The Bedbug Challenge

Last night I arrived home after a long day at the Orifice to find the Magical Pest Control truck parked (dare I say concealed) behind our building once again.

As you can imagine, my heart sank.

Welcome home....

I parked the car & trudged leadenly toward the back door, but was waylaid by the super, who was waiting for the driver/operator to fill out the latest invoice for Napalm & Misc. Liquids Dispersed in our building’s ongoing war against bedbugs.

“We just sprayed Upstairs again,” he said, barely suppressing his gag reflex. By “Upstairs” he means, of course, the festering den of the Dirty Old Fart who is Ground Zero in said war.

For the record, I have felt and seen nothing of the miserable little pests whatsoever for months now — I should patent the Smiter Caulking Method I used to seal up my place when we first got word of the surging Bedbug Tide back in May.

I smiled weakly and made a lame joke about Frequent Flier Points for the pest control guy.

“We’d just like to spray your place one more time too,” said the super.

I blinked, momentarily speechless. Let it be said that using the word “just” in this context, as in “merely” or “only,” is akin to offering to “just” open up someone’s abdomen for a peek at their liver.

I have a dear friend who uses this word in a similar reckless manner. Watching me struggling with my contact lenses one morning, she said airily, “Why don’t you just go get laser eye surgery?”

Hey, look what I found in my butt.

“Right,” I said, “I’ll just go pull eight thousand dollars out of my descending colon and get right on that.”

Anyway, as I stood in the driveway clutching my briefcase & work paraphernalia like a drowning person, I managed to croak out the single syllable, “Why?” before I felt a pressing need to sit down on the pavement.

“Well, they have a guarantee,” said the super, “so we need to get our money’s worth.”

Right. So MY money (of which I’ve now spent $1500 on expenses related to these bloody, bloody bugs) is of no consequence to TransGlobe, who manages our building. (See my column entitled “Sucks to be you,” says TransGlobe, from a few months back.) But when it comes to THEIR money, and wringing every last penny out of their guarantee, no effort or expense is to be spared — as long as it’s someone else’s.

So once again, at a time of TransGlobe’s choosing, I will be asked to spend two more days in service to the goddamn bugs: the first day, as my faithful readers now know, will consist of what is euphemistically termed the “preps”: dismantling my apartment, right down to the electrical switchplates; washing, drying and placing in plastic bags all of my bedding, towels, clothes and coats; emptying my drawers, closets and shelves and piling all items in the middle of each room; dismantling my bed and placing the components on their sides; ditto the futon couch; removing paintings, mirrors and photos from the walls; covering my musical instruments (funny how harps don’t take well to Napalm); and moving all my furniture into the middle of the room so that the poisons can be applied.

The next day, when the exterminator actually arrives, I must get up at the crack of dawn to finish the “preps” and then corral the cat into her carrier and take her away for another thirty-dollar day at the kennel. I then must find somewhere to stay, myself, until 6 pm, when it is deemed safe to re-enter the apartment.

Was it a tornado, or bedbug preps? Stay tuned....

And then the reverse process begins: a thrilling evening spent moving all the furniture back into place, reassembling what’s been taken apart, unpacking my clothes and re-hanging them, picking up the cat from the kennel… you get the idea.

To say that this is a 48-hour, rotten, dirty, exhausting, upsetting and miserable ordeal of heavy lifting, minor carpentry and ceaseless sweaty slogging would not be putting too fine a point on it. Basically, you’re preparing to move or renovate, and then not following through. There is no nice new open-concept kitchen or refurbished living/dining room at the end of it. Walking away and living in your car starts looking like an option. (In fact, several tenants in our building did just that, at the beginning of July, if the super is to be believed.) So does suicide, frankly.

Given that the bulk of my work at the moment is editing textbooks, I do the lion’s share of my job from home. So basically TransGlobe is blithely asking me to once again give up two days of work, at enormous inconvenience & aggravation to myself, with absolutely zero compensation — hey, even a break on my parking would do at this point — or even a second glance from them.

“Sure,” some will say, “but at the end of the day, you won’t have bedbugs. So just do it.”

And there’s that word again.

So here’s my challenge. To the folks at TransGlobe who refuse to offer their tenants even a sliver of a bone in return for any of this; to the insurance companies who refuse to cover expenses related to bedbugs (which usually stretch on into the thousands — see Marsha Lederman’s excellent article in the Globe and Mail from Friday, July 29, 2010); to the public health officers and government officials who say bedbugs are not a priority because they’re not a “health risk”…

To these folks, my challenge is this: go get yourself some bedbugs and move them into your place.

It’s easy. At this point you don’t even have to go to a public housing project, like in the good old days. Just go to the library, or a hospital, or a movie theatre, or drop by a clothing store. Hell, just drive along a street where there are a lot of apartment buildings or condos and pull up beside the ubiquitous pile of discarded mattresses and dressers and sofas.

Take a pill bottle or a baggie and scrape some bugs and their eggs and babies into it. And when you get home, scatter it into your bed. That’s right: into the sheets, down the pillowcases & into the duvet cover. And if you have children, go do their beds too — just tuck ’em right in there beside Peter Rabbit. Save some for your dresser drawers, and sprinkle a few into your shoes.

Now “just” try to get a good night’s sleep, or figure out how to stay comfortable in this heat wave while wearing a turtleneck to cover your bites. Try explaining to your kids why they should “just” stop having nightmares, or “just” try finding your favourite suit and tie in the mountain of sealed plastic bags heaped in the corner of your bedroom. “Just” try convincing guests to visit, or getting an invite to dinner at the in-laws’.

Just a little sprinkle, here and there. You'll love it!

And then come back and tell me, or Marsha Lederman, or the one in 15 New Yorkers who have had to battle these miserable little bastards from the outposts of hell, why we should “just” put up with any of this.

I just dare you.


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