The Cockroach Beatitudes: The Legend of How IRC Came to Be

A true story (so far as we know) of how IRC came to be. 

The extended family of cockroaches lived in an abandoned house in the decrepit area north of downtown Columbus in the year 1987 -- an area that has since become famous as the Short North Arts District.  The cockroaches' only local friend was Zoe Johnstone, who, with her husband Jack, wanted to buy their house for a small upscale hotel with a bed-and-breakfast feel to it.

Jack and Zoe approached the cockroach tribe as a group and told them that they would have to move out of the Italianate brick house before its renovation, and that they should find another home. In unison, the cockroaches cheerily said, "That's a problem!"

Jack groaned when he heard this, but Zoe, being more familiar with cockroach culture, responded, "Great, then we have a deal?"

"Of course!" the cockroaches said at once, laughing.

Jack was puzzled, and a bit irritated, "What just went on in that conversation? Did I miss something?"

"No," Zoe answered, "They just agreed to move out. Whenever we are ready for them to go, we just have to use the trash dumpster to transport them, I suppose."

Jack was vexed, and seeing this, Zoe continued, "You see, cockroaches have been on earth for billions of years and around human culture for hundreds of centuries.  It is a cockroach cliché to say that they knew us humans before we knew ourselves.  I came to know a great many of them over the years in my work, both as an interior designer and as an organist-choirmaster.  I know how much cockroaches love old houses and churches.  Anyway, I thought I had told you all of this. . . ."

"I think I would have remembered a conversation about cockroaches", said Jack dryly. And Zoe observed he was not calming down very much.

"Never mind", continued Zoe, "You only have to know a few things about cockroach culture to get along with them. First, they believe they are favored by the gods they worship because they have survived so long.  Second, they love problems.  Third, they love to eat.  Fourth, they'll eat anything at all. Fifth, they love change. Sixth, they love human beings and take care of us as much as possible.  Seventh, they work together in groups extremely well.  Eighth. . . ."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" interrupted Jack irritably.  "How do you know all of this?  What does it have to do with their willingness to move and, if they are willing to move, why did they say it was a problem?"

Zoe paused, looked at Jack, and exhaled.  "Well, the main thing is that moving is a problem for the cockroaches so, of course, they will move because they like problems even more than they like humans.  A key issue, which I realized during my discussion with them, is that we must move their food out also.  We can do that when we start demolition on the building.”

“You do not survive long as a cockroach if you do not learn to love having problems”, Zoe continued.  “Cockroaches view problems as a sign of life, and they have many proverbs in their culture that intertwine problems and food as sacred symbols, holding them always in favor with their gods. The theory is that only dead cockroaches do not have problems. I have a feeling that you and I are going to rely heavily on the lessons we can learn from cockroaches if our hotel is going to be successful."

Several months passed and Zoe continued to chat with Jack about cockroach culture, and Jack, for his part, studied the subject like the medieval scholar he is. They both applied insights gleaned from cockroaches to the operation of their hotel.  50 Lincoln--A Very Small Hotel flourished and became known as the best, cleanest, friendliest small hotel in Central Ohio.  The surrounding Short North Arts District also blossomed and grew with Jack's and Zoe's leadership.  In early 1987, Jack felt confident enough of his future as a full-time hotelier to quit his job with the State of Ohio.

Rob and Jakki Downey were friends of the Johnstones.  Rob had worked with Jack at the Ohio Department of Development for three years.  Jack had recently learned that this friend also understood cockroach thinking.  Rob's happenstance empathy, Jack found, came from personal and varied experiences with cockroaches -- before he met Jakki of course -- as a hitchhiker, construction worker and slob. 

Jack and Rob had lengthy discussions about "consulting" in the field of international trade, and began to wonder if it would be possible to use the 50 Lincoln laundry room for an office.  One evening in August, 1987, Rob and Jack broached the subject with their wives over post-prandial Merlot and cigars.

Zoe said, "What a stupid idea.... go for it!" as she was puffing on her presidente.

"Great!  . . . and you guys are both dumb enough to do it."  Jakki agreed, watching the ambient blue smoke rise from the tip of her panatela.

"We will always be there for you too." chattered the cockroaches from the patio, as they chewed on the wet cigar stubs they brought from their new home across the alley.

"Do you two think you can support us for the next six years, even if we don't make a penny?"  Jack and Rob carefully asked Zoe and Jakki through the maduro haze of their unlabeled Cubans.

"I do." said Zoe. "I do." said Jakki.  Then each reflected separately about how expensive,  exhausting and troublesome those two words could be in life.

The cockroaches chimed in, again in unison but more pensively, realizing how responsible they were for this new endeavor.  "We wish you many, many problems over a long, long time. . . ."

Then they reverently continued through the cockroach beatitudes. . . .

"If you tell us your problems, we will tell you what you want."

"Want something, even though it causes problems."

"Do what you want, even though that causes more problems."

"Learn to love your problems."

"Train yourself to move toward problems."

"Learn to eat your problems."

"There will never be a shortage of problems, so do not hoard problems."

"It is rude to eat too much of somebody else's problems, but upon invitation, a Good Cockroach may use discretion in regard to the problems of others."

"Fat cockroaches get hungry, too, y'know."

This last tenet, seemingly offhand and anomalous, is in actuality a shorthand expression of advanced cockroach philosophy, meaning that everyone has problems always.  The uniqueness of a given problem is due first and foremost to the perspective of the one in possession of it.

…Then the crystal emptied of wine that evening in the same way a well-prepared mind empties of expectation in the face of large challenges; the room filled up with smoke like the well-prepared heart fills with hopelessness when in pursuit of destiny.  International Risk Consultants, nee’ Johnstone Downey Finance International, was underway, without presumption or despair, and following the advice of six hundred cockroaches.