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They Are Just Palmetto Bugs

By Manny Roman

Manny RomanSeveral years ago, Ruth and I attended the MD Expo in Pine Mountain, Georgia. It was as great an educational and relationships-building gathering as all the MD Publishing events are today. The resort accommodations were the private-entry type which means the door led directly to the outside world.

One night as we were preparing to sleep away the day’s festivities, I entered the bathroom to find a giant cockroach wandering around the bathtub. I immediately realized that Ruth would freak out and we would be on a plane that night if she saw the intruder. Armed with some tissue and courage, for I also fear these monsters, I chased the cucaracha around the bathroom without success. It must have been quite a sight, me in my underwear chasing Manuelito around the bathroom.

Manuelito was making his escape into the bedroom area. This would let the cucaracha out of the bag if you will. Ruth would see him, and we would not even pack our luggage before leaving. I performed a beautiful dive and met with success. I now had the squirming three-inch monster in my tissued hand. Manuelito fought valiantly and in vain to stay afloat in the toilet. I have never seen Ruth’s green eyes so wide open before or since. I assured her that all was well, and I would call the desk to take care of things.

The lady at the other end of the line had the usual Southern accent and welcoming voice. I explained that I had just evicted a giant cockroach and asked that someone come in the morning and do whatever they do for these situations. She said, “Oh no, Mr. Roman. That is not a cockroach. That is just a Palmetto bug that we have here because of all the beautiful and lush vegetation.” This is like saying, “Oh no Mr. Roman. That is not a burglar. That is just cousin Billy.”

She then said, “Is this your first time in the South?” This caused me to defend the fact that I am a world traveler and have visited the South many times. A beautiful redirection on her part. She assured me that all would be well and we shared a pleasant “Good night.” As I hung up the phone it occurred to me that she used a technique that I discuss in my customer relations seminars to redirect a conversation away from possible confrontation. I realized how powerful this is.

So, why am I taking valuable space in this wonderful publication to share that dumb incident? Because it surprisingly happened again just last week in San Diego, California.

The situation was quite similar: Private entry, lush foliage, wonderful and friendly staff. It was the last morning at the resort. We came out of the door onto a small private first floor patio. We were greeted by 1 million cockroaches of all possible sizes and colors. OK, maybe not a million but certainly at least over 100 on the patio and 20 feet either way on the walkway and the adjacent wall. One thought it was small and thin enough that it was attempting to gain access to the room under the door. We informed a nearby service person of the situation and he quickly grabbed a broom and dust pan and went to work.

Luckily, we had already packed everything. We made our way to the lobby to check out, dancing around the bugs and ignoring the crunching under the luggage wheels. We approached the very friendly host at the desk with the intention of making them aware of the situation so they could take appropriate actions. And then it happened. Guess what the host said.

“Oh no, Mr. Roman. Those are not cockroaches. They are just Palmetto bugs that we have here because of all the beautiful and lush vegetation.” Ruth and I could not believe it! Is there a front desk school training program to disguise a cockroach infestation into a swarm of magical benevolent fairies just arrived from strawberry fields?

I was almost amused until I felt a little insulted. I informed the young lady that “Palmetto bug” is a Southern term for a very large member of the cockroach family. Really, it is. Look it up. She replied that she would reduce our invoice by $100. It was not my intent to receive compensation for anything, however the money reduced the insult to zero.

Upon arrival at home, Ruth insisted that all luggage be left in the garage so that all items could be washed before entering the home. I must admit that I now feel sorry for those bugs. Their primary offense is that they are unattractive and can’t bring you your slippers.

Manny Roman, CRES



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