulled it out. With the mail and my five bags of groceries, I pulled inside the garage, and the unloading began.

I’d been home about an hour. My groceries were put away, and it was already after 7 o’clock. It was time to cook dinner. Remember, women do everything. I pulled our entree—a frozen pizza—from the freezer and doctored it up with eggplant, arugula, tomatoes and garlic.

I was chopping eggplant, sipping wine and listening to Alexa play Ed Sheeran when I felt a whisk above my hair. I looked up toward my pot rack. I saw nothing and was still chopping when Dale, my husband, walked into the kitchen. He was hungry, and his cook was slow.

“Hey, can you see if there’s something in my hair?” He walked around the island to where I stood and looked over his reading glasses. I lowered my head. He brushed the top of my tease. “Nope, I don’t see anything.”

“Look again, do it better than that, please.” Men! I swear. He pulled and parted my hair with his oversized fingers. “Nope, still nothing there.”

“You’re positive? I swear I felt something.”

“There’s nothing there, Prissy.” He was hungry.

“Do you see any cobwebs?” I pointed to the pot rack above me.

“Nope, I don’t see anything up there either.”  He walked out, heading back to his study. I went back to chopping, sipping and singing along with Ed.

My oven beeped that it had reached 425 degrees, and I grabbed my pizza. When I bent down to put it in the oven, the unthinkable happened. A cockroach crawled out of my coiffure and down my face. Then it fell from my face to the arugula stacked atop the pizza crust and from there to my right foot. It was then that Dale heard curdling screams and a crashing pan.

Bang! Shriek! Oh, s—! I ran to the shower to undo my updo.

I spent 40 minutes in the shower, scrubbing hair, scalp and body. And Dale, that poor man. I blamed him for not finding the roach when he examined my hair.

“I told you before, never get the mail at night. They live in that fig ivy and crawl in our mailbox at night.”

“You never told me that. I don’t remember you telling me that,” I kept saying. “It burrowed in my hair for over an hour. What if she was pregnant and laid eggs?”

“That’s crazy, not even possible, Prissy.”

“Okay, it’s unlikely, but it could happen. An egg capsule can be inside from 12 hours to five days. The incubation is 42 to 81 days. An ootheca can contain up to 50 eggs. An egg becomes an adult roach in 103 days. A pregnant roach can form from six to 90 ootheca. One female roach can produce 90 to 1,350 babies and they hatch in 24 to 38 days.”

“Have you been on Wikipedia again?” he asked.

“Yes, I have. Don’t forget about that damn spider.”

The spider saga happened to me on a cold winter night a few years back. I was minding my own business, soaking in a tub full of Epsom salts and lavender bubbles, with a scented candle burning next to my head. The ambiance was magazine-perfect until I spotted a spider on the white limestone tile. I was sure it was a brown recluse. After all, it was brown. I watched as it ran across my slippers next to the tub.

“Dale!”  I screamed.

He ran from his office lickety-quick. By the way, I’ve learned that, if you yell for a man, not at them, well, they just do better. Period.

“You scared me to death. What?” He could see my eyes above the bubbles and salt. “God, I thought you’d fallen.”

“Look, it’s a recluse!” I screamed, as though it were his fault.

“Where? That’s no recluse. It’s a baby wolf.” The man is calm, not to mention smart.

“I don’t care what it is. Get it out. Look how big he is.”

He grabbed a tissue to scoop him up. But the moment he placed the tissue over the spider, it exploded. Like fireworks. There were hundreds—if not thousands—of tiny spiders dispersing from that one speck. It wasn’t a he, but a she. I was a crazed, screaming, naked lunatic. Days later, I searched Wiki-know-everything and learned that a mama spider can haul up to 1,500 babies. Having remembered the spider incident, I checked to see if the roach that crawled around my head might be pregnant. Hello, who wouldn’t?

It was then, while doing research online about roaches and reproduction, that I learned that some states have an official insect. I had no idea. Florida picked the zebra longwing butterfly. It’s such a pretty specimen for our state. It is. But, from my experiences, the most iconic Florida insect is not a butterfly but rather the cockroach.

We can dress up that nasty-ass creepy crawler with a fancy name, but it’s still a cockroach. I would rather wake up to an alligator spooning me than even see one of those things. And that spooning alligator could be wearing a moccasin around his fat neck. Gators and snakes don’t scare me. But a roach! God made them by mistake.

Back in the kitchen, Dale was tired of listening to my reflective roach story. But I didn’t care, and just kept on keeping on. During my talkfest, I brought up another experience that contributed to my insect phobia. It occurred decades ago, when I was three months into my newest career—motherhood. I had decided to pack up my new baby girl, Garrett, for a drive to my hometown, Lake City. My sister lived in the country a few miles away. I went to visit and see her farmhouse. When my baby started fussing, I laid her in their crib, which was located in a guest room.

We were 30 minutes into our chitchat when I heard a piercing scream coming from the crib room. Because I had recently read that it’s okay to let a crying baby cry itself back to sleep, I ignored her sweet little self and let her fuss a few minutes longer. But the screams got louder. I decided to ignore my mommy manual and check on Garrett.

I cracked the door for a peek. I can’t even describe the horror. Termites were swarming the room, crawling on the ceiling, crib and walls. There were hundreds of them, dropping by the gallon into the crib, onto my pile of pink. My captive child was on her back, eyes wide open, scared to death. She was thrashing with her little arms and legs. I can’t even …

Dale interrupted me in the middle of telling the termite story for the thousandth time.

“I’ll spray the mailbox.”

“No, you can’t spray toxic chemicals.”

I’m an off-the-chart organic snob. As an alternative, he armed our mailbox with a bag of mothballs. Now the whole mailbox—and all the mail—smells mothy and stinky. Plus, I remain suspicious of everything inside, including envelopes and catalogs. I’m now spraying the mail with Lysol.

I know what you may be thinking. She needs therapy. And yes, I probably do.

Dr. Phil would probably say, “It’s not about the insects, Prissy. Let’s talk about what’s really troubling you.”

And I’d say, “Buzz off, Dr. Phil!”