I’m having a hard time writing this post. When it comes to bedbugs, my usual stategy is focused and determined repression. I would prefer to fumigate them from my mind, since as soon as they start to crawl in I get itchy. Not actually itchy, since I don’t have any actual bedbugs (here I pause to knock on wood for a solid 90 seconds). But I have a strong tendancy toward bedbug hypochondria — infestation dreams, the need to obsessively my skin for any suspicious bumps, generalized fear and paranoia.

So thanks a lot, Terminix, for issuing your annual ranking of cities with the worst bedbug infestations — and putting Baltimore on the list for the first time, at number 13. Unsurprisingly, New York tops the list, with Cinncinnati, Detroit, Chicago, and Philadelphia rounding out the top 5. Then a couple days later, Orkin released its own list, which placed Baltimore in (gulp) tenth place. (Orkin’s top 5:  Cinncinnati, Chicago, Columbus, Denver, Detroit.)

While I wish I could dismiss alarming data issued by extermination companies as self-serving and fear mongering, it’s too late. My fear has been mongered. My fear was mongered a few years ago, when the City Paper put that giant picture of a bedbug on its cover and doomed me for life. It was further mongered when my friend’s roommate’s thrift store couch turned out to be infested, and she had to throw out her mattress and boil every piece of fabric in the house. She doesn’t shop at thrift stores any more. My New York friends live in fear of which new place they’ll have to avoid (Lincoln Center? Bloomingdale’s? The city health department?!).

In the face of other disasters, at least you can prepare — stockpiling distilled water for the post peak-oil world, or purifying your soul in preparation for the Rapture.  One of the worst things about bedbugs is that there’s not much you can do to to keep yourself safe, other than obsess or repress, and I’ll pick repression any day.