An exposed nerve, part three: living in the “capital of cockroaches”

In the last installment of this series, i made it to Austin unscathed, signed the paperwork for my humble studio apartment in what i believe is called the North Austin neighborhood, and did a little settling in.

Then my anxiety started rising considerably due to self-doubt, questioning if i’d made the right decision and my personal favorite, worrying about money. None of these things are new territory for me, but it was certainly intensified by being in a new place by myself, quite a long distance from my comfort zone in Cleveland.

Nevertheless, the familiarity of falling into these thinking traps makes them somewhat manageable. Again, i told myself the worst thing that could happen is i’d have to shuffle on back to Ohio, to the safety net of friends and family, and start things over…again.

But then i was set upon by the skittering of creepy crawlies once the sun went down, and a whole new level of panic was reached. i mean, i was positively freaking out. It’s not like i’ve never seen bugs in any apartment or house i’ve lived in. They’re just a part of life.

But roaches? In numbers? No.

The big ol’ cockroach i’d slain in the motel the previous night was one thing. First of all it was a crummy motel i was staying one night in. And second, from what i understand those big ones typically enter singly from the outside.

In my new Austin apartment however, there are what i’ve since learned are brown-banded cockroaches, and it is far from comfortable to see one, two, five or more on the walls around your dinky inflatable airbed, imagining them crawling over you while you sleep. Do they bite? Will they investigate my ears, nose, mouth? Would my cat be safe?

i was absolutely disgusted and panicked by this unforeseen turn of events.

On a side note, i would learn later through Internet research that, at least at one time, Austin had a reputation as the “capital of cockroaches.” But the Texas Monthly article that discussed the matter is from June 1976 i noticed, so there was hope that the situation had changed. Unfortunately, the ignominious title was supported elsewhere by the “fun fact” that Texas is the cockroach capital of the U.S. – home to 32 different species.


Based on my phone log, panic-stricken calls and texts were made first to my mom, my two closest friends, my dad, my brother and my ex. They each began with me explaining that i just did not feel right about being here and that the following morning i was very much considering turning right back around and driving home.

All of them were generally supportive, of course, and agreed it was gross and that something needed to be done about it on the landlord’s end. My mom and friends were sympathetic to my strong desire at that moment to cut out right away. In between calls i’d actually put most of my stuff back into my car, if only to avoid these awful insectoids from finding new homes in my meager possessions.

My dad, with whom i haven’t had much of a relationship with in the last…30 years?…was also sensitive to the situation. He told me about the early years of his marriage to my mom (they’ve been divorced since i was in kindergarten) when they lived in Virginia where he was stationed with the Navy. They, too, had a roach problem in the little apartment they were able to afford, and he joked that they used to set an extra place at the dinner table for them. He suggested i try to stick it out for at least a week and see how i felt after that. He also advised me to talk with my brother, who he said was a pretty smart guy (which i’m certain my brother would agree with). Before i’d left for Texas, we went out for dinner and had a really good time. i am happy since then, we’ve been talking a lot more and building some kind of relationship – better late than never right?

My brother lives in Florida, where he moved about 8 years ago. Over the intervening years, he’s mentioned a couple of times that he’d considered moving back to Ohio because he hadn’t made many friends down there or basically put down much in the way of roots. He most recently came to visit in January, after my grandma had died. Coming to Cleveland from Florida in the dead of winter was quite a shock for him, and he was appalled by the bitter cold and rundown appearance of the eastside suburbs we’d grown up in. Once back in Florida, he said he’d realized that the Sunshine State was his home now, and he felt more comfortable there than in Ohio. His visit was a net positive for his life down there. He took it as a sign to try and get out more and connect with people more, and is now even considering becoming a first-time homeowner down there. (i guess it’s more “over there” from where i am now in Texas.)

Anyway, he told me about how he was nervous and scared when he first got to Florida, too. Coming from him, a tough guy if there ever was one, that was somewhat of a relief to hear if only because it made the problem feel more relatable. When he moved there, he was wife his wife (they’ve since divorced) and he said i had some big balls to make this move all on my own to begin with. In his place, there are plenty of bugs too, including things like millipedes that he’s woken up to them crawling across his face or in his beard. He described various uncomfortable places and situations he’s been in, that it’s just a part of life and seconded what my dad said about sticking it out at least for a little while to see if things get better. After all, i would just be going back to a situation i wasn’t happy with in Ohio either, where it is also very cold – the weather being one of the major deciding factors in potential places to relocate to in the first place.

Perhaps the most poignant thing he said though, was to put it this way: if someone from Austin moved to Eastlake, Ohio and got an apartment on Vine Street – what would they be thinking on their first night? Apologies if you’re unfamiliar with those points of reference but, that made a lot of sense to put it that way.

There was still one more conversation i’d been hoping to have, and that was with my ex. We have remained in friendly contact over the last three years since parting ways in our relationship, even though a lot of people have advised me of the foolishness of that. Regardless, i still value her perspective and was hoping to hear from her. But i wasn’t holding out too much hope though, because frankly i hear back less and less from her. i guess that’s just moving forward, and i’m admittedly behind in that regard but it is what it is.

She did call me back though, and in her forthright way basically said it would be a mistake to turn around and leave so quickly, or at all. She is quite familiar with my anxieties and longtime desire to establish myself in someplace other than where i grew up, and like my brother, told me she was scared when she moved away to go and start a fresh chapter of life in California, where she stays with her sister, sister’s partner, mom and a menagerie of various animals. She also said that if i was ever in dire financial straits she would be happy to help, but if i’m honest i hope to avoid that circumstance – with anyone. i really would like to get by on my own, and if things get tight i’ll do my best to deal with it.

So, eventually, i got to sleep. Essentially, i was just so exhausted that i could no longer stay awake and my tired body did not have a chance to lay there thinking about the potential of bugs any more that night. It had been a very long three day stretch with a lot of driving, staying in crappy motels, stressing out about money and insects and second-guessing myself, feeling homesick.

The next morning, i marched directly down to the management office and let them know about the roach problem and that they had to do something about it right away. They explained that pest control comes every Monday to inspect empty apartments, and they’d have him check mine out when they came. They were surprised to hear about it, because not only had the previous tenant never mentioned anything about bugs, but the place had been treated as a routine matter the Monday of that very week.

In the meantime, i headed out and got not only a bunch of roach traps to put all over the apartment, but also a bag of food grade Diatomaceous earth, a powdery substance that is supposed to help against crawling bugs like roaches. All along the baseboards throughout the apartment, i spread the stuff and hoped for the best. i also make it a point to eliminate any bugs i see at any time, having since become accustomed to the distinctive *pop* of their chitinous bodies when squished inside a tissue.

i vacuum twice a day, Swiffer daily, Clorox wipe surfaces, put all my food in containers, never leave dishes out and empty the trash fastidiously. i got that foam crack-sealer stuff and used that in a couple of places, too.

The Friday after i moved in (a week and one day later) they had a more advanced pest control person come and treat the place again.

It’s now the Monday after that treatment, and i do continue to see them at night, but in less numbers overall. It’s my understanding that for a little while after treatment, they can become more active.

Hopefully, this problem will go away completely soon. If it persists, i’ll just keep the office informed and maybe they’ll have to treat it again. At least they are not dismissive about the issue, and doing what they can to correct it. i’m not happy about it, but i am happy to be here in Austin and i like the new job i started last week. So, i’m making the best of things.


Are you totally grossed out? Ever dealt with bug infestations in your home or apartment? This is a first for me, and although i am dealing with it and it is getting better, it’s still icky and of course i never want to see another bug inside my home! When my lease is up in March 2017, i hope to be much more familiar with Austin and in a better position to find a different place to live. Until then, i’ll keep adjusting and finding the positives about my life here, and don’t get me wrong – there are many!

My apologies for the lack of photos, videos and stuff on this post. i’m pressed for time today and wanted to get this posted, and also did not want to share gross images of bugs and creep people out (including myself!).

This exposed nerve series will be wrapping up pretty soon, with just a few more things to address. Next time, i’ll share my experiences getting rid of baggage both physical and emotional, then tell you about gaining my footing my footing here on several fronts and finally how the new job here is going.

As always, thanks to everyone for reading my longform posts all the way to the end, leaving comments and likes, sharing and letting me know when you find things relatable.



  1. I hate those things too. One of the adjustments I had to make, moving down South, was getting used to so many bugs.

    And not just how many there are, but also, how many different kinds there are. Crazy-big crawlies and creepies and flyers. Ick ick ick ick. The ticks are the worst but they are all bad.


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