As my feet grudgingly take me to my last stair downward, an over powering feeling of helplessness comes over me like a cold wave. In front of me is just the first part of an all but impossible task that I cannot avoid, there is no way around it and there is no escaping the horror which is just mere moments away.
To the left of me seems like a mile of food stalls. All of them need to be combed over, scoured for any sign of the evil life that infests this place and treated. To the right, a long long isle of nothing less. Like a huge life sized chess board this deadly game challenges my every fiber, takes me to the limits and practically exhausts my every ounce of energy and I have not even unleashed the first drop of my wares. Unlike the game of chess, my enemy has no set of rules which to play by and has quickly learned how to exploit the limitations that I must adhere to. With limited time to get this weeks horror filled episode behind me, I remind myself of a French Proverb–
“You cannot play at Chess if you are kind-hearted”
and I press on. (see part 1 here)
Each stall is a perfect 12 x 12 mini restaurant where foods from around the world are prepared, presented and served. The 1/2 walls surrounding these island eateries is made up of cinder blocks no more than 4 feet high and painted a brilliant bright white. Customers gaze over the walls and watch as their Calamari or other exotic dish is prepared.
The appliances are all polished stainless steel and the tiled floors reflects this illusion so that each stall seems to have an illumination of its own. Happy customers no doubt smile with glee as their paper wrapped cheese steak is handed over the counter or their fresh Brazilian Sea Bass still steaming from the grill is plated in a way befitting any 5 star restaurant. This open market place is smack in the middle of a bustling city and blue and white collar workers by the thousands converge on this place everyday for lunch and then again for dinner. However, it’s just a delusion, a mirage disguised as a food bazaar. This sickening deception that is so easily perpetrated on those who only pass by or stay long enough for their order to be filled.
I’m only 10 minutes into the service but this market has now taken on a whole other persona, a wicked and devious life of its own. From the hollow tubing framework of the appliances hundreds of roaches begin to stream. A small and almost unnoticeable crack in the cinder block wall suddenly reveals its harborage to thousands of cockroaches as they climb all over themselves in every direction to be first to this evenings bounty. In the corner a sewer rat sits perched like a squirrel when eating a nut. He’s found a scrap and is completely oblivious to my presence. I stomp my foot and wave my spray wand in his direction but almost as if unfazed, he only scoots a few short feet. There he pauses, looks back at his dropped scrap of food and then again at me. I can almost see his mind churning as it decides whether to risk another swipe or to just move on. With so much abundant food available this rat comes to an obvious conclusion. He simply snoot’s its nose in the air as if to remind me of my insignificance, leaps to the top of the wall and disappears.
Below eye level is a world that no clientele would ever see, for if they did they would never set foot in this place again. Just inches beneath the shiny cook tops, thick layers of grease cover the walls and equipment. Stalactites of grease hang from the undercarriage of the stoves and counters telling a tale of woeful neglect while 3 inch high stalagmites of this same primordial ooze tell you just how long this was going on. One only had to go down on one knee to see that sanitation was not a priority. Piles of food fragments were swept just out of sight but never discarded, rank germ infested water half fills the mop bucket and you didn’t dare put your face directly over it. Each stall had a floor drain (some with 2) and it looks as if the proprietors treated it like a garbage disposal. Meats, bread, fruits and vegetables all forcefully stuffed in this 4 inch opening as if they were hoping it would just magically disappear. This spot was like the holy grail for the roaches and they covered it in such mass it was like a moving blob with no distinguishable parts.
Behind me another rat has scurried down the wall and walks past me while a 2nd is now scouring the cook top for anything he can consume. Dozens of baby roaches flee for their lives as I give an aerosol blast to each of the small mop bucket wheels. Snap traps go off in the background and the loud squeals tell me they missed their mark. My weak company issued flashlight reveals tiny triangular silhouettes flitting about the base of the white walls and I can see more coming up through the drain. Maggots in the bottom of a disgusting small trash can are crawling upward seeking a place to continue their life cycle while a brave and very rare mouse is poking his head out of a dime sized hole of the oven. The sound of the market is now at an all time high and this auditorium sized room is filled with ungodly sounds. The clamor of pots and pans being pushed about, trash cans being knocked over and the loud crack of a snap traps pierce the roaring cacophony followed by high pitched squeals of the rats who escaped and were only grazed by the thick spring loaded wire of death.
A bead of sweat streaks down the side of my face and hits my neck and uncontrollably my whole body winces. I can feel my mind being sucked into this frenzied chaotic episode and I begin to wish I was back out at my truck, loading up my gear and driving away. At least a dozen roaches have found my grounded knee and are now searching my pant leg for anything edible-one has penetrated inside my pant leg and in a moment of hysteria and panic I jump to my feet and begin flailing away at my lower half trying to rid my body of these disgusting beasts.
With one last desperate karate chop to my pleated pant leg I send the final disgusting cockroach to the floor. Although I am unnerved, I defiantly place the sole of my shoe on its damaged body and slowly grind it into the tile like it was a lit cigarette. A little light headed from standing too quickly I can feel the energy drain from my body down through my legs. I survey the small cubicle and see hundreds if not thousands of writhing insect bodies still shaking from my onslaught of chemical warfare. Despite this, and to my amazement I see many who seem completely undaunted by my efforts. The rat who was on the stove top is now peering at me from behind a wooden knife block. He looks as if he’s unsure of what he’s seeing. A weekly nuisance which normally doesn’t bother him or a lunatic on the edge of any rationale or sanity. In a moment of pure rage I lunge at him with my trusty wand and smack it against the wooden holder- the rat easily evades me but the over turned block and dislodged knives reveal a huge nest of roaches I have missed.
With that, and the precious element of time against me, I pick up my sprayer and my tool box both now teeming with cockroaches…… and make my way to stall #2.