After my lab mates picked up six cockroaches and put them into jars to sleep, my T.A. gave my class an opportunity to hold a cockroach because this was our last lab that worked with live cockroaches. We were learning about action potentials by stimulating cockroach leg hairs and listening to the neuronal firing that followed.This meant that the roaches were going to be sacrificed for scientific knowledge, but it did not mean that we had to be solemn. I jumped at the offer of holding a cockroach. It’s not every day that you get to hold a cockroach that does not make you freeze and panic as soon as you see it. It was a lab subject that was to be treated with respect, which meant that it was deemed safe to handle (with latex gloves, of course).
As excited as I was, I was also nervous as soon as I put my hand into the cockroach tank. There were only two large brown roaches left scurrying around the unfurnished clear container. The pitter-patters of their feet could be heard as I leaned over the tank to determine which roach to pick up. They did not run away when my hand approached them, so I picked up the nearest one and held it above the tank rim in my hand.
It did not try to run, nor did it put up any resistance to being picked up, and sat in my hand while I admired its calmness. Its antennae wiggled as it stayed still in my palm, and did not walk around. After a few seconds of staring at the bug that I have hated for most of my life, I began to look at it with wonder. It was quite cute; it did not make sudden movements, or frightened me. I think its antennae moving around while it sat still was astounding; I had never seen one that did not scurry away when I approached it, never even close to holding it. Actually, I don’t think I would have wanted to even hold a cockroach before this encounter. The fact that I was holding a cockroach meant that I found some positive feelings and imposed them onto it. I think I was so happy to be holding something that I had feared and despised for so long that I was shocked and surprised, and stunned, at the cockroach that sat still in my palm.
While staring at the roach. I had an epiphany. I was shaking hands with a cockroach. “Nice to meet you today, sir. How do you do?” ran through my head. I smiled at the creature and put it back in its tank, and the barrier between human and bug returned.