Entemology Vignettes, One

Say what you will about their effectiveness; they smell DELICIOUS.

A little over a month ago, I swung by a hardware store on my way home from work. I hate going to hardware stores because they’re basically giant, full service reminders of what a truly useless human being I am – it’s economically viable to have an entire aisle dedicated to bendy pipes and faucets because a sizable chunk of men in America know how to use those items to fix their houses, and I am not one of them. The only way a hardware store could get more emasculating for me is if there was an entire department that sold videos of my senior prom.

It took some wandering, but I finally found what I was looking for: A two pound bag of cedar chips. I took it to the cashier and parked my Ray Bans on my head as I fumbled for my credit card.

“Ah.” The cashier said as he rang me up. “Doing some barbecuing this weekend, huh?”

I briefly considered trying to explain the real purpose of my purchase to him, but the sun was setting fast and time was short.

“Sure am.” I grinned, faking like I was manly enough to know how to grill meat.

Fifteen minutes later, as I ripped open the bag and began to scatter the cedar chips on the hardwood floors around the bed in my North Hollywood apartment, I thought to myself, “This is crazy. This is a thing crazy people do. I am doing this thing because I am crazy.”

Two days later I came home from a showing of The Amazing Spider Man to find two big cockroaches scuttling back and forth behind my toilet, clearly not giving a good goddamn that cedar chips are supposed to be a natural roach repellant.

And that was the exact moment I decided, “Fuck this shit, and fuck my lease. I’m moving.”


Cockroaches are the absolute worst things in the universe. They’re big, unsanitary, fast moving nightmares that shit everywhere and get into everything. They can lay hundreds of eggs per month, each of which can hatch into a dozen more little cockroaches, making them the only species to multiply faster than members of my high school graduating class.

Newly hatched cockroaches survive by eating the nearby feces and dead bodies of other cockroaches, although if there isn’t a ready food source the adult roaches will eat their young. The very existence of cockroaches, more than anything else, is my proof that there is no God (but possibly a Satan).  

I had discovered, six weeks after signing a one-year lease, that my one bedroom apartment was goddamn lousy with these cannibalistic, shit eating abominations.


I saw the first one in my first week in the apartment, just chilling in the bathtub like it wasn’t no thang. I dropped a shoe on it and my brain immediately went into damage control mode, assuring me that this was just a freak, random occurrence – roaches just come up through the pipes sometimes, dude. Don’t freak out. That’s the only time it will ever happen in your life. The apartment is not infested. Whatever you do, don’t start obsessing over this.

And so began the longest, most intense period of obsessing in my adult life.


I bought two or three different types of roach poison and sprayed it liberally around the baseboards of my apartment. Ordinarily I’d be paranoid about spraying poison around the place where I did a fair amount of my day-to-day breathing, but as I saw it the poison would either kill the roaches or kill me – either way, I wouldn’t have to worry about them anymore.

Save for one that scuttled in under my front door one evening and made me squeal like a 46-year-old menopausal hospital administrator at a Barry Manilow concert until I killed it, I didn’t see any more roaches in my apartment for the next few weeks until I left for a weeklong trip to Washington with my parents.

On my way to the car to drive to the airport at 4:30 AM, I saw several black, shiny roaches scuttling along the side of the apartment’s pool, as if to say, “Have fun worrying about us while you’re gone, Truman!”


Seven days later I got back to my apartment on a sweltering late July evening – the first of many completely unbearable summer evenings the San Fernando Valley had in store for me. I was checking my email when a roach made a beeline down a wall to my right. I promptly sprayed it with about a gallon of mint-scented Raid, then closed my computer, carefully checked my bed for roaches, crawled under the covers, and obsessed myself to sleep.

In the morning, I found three or four roach carcasses around my apartment. They’d penetrated my apartment but had been tripped up by the poison on the way in – the only question was, how many of them were left alive that I couldn’t see?

I spent the day at work Googling incredibly specific questions:

how many roaches means that your apartment is infested

what amount of roaches means that you should call an exterminator

does the white house have roaches

While I didn’t get any answers, I did learn everything that I now know about roaches – that is, every single horrifying detail. I lingered at the office, almost scared to go home, and Googled some more things:

extended stay hotel prices los angeles

do roaches crawl in your bed and bite you while you sleep

how to get a prescription for valium 


Truman Capps is doing yet another multiple part blog entry - sorry.