You might remember a scene in Annie Hall that takes place after the titular character and Alvy Singer have parted ways. Alvy receives a frantic 3am phone call, rushing across the city for Annie’s purported emergency. He is incredulous to learn it’s just a spider in the bathroom.
Annie and the women of 1977 were Liberated™, but I hold this truth to be self-evident: not even Judith Butler relishes the chance to squash a spider. The letting-men-kill-the-bugs thing is a gender role relic that frankly doesn’t ruffle my feminist feathers. I’m happy to hurl them my independently purchased Raid can while I tend to our bigger battles.
I experienced a peculiarly Florentine version of this phenomenon, though, after our condo administrator alerted tenants of a cockroach invasion. Many of us hadn’t noticed, since the vile little rascals blended in with the pebbled floor.
It was Wednesday, midnight. Wearing my (literal) grandmother’s nightgown, I was petting my excitable pup when the doorbell rang, and he let out your requisite yap or six. (His daily don’t-bark-at-the-doorbell training consists in me gently reminding him of city noise ordinances, a method I’m soon to patent.)
I ignored the bell, since only serial killers ring bells after 10pm. But through the peephole I spotted my upstairs neighbor, a nice young father with whom I’ve probably exchanged four words. HE’s the killer? Calming down once I saw he was clutching a broom, I opened the door.
“Sorry for the disturbo,” he said, his eyes jumping between the grandma gown and babbling furball. “But I was out here killing cockroaches, and I saw one crawl under your door.” Then he walked away.
Perhaps I’m old fashioned. But I was baffled as to why a relative stranger would ring at midnight to share such information, gawk at his neighbor’s nightwear, rile up her dog and then fail to deliver. The knight in shining armor showed up, but dropped the ball. Or in this case, the broom. Mercifully, I buy my own Raid.