I live in a 20 story apartment building in Chelsea, Manhattan. I was a little concerned yesterday when the building manager whom I ran into in the elevator whispered: “We need to chat in private.”
I’ve had problems with one particular neighbor – so I assumed it was about him. After his spurious complaints about the occasional waft of tobacco smoke emanating from under my door he tried to sue me weeks after my moving in seven years ago. Sue a lawyer with time on his hands: good move, asshole.
It wasn’t idiot neighbor, though. Apparently the folks one below me, a nice young couple I know as elevator friends, brought home some bedbugs. The building manager wanted to arrange an inspection by a professional bedbug search and destroy firm for apartments contiguous to, above and below the poor couple in 13G.
To contextualize this you really need to understand the horror and the sadness of people afflicted with these severe little buggers. They’re typhoid and malaria and flesh eating herpes all rolled into one for New Yorkers and we dread them. The local news never shuts up about them, and if you throw out a mattress in this city the sanitation department won’t touch it unless its sealed in a $40 “mattress condom” to prevent jumping bugs. I’m from Australia where insects are the size of telephones and kill you with neurotoxins in minutes, but I was still knocked off-kilter by all this.
Exterminator Jim and his dog arrived promptly at 7pm – they get to make their own hours it seems – and curt hellos were exchanged. Jim was telling me you can’t even kill them with cold or hot laundry washes or you just end up with cleaner bedbugs. They’re mainly found in poorer neighborhoods. So they look ugly, suck the blood of the poor and are almost impossible to get rid of. “Like Republicans, really,” I quipped.
I’d seen his company’s adds on TV where they use a beagle to sniff out the bedbugs like at the airport with heroin in suitcases. My dog, a friendly Australian Shepherd named “Aussie” assumed I’d invited the beagle over for him as a playmate. But no: this dog was all business.
You know when you’re at the airport and customs is going through your bags, sorting, sifting, sniffing? And you’re pretty sure there’s nothing in there but your mind goes to what could be there and you think of how Paul McCartney once spent two weeks in a Japanese jail for an inadvertent spec of hash found in Linda McCartney’s make-up case. Our psyches aren’t up to this kind of buffeting. It wasn’t just the prospect of an almost unlimited amount of money and hassle to de-louse my house, what gripped me was the gossip that would burn through the building like a London tower block that “David is the Bed Bug Guy,” and attendant community shame.
It was all very Midnight Express: “There’s something!” my inspector-inquisitor exclaimed when his dog got interested in a pile. I kept my cool: “Is it Ebola?” I asked like a smartass.
“Ehhhh? Nah. Looks like…like… a hidden dog treat.”
DAMN IT, AUSSIE!
Then I thought: What a fantastic job he has! He gets to go into people’s homes, people already a little psychologically off-balance by the thought of being THE INFECTED, poke through their stuff: their bed, their closets, their laundry baskets, crotchless lingerie, rubber mankinis, guns, drugs, and INSPECT them. And with his dog! How wonderful: it’s like being a modern day witch hunter: or “walkies” for the officiously curious. I’m sure the beagles enjoy it: dogs love a job.
The upshot? The infected neighbors downstairs in 13H were of course walked through the lobby nude in irons and swiftly lynched (pursuant to our Rental Agreement, Sec. C, subpara 4.5). We all got ‘em in the lobby, a nice local touch as the Management Company usually do capital punishment at their office in Midtown. Their apartment was scorched to a cinder with flamethrowers. My apartment came up clean and now we can all get some unbitten sleep. So sleep tight, and don’t let the… well you know the rest.
David Anderson is an Australian-American who lives in New York with his dog Aussie, and absolutely no bedbugs.
Grapic by Janice Harney Carr, Center for Disease Control – This media comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Public Health Image Library (PHIL), with identification number #11739. Used from Wikimedia Commons
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