Imagine being able to hold your breath for forty minutes, survive ten times more radiation than you already can, and have the ability to eat and process almost anything while being able to go up to a month without food. You would be the ultimate survival machine, the dream of any apocalypse prepper or hopelessly time-strapped student on the planet. But you would be a cockroach.

For cockroaches, life is a blurry field of motion. The 2,000 lenses in their eyes don’t let them focus on objects but warn them of any motion in their 360-degree field of view. They know you’re around long before you even suspect their presence. They wouldn’t be startled by their friends sneaking up behind them; they wouldn’t jump in fear at a haunted house. Sure, they aren’t able to appreciate the majesty of a snowcapped mountain at sunrise, but they can live with their heads cut off for over a week! Humans are remarkably fragile; cut off our heads and we’re goners. But instead of marveling at these incredible creatures, we live in constant fear of them.

Roaches are the bane of all college students who live in old (or dirty) dorms. A scream, a twenty-year-old leaping onto a desk, shoes thrown, chairs displaced, newspapers swatted at the bug until it’s crushed or disappears. This is a familiar scene, one repeated at colleges across the country every day. Fear of cockroaches seems to be part of the common human experience. Children shriek when one is spotted and grandparents around the world swat at them with brooms. But why the fuss? Cockroaches don’t sting, bite, or spray poison. They’re about as dangerous as a ladybug. Roaches are just big and ugly; they look like something out of the Cretaceous Era. In fact, they predate the Cretaceous by about 150 million years. These bugs scuttled around for millions of years before the Tyrannosaurus Rex began terrorizing the planet and have stuck around for millions of years after this apex predator was wiped out.

Like the T-Rex, humans have their existence long predated by these insects and will most likely be outlived by them too. A Roman emperor lounging on his throne was once surely startled by a roach underfoot. A farmer resting his feet after a long day tending to his rice patty has leapt away from one of these insects. Civilizations come and go, people die, kings conquer, and continents shift, but the cockroach is there, in the shadows, making its mark on all of them. That’s a dream in itself.

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