I am the cockroach

This weekend, once again, I had a burst of determination. It happens every now and then, and goes like this: I’m going to find a part-time job writing, so that all the time I spend writing, instead of doing housework or paid work or interacting with my family members or socialising, is not just indulgent, time-wasting, anti-social and ultimately meaningless.

On most occasions, immediately following this decision, more hours of time are wasted in anti-social activity as I trawl through internet results gleaned from a search for “Writing Jobs.”

This exercise never fails to remind me precisely why I don’t work in copywriting, advertising or any other field where I could theoretically utilise my writing skills (such as they are) and write to a brief. It’s possible to stumble across hundreds of advertisements for writing jobs, but as soon as I start to read one and sense there would be expectations, limitations, permutations or combinations imposed on what I had to write, I disregard it as a possibility. Where’s the fun in writing restricted, claustrophobic, boring copy to someone else’s requirements? Yawn.

Nevertheless, tonight I wasted half an hour or so on searching yet again, in a naively deluded fantasy that there may be someone out there with a position for a writer with little-to-no published history, to write about whatever they feel like, on a weekly (or fortnightly, depending how I’m feeling) basis, no restrictions imposed.

I’d had no luck so far, and had even investigated page 2 and 3 of the search results. When I desperately clicked on to page 4, I came across the heading: Termite Specialist. We all know it can be easy to fall down an internet rabbit hole, so I checked the search terms – yes, I was still on the search results for “writing jobs.”

Well, as nothing better had been on offer on pages 1-3, I paused to consider this opportunity for a moment. I was intrigued to discover that a writing job for a termite specialist existed. Writing jobs for termite specialists must surely be few and far between. If you happened to be a termite specialist who had been longing to spend less time wearing head-to-toe extermination gear and more time writing a character portrait of those frisky little buggers, this job opportunity would surely be your dream job!

Judging by the title of the position, and the accompanying url, I could confidently rule out the possibility that a university science department was looking for an entomologist specialising in the life-cycle of the termite. It appeared that some commercial company had created an ongoing, (or perhaps fixed-term) role for a writer to write specifically, and exclusively, (with specialisation) about Termites.

It seemed feasible, after all, last time I conducted the same search, I found a legitimate, permanent ongoing role with a Bollard company, writing content for their e-news, which – I have to assume – is focussed on the topic of bollards, and probably called “What’s new in Bollards this week?”

So in light of that, it seemed only natural that there should also be an ongoing role writing content for a e-newsletter dedicated to termites. This seemed to me to have even more potential for creativity than writing a newsletter about bollards. After all, bollards are, let’s face it, inanimate objects, and don’t really do or say very much. I suspect I’d find it a challenge to come up with new material after a few weeks of writing about bollards, unless the Bollard company was open to my taking inspiration from Gogol’s short story, The Nose, and creating an ongoing series about a Bollard that runs away and becomes a bit uppity; starts to dress in designer gear, and worms its way into Melbourne’s upper classes, driving a huge 4-wheel drive, smoking cigars at the Men’s only club on Collins Street and sending its children to schools somewhere in the Kew/Toorak area.

Termites, however, are alive, and fairly active from all accounts. There must be something interesting to write about them, but the first question to ask was, what was the purpose of this writing to be? (I didn’t bother to click the link, preferring to speculate.)

Firstly, as any writer considering a commercial project would do, I considered the potential readership. Who, I wondered, was the audience for The Wandering Termite (the name I was tentatively considering for my new termite website/magazine/newsletter)? Was it yuppies who had purchased small Victorian weatherboard terraces in Richmond, only to find that their supporting beams are continuously being devoured by those pesky little critters? If it was, how much new information about termites did these people require on an ongoing basis, and what sort of information were they after? I suspected, rather grimly, they were probably looking for articles detailing the latest and most effective ways to exterminate them, rather than creative surreal short stories about a bunch of renegade termites taking over Question Time in State Parliament.

Next, I considered my eligibility for the job at hand. While it would be stretch to call myself a Termite Specialist, I have read Metamorphosis, and written a post about cockroaches before. That makes me almost an expert on cockroaches, and surely they are almost the same thing?

An artist's impression of a termite/cockroach. (To tell the truth, the artist is not sure which it's meant to be.)

An artist’s impression of a termite/cockroach. (To tell the truth, the artist is not sure which it’s meant to be.)

A moment after having that thought, I face-palmed myself as I realised that a true Termite Specialist would never think such a thing!

That would be like an Irish person saying that a Dutch Cream potato was pretty much the same as a Desiree – something that would never happen. In real life, an Irish person stopped my (Australian) sister in the supermarket in Dublin once to say incredulously, “Surely you’re not going to use those potatoes in that are you?” – indicating an understanding of the nuances of potatoes vastly superior to mine, or hers. As well as an admirably passionate desire to eliminate potential potato calamities, even at the cost of intervening in a stranger’s shopping.

Anyway, back to the Termites. I checked the source of all knowledge, Wikipedia, and found that in fact cockroaches and termites come from the same order of insects. The order is one with the lot, including a handful of termites and cockroaches, to go, thanks.

No seriously, according to Wikipedia, termites

 evolved from close ancestors of cockroaches during the Jurassic or Triassic.

I wasn’t too far wrong then. Termites and cockroaches are basically third cousins, with a great, great, great grandmother in common. Or something similar.

Wikipedia also informs me that there are about 3,106 species of termites who have been described, and a few hundred more still to be described.

Aha! Maybe this writing job is for someone to describe a few hundred more species of termites. Well that’s pretty easy.  Small, spindly, 6 legs, 2 little antennae, creepy little heads with no discernible eyes, icky whiteish color….there you go – there’s another one described already, (*description based on a picture on Wikipedia of the Formosan subterranean termite) – and that was for free!

Perhaps, I thought hopefully, the Termite Specialist is really a guerilla marketing tactic and the employer just wants someone to write an interesting, mildly amusing post on any topic the writer likes, creatively including mention of a termite in every post? If so, I’m the person for that job. I could apply for the Bollard job and do them simultaneously!

Just imagine the whacky adventures the termite and the bollard could have together. Especially if the bollard was made of wood. I’m laughing already.

*

 

*The title of this post is a song by Aussie punk/rock musician, Kim Salmon, about the inevitability that the cockroach, which has existed across millenia, will survive on earth after humans are long gone. Link to lyrics above.

 

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6 Comments

  1. *presses pisses-self-laughing button*

    Liked by 1 person

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  2. weebluebirdie

     /  May 16, 2016

    I do enjoy your meanderings 🙂 I see my Missus has stopped by too! You could be my blog ghostwriter 😉 I can’t pay much, but happy to send cakes of your choice….or potatoes.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • Yes you are both very kind, & I probably came across one of your blogs via the other. Spooky your comment about ghostwriting: in the draft of this post I’d had s whole paragraph where I’d wondered if the job was to ghostwrite a termite’s autobiography, but I cut it because it was just too silly. I’m happy to send you an EOI to ghostwrite your blog or at least a post, as long as you do send cake. I like potatoes too, but I when bartering I prefer to deal in cake.

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  3. I sympathize. I too once had dreams of becoming a published writer but, like you, could not find a suitable niche. Looking around, though, I see that niches for whimsical writing do exist. Certain newspapers employ columnists who seem to have the freedom to write about more or less whatever they want (see here, for example).

    Of course, the problem is persuading a newspaper or magazine to take you on. I once sent a set of articles about my experiences on the London Underground to the editor of a London evening paper. The editor claimed to have enjoyed reading them but not to have a slot for them in the publication. At least he was kind, which is not always the case.

    The other route to writerly fame and fortune, of course, is to write A Novel. A brilliant First Novel does wonders for one’s reputation as a writer – or so I am told. I thought of taking that path myself but it turned out that though I am an ace at starting novels, I am hopeless at continuing them. The alternative for a person who-can’t-quite-write-a-novel is the short story but getting stories published is possibly even more difficult. I sent a sci-fi story to what I thought was a suitable sci-fi magazine, only to be rejected because, mysteriously, ‘it was not their kind of thing’. Moral: study the market carefully.

    Turning to happier topics, I rather like the idea of a post-human cockroach civilization. I think cockroaches have the right qualities of determination, physical robustness and emotional ruthlessness to succeed once the way becomes clear. What that civilization would be like, I have no idea and, unfortunately, will not be around to see it but I do cherish the thought of the first cockroach to step on the moon and say ‘That’s one small hop for a cockroach, one giant leap for cockroachkind’.

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    • Thanks Silver Tiger, I will keep hoping that spot writing a whimsical column will pop up. For some reason I have very little interest in writing fiction so a novel is out for me. I’m sorry you’ve experienced the rejection of your stories, I’ve had that “it’s a very nice piece but not quite what we’re looking for” response before too. As for cockroaches, in my precious post about them I mentioned a show I’d seen on TV, one of those “latest science/technology developments” where they said that scientists were working on an idea of encoding cockroaches with information about humans so that they would essentially be using cockroaches as time capsules for some other life firm to find and read about our existence, after we’ve become extinct and cockroaches are still scuttling around!

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      • The cockroach-as-memorial-of-humanity is one more example of the crass way humans behave towards other living creatures as though these are their property to be exploited for their own purposes. It shows massive insensitivity and hubris. It will serve us right when the cockroaches come to dance on our graves. Unfortunately, because of our stupidity and incompetence, most of the rest of the animal kingdom will be down in the dust beside us.

        Thanks for your commiseration, but I am no longer bothered about rejections (I had poems rejected too!) as I long ago gave up pretensions of becoming a writer. You, though, should keep at it. Your lucky break could be just around the corner.

        Liked by 1 person

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