Secret Subject Swap - Cockroach

Welcome to July's Secret Subject Swap

Again 6 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts.

Here are links to all the sites now featuring Secret Subject Swap posts.  

Sit back, grab a cup and check them all out:

Baking In A Tornado

Wandering Web Designer
A 'lil HooHaa
The crazy Mama Llama
Part-Time Working Hockey Mom

My subject is

 You're sitting in a crowded restaurant, and you see a cockroach crawling up the booth across from you. 

What would you do?  

It was submitted by: Wandering Web Designer - thank you, Rena!

Guys, this actually happened to us, and it was not at the booth across from us. 

It was at our very own table!

It happened at the Big Apple.

Our entire NYC stay was somewhat of a giant failure, dominated by the fact that it was raining for the full four days we spent there. OK, the unfortunate weather was not Manhattan's fault, but everything else made me feel like "am I still in the USA that I love so much? If I want snotty people, bad service and high prices, I might just as well stay in Europe, Paris comes to mind..."

What happened?

Let's rewind...

We had grabbed a taxi at the airport, and I told the driver we wanted to go to the Marriott off  (not at) Times Square - I was just about to give him the exact address when he cut me off 

"I know where it is."

I tried again, saying there were two Marriotts in really close proximity, but again, he didn't want to listen. 

It seemed to take forever to get into town, and at every toll booth or bridge, we had to give him cash, which was a stretch because we had only just arrived and had only a few loose Dollar bills, the rest was 20s or 50s. 

It was in 2003, and taxis were cash only, which was going to bite us in the butt again later.

Sure enough the cab driver dropped us off at the wrong hotel, even though the location was great. Directly at the corner of Broadway and West 45th Street, whereas the one I had actually booked was 0.6 miles south, close to Bryant Park.

urgently needed to pee, so I ran to the lobby bathroom while hubby (actually, back then he was my fiancé) was dealing with the receptionist. Turned out they did have a room available. We had a choice of getting in another cab and spending another half hour in rush hour traffic, or hauling our bags through the rain (it was less than a 10 minutes' walk as I found out later) or staying right there and make use of the central proximity.

Laziness Convenience and the fact that there was a Starbucks next door (the steep price for the room didn't even include breakfast) won, and so we canceled the original reservation and settled into the tiny room. 

We asked for a city map, and they looked at us as if this was an unusual request. 
"We don' have maps here, try at the souvenir shop" the receptionist said.


Every hotel has this leaflet stand that offers touristy stuff. Day trips, shopping vouchers, limo services, you name it. Sure enough we found a flyer with a map of Manhattan that helped us to getting around.

It was my first visit to NYC, and so far I was not thrilled by the experience, which was a shame because I had been looking forward to this very much. 

I was a loyal SATC watcher, and many of my favorite movies take place there, too.  

Think "Kevin in Manhattan", "When Harry met Sally", "You've got Mail", "Wall Street", "Breakfast at Tiffany's", "Analyze this", "Working Girl", "Cocktail", "Trading Places", "Maid in Manhattan", "Serendipity", I could go on and on...

Speaking of Serendipity, we did go to that restaurant, and it was not as charming as it came across in the movie :-(

Generally, (and unlike in any other part of the U.S. we had been traveling before) being tourists in the Big Apple, made us feel we were being taken advantage of. 

Like why were we expected to tip a waiter 30% (as suggested by him) if he didn't even act concerned when we complained about a giant cockroach trying to crawl onto my plate of pancakes?

You heard right. 

An ugly cockroach right there! 

I am pretty sure it was the first time I actually encountered a cockroach in real life, and I was shocked. To be honest I thought this was some kind of an urban myth like rats making their way up the drain, ending up in the toilet bowl.

This is not the table in question - it's a cockroach-free breakfast experience many years later

But no, there it was, hurriedly getting around the napkins rack, and I tried hard to remain calm. I was grossed out and wanted to shriek, but I didn't. Instead I called the waiter.

"Sir, there's a cockroach" I said.
Blank stare.
"Right there, look!"
"I don't like it!!!"
Now he raised his eyebrows and went "so?" 
Then he left.

I was fuming. 

What was it with this city? 

Now I had the choice of getting up and leaving without paying (and looking for another table at a breakfast place while getting hangrier by the minute) or I could suck it up, try to enjoy my average quality pancakes and brush it off as an exceptionally bad experience.

The waiter probably sensed we were about to bolt because without a word or even looking at us, he quickly dropped the check at our table. For our convenience he had already filled out the line for the tip. 

Was he hallucinating? 

Who in their right mind would accept that? 

We left the exact amount to pay for our already overpriced meal, rounded to the next full dollar and left.

Even today, almost 17 years later, I am still outraged. That guy didn't get a flying f***!? 

Was this something that happened every day? Maybe the cockroach was the café's mascot? Or some free protein to add to our breakfast?

Looking on the bright side though, something like this never happened to us again.

Our trip generally did not continue well though, and after four days I was

  • convinced NYC was not for me
  • glad to go home

A taxi that ate up all of my remaining Dollar cash brought us to Newark Liberty International Airport. 

Things  were looking good. We were there early, and the line at the check-in counter was short. The passengers in front of us were flying with a cat, and they went back and forth about whether it needed to be checked in, and what cage was needed, and what form to fill in. It took a long time until it was finally our turn. 

The clerk looked at our passports and tickets and frowned. "I am sorry, there is no flight going to Zurich, Switzerland tonight", he said. 

Haha, bad joke, of course there was a flight! 

"Yeah, but not out of Newark - you guys need to get to JFK, and you better hurry!" 


We were at the wrong airport, and it was entirely my own fault.

Back then, 24 hours prior to an international flight, you needed to call the airline and confirm you were going to be on it. Meaning I had held the tickets in my very own hands when I made the phone call. How could I not realize this? 

Was it even worth the effort to go to JFK tonight, could we actually make it in time?

We had to at least try.

Shuffling together our bags and getting in line at the taxi stand, I realized we didn't have any cash left. Certainly not enough for a ride from New Jersey to Queens. 

Running through the airport in search of an ATM, I kept thinking why the h*** had I been so sure we needed to depart from Newark? Up until that day I don't know.

Our driver was a Russian holding a PhD in math or physics or both, who made it his personal mission to get us there in time, never mind rush hour. During the ride, or should I say "race", I texted a friend who is a flight attendant, asking her about our options. Of course my phone was on its last battery bar, and it soon shut off entirely.

Piotr, our driver, did a wonderful job and got a fat tip. We were really hopeful we could make it. 

The snotty check-in person didn't think so. The airplane was still there, but the door was about to close. Come back tomorrow.


It was clear that there was no point in arguing with this individual.

So for the second time that night we picked up our bags and left. This time we weren't going to take a taxi but some hotel shuttle bus. In the olden days you had to pick up a red courtesy phone to get connected with a random airport hotel. 

We had to give the Ramada clerk our credit card details on the phone and were told to wait for the bus. We were waiting for about 45 minutes and saw various hotel shuttles coming and going, but nor ours. 

We got tired of waiting in the rain. Sure, it was a covered bus terminal, but you get the picture. As we didn't have Ramada's phone number, we just boarded the next best shuttle bus and checked into some other airport hotel, I don't even remember what it was. 

It was also a time when hotels didn't provide free wireless internet, you had to ask for an ethernet cable and pay for a pricey 24 hours internet access package, even if you just needed It for half an hour.

We had to get online though, in order to cancel the Ramada. They were giving us such a hard time, claiming we just didn't wait long enough for the bus, and they didn't want to give us our money back.

Also we had to check out "stand-by procedures" and prices for new airplane tickets. 

We left the next morning, looking at a perfectly blue sky (the irony) and luckily got our seats to fly back home without further incidents. 

Again this is not the NYC skyline back then - it's a much nicer experience many years later

I was so done with this city, and for years to come I refused to go back to NYC.

Until 2018, and I was super glad we did. We had decent weather, one super nice and sunny day, generally courteous drivers and waiters, and once Mr T's presidency plus the Corona pandemic is over, I'll be happy to come back.

Have you been to NYC? What has your experience been like? Have you ever had a cockroach for breakfast - or any other meal for that matter?

Let me know in the comments below and don't forget to visit my fellow bloggers' posts!


  1. I love NY and miss the monthly buying trips I made there when I was working, especially love the theater there. Now cockroaches? I would have jumped up, screamed at the top of my lungs and run out immediately. Let them bring the check to me. If they could find me, that is.

  2. Oh my goodness! What a nightmare story! I'm surprised you even gave New York City another chance.

  3. It's funny you say that because when I came up with this prompt we had just been to a restaurant and saw a cockroach on the booth across from us. AFTER. WE. HAD. ALREADY. EATEN! Makes me gag thinking about it.

  4. What a nightmare experience! 😲 I'm glad your second visit was much better. I've always wanted to visit New York City and have some internet friends there, but like you said, it will have to wait until Covid-19 and Trump have been vanquished. Regarding the cockroach: I would have threatened to call the Health Dept. That is unconscionable! 😠

  5. I guess it's too cold in Europe for cockroaches? We used to get tonnes of them in the house when we lived in the sub-tropics. Normal part of life in those parts. We also have native cockroaches in Australia, although they don't tend to be the ones we get in the house - the natives prefer leaf litter.

    I have been to NYC. It was a VERY long time ago and the one overriding memory is that the city smelt of stale urine and was very grey (not the sky, lol). If I ever get back to the US (I want to, but, yah know, covid) I'd still go back to NYC, but it definitely isn't my favourite part of the US.

  6. EWWW. That's too bad about your trip. Glad you had a better experience the second time. Wonder how long it will take to feel comfortable traveling again?

    Janet’s Smiles

  7. Never been to NYC but then it kinda a long ways off making visiting a tad difficult.
    Cockroaches are every bloody where even here at times.


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