The phone rings and I answer.
“There is a problem with the toilet in the Elephant Room” she announces at the other end.
“What kind of problem?” I ask cautiously. I tend to be cautious with problems. Problems can go only two ways: minor, or major. So anytime there is a “problem”, I’m careful.
“It’s making a noise. It goes on and off; and there are guests coming this afternoon” she answers. Her voice carries a tone of anxiety that I know well. I think she has already assumed that a plumber will have to make an emergency visit.
“Is it leaking?” I ask, trying to understand the type of noise she is hearing.
“Not that I can tell” she replies. She goes on to say that she has lifted the cover on the tank and that there could be something broken in there.
I tell her I’m coming over and will be there in a couple of minutes.
After getting there I go directly upstairs to the Elephant Room in the B&B. “Listen” says Cherry.
I stand there, both ears trained on the suspect appliance: nothing. A minute goes by and still nothing. I’m standing still, so is Cherry, standing in the doorway. Then I hear it: “tcha-tcha-tcha-tcha-tcha” and it stops.
I can’t quite tell where the sound is coming from. It’s faint but seems to echo in the bathroom making it hard to pinpoint.
“Is that it?” I ask Cherry. “Yes it is” she replies in a low voice. Another minute of silence goes by while I ponder what could cause a toilet to make that sound. I lift the cover of the tank. Everything looks normal in there. The water level is below the overflow. There is nothing there that could cause that sound. I replace the cover gently.
This time it lasts a bit longer. It sure doesn’t sound as though it’s coming from the toilet. To my ears, it sounds more like it’s coming from the vanity. And it sounds muffled. I bend down towards the vanity. The vanity is one of “free-standing” ones with legs. Of course, it’s not that free that you could move it around. If anyone tried, they’d rip the plumbing out of the wall. So, although it has legs, it’s quite solid to the wall and the baseboards are cut to fit around the vanity’s muscly little legs.
Curious, I look underneath it. There is nothing there. As I am on the floor, staring under the vanity, an idea of what could be the source of the sound takes form. At that moment I hear the noise again:
It’s clearly coming from the back leg of the vanity; and now I am certain I know what it is. Cherry has gone on to prepare the room next door. I head downstairs return to the house and pick up a flash light. Once back at the B&B, lying on the bathroom floor, I aim the beam at the back leg of the vanity. There is something black back there; something that’s in the small gap between the leg of the vanity and the baseboard: it’s an Ophiomachus Lavatrina (common name: bathroom cricket) in a very tight space. It must have gotten in when a guest left the sliding door open in the room, and did not close the screen door.
It makes its muffled “tcha-tcha-tcha-tcha” again. Obviously it does not have enough space to produce the full-volume sound. If it’s trying to attract a mate, it’s going to have a very long wait: for one it’s almost inaudible, and for the second it’s in a bathroom.
“Get out of there” I say. “This is a really dumb place to make your noise.”
It retreats even farther behind the baseboard, and then produces an even more muffled “tcha-tcha-tcha”. Using a pencil, I try to dislodge it. It moves back further. It seems now it’s between the baseboard and the bottom plate of the wall, under the edge of the drywall.
I have to get this thing out of there before the guests arrive. I need chemical weapons: so I go back to the house once more. I return armed with bug spray. It’s for wasps and flies. A quick read through the target bug species on the label reveals nothing about crickets, or bathroom crickets for that matter. I’m hoping that even if it’s ineffective against crickets, it’ll make it get out of there and then I’ll be able to stick it outside. I squirt some at the general area and wait. A couple of minutes go by but it doesn’t come out. I give it another shot. Another couple of minutes and still no cricket to be seen. Then I hear it again, louder and coming from the other side of the vanity. I poke my head around the other side and there it is, none the worse for wear from what I can see. It’s a big glossy black cricket. It must have traveled behind the baseboard to get to this side. I stare at it. It’s not moving. It’s just sitting there, near the vanity, on the floor.
I prod with the pencil. I’m careful because these things hop and I really do not want to have to chase it around. “Tcha-tcha-tcha-tcha” it replies. I prod again. I’m trying to figure how to herd the thing out of the bathroom, out of the room, out on the balcony, and generally out of here. Regrettably, it’s standing its ground.
I push it along the floor with the pencil. This is a big cricket about the size of the last phalange of my little finger. It has a big round glossy-black head. I need to get it onto something so I can carry it out of here. Herding the thing is not going to work. There is a cleaning supplies basket just outside the door. I stand up and take a sheet of paper towel from it.
I turn around and get back down. I place the sheet of paper towel on the floor, directly in front of the cricket. I prod its back end with the pencil. It hops, skipping over the paper by about two feet. It’s going the wrong way, in the opposite direction of the door. I pick-up the paper towel sheet and cover the cricket with it. The sheet goes flying up as the cricket launches itself into the air, landing on the toilet tank. Grabbing the sheet, I pounce on it and grab the beast with the paper towel, and rush to the balcony, closing the door so it can’t get back in. I drop it on the railing. The last I saw of it, it launched itself off the railing. This is the second storey. It must have been a rough landing.