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MIT student blogger Yuliya K. '18

Battle of the Boot by Yuliya K. '18

storytime with Yuliya #1

I was ecstatic. An educational video I had made for my IAP class was going to debut on the big screen. A white sheet would descend from the ceiling of the Simmons auditorium and display my work of many days. There’d be guests from serious organizations like OpenCourseWare, MITx, and MIT Admissions blogs.

20.219 Becoming the Next Bill Nye was to end with a magnificent ceremony for all students (who each created a video), and there’d be free food and interviews. I dubbed the event The Red Carpet Premiere.

On this very special evening, I decided to dress up so I could walk straight past the rows of viewers. I donned my best cardigan and favorite boots.

Underneath my shoes, I concealed the mark of laziness, two mismatched socks: one, a professional grey to match my shirt, and the other a neon yellow wonder, sprinkled lightly with East Campus dust. I had considered changing into better socks, but why would anyone ever check inside the boots?

The walk to Simmons was regular. I marvelled at the West Campus landscape, the black night sky, and the tiny worm of the crescent moon. I was feeling pretty fancy then.

At last, I reached the Simmons sponge. I leaned over slightly to pull the doorknob. My right foot slid down the boot’s incline…

My foot was not the only thing there.

I had not put anything else in my boot. I was quite certain of that. But I still needed to check.

The women’s bathroom in Simmons shone with a clean metallic glow. I locked myself inside one of the stalls and took off the boot.

A giant cockroach sprung outside. It barely missed my hand.

(let me shake my feet as I cringe at the recollection)

I’m going to go graphic on you here. College fed cockroaches are fat, fast, and filthy. East Campus cockroaches have survived poison, stomping, and a professional all-floor kitchen raid, yet their skins remain glossy and smooth; their movements are full of vitality.

In my stall, I tossed the boot as far as possible. I also prepared for an escape maneuver up the toilet seat as I waited for the creature to abandon its stuffy confines.

The pest stormed out the boot and… (as I searched for the optimal way to get above ground)

… ran back inside.

Seriously, roach? There I was, sweating under a winter jacket, running late to the premiere of my own movie, and facing the most daunting task.

Carefully, I reached for the roach’s domain and shook the shoe with the desperation of a failed killer. The cockroach would not come out.

I shone a light inside the boot. Nothing there. Had the cockroach left when I wasn’t looking? For a blissful moment, I breathed in peace.

Then I reached my fingers into the boot to ensure the bottom was clear. My fingertips hit the insect’s hard shell.

Viciously, I ripped at the nearby toilet paper roll, wrapping my hand in the armor, and reached again. The beast was still there, and I prayed it was alive, because the combination of “corpse” and “cockroach” would not improve my torment.

I looked around the stall for a sharp poker. Alas, the bathroom didn’t provide one.

The boot lay between me and the door, but I could still escape. I did not care about leaving my footwear in the Simmons bathroom. I needed to get out. The roach had won.

Then I remembered my neon sock sprinkled with East Campus dust. And the grey sock. For years, I had worn perfectly matched socks to avoid this embarrassment, until the one day it mattered.

I couldn’t possibly walk to the premiere like that, not with the ugly mistake glowing neon in everyone’s faces. I couldn’t hobble with only one boot. I couldn’t defeat the roach. I could only remain late, sweaty, and miserable…

With a final surge of courage, I grabbed the boot by its tip, and shook. And shook…

And the roach left. Terrified of its victor, it hid two stalls down. I zipped up my trophy and marched to the premiere, the toes of my right foot curled so as not to touch the cockroach’s former domain. It could have laid eggs.

(Note: it could not. I’m pretty sure.)

Safely at the auditorium, I got food and engaged in conversation. All was well, and I wasn’t even the last student to come in, so, really, the roach didn’t do that much damage. The ordeal was over. Now onto the fun part of the evening…

Then the 20.219 co-instructor arrived. “Have you been to Simmons before?” I heard snippets of her conversation.

“I haven’t,” she responded, “And, you know, I thought it was a really nice dorm. I went in, and the bathroom seemed very clean. Then I saw this giant cockroach on the floor…”

From the stage below, I defended Simmons’ honor.

“That cockroach came from my boot. It’s an East Campus roach.”

Never thought I’d say those words.

Where was the cockroach from?

My boot.



BONUS Facts about Cockroaches (that prove they’re actually awesome):

  • To note among roaches is Nadezhda (translated as “Hope”), a cockroach sent into space by Russian scientists during the Foton-M test. It became the first terrestrial creature to give birth in space.
  • Some cockroaches have been known to live up to three months without food and a month without water. They can go without air for 45 minutes or submerged underwater for half an hour. Cockroaches can even live for a week without their heads.
  • A 2007 Japanese research found that cockroaches have memory, enabling them to form Pavlovian reflexes (learning!). The researchers taught cockroaches to salivate in response to neutral stimuli like the Russian scientist Pavlov did a century ago with dogs. This kind of intelligent salivating response was previously proven only in humans, apes, dogs and other mammals.
  • The process of using compounds extracted from roaches has shown potential in remedying burns, heart disease, hepatitis, trauma, etc.
  • The cockroach is considered one of the fastest running insects. One roach registered a record speed of 5.4 km/h (3.4 mph), about 50 body lengths per second, which would be comparable to a human running at 330 km/h (210 mph). A one-day-old baby cockroach, which is about the size of a speck of dust, can run almost as fast as its parents.
  • Cockroaches date back to the Carboniferous period (354–295 million years ago, before the dinosaurs!).
  • The spines on the legs of roaches help in locomotion on difficult terrain. The structures have been used as inspiration for robotic legs.
  • It is popularly suggested that cockroaches will “inherit the earth” if humanity destroys itself in a nuclear war. Cockroaches do indeed have a much higher radiation resistance than vertebrates, with the lethal dose perhaps six to fifteen times higher than that for humans. However, they are not exceptionally radiation-resistant compared to other insects, such as the fruit fly.

(Sources: one, two, three, and four)