Tag Archives: New York

Bed Bugs: The Al-Qaeda of Insects

Here’s a fun riddle!

Q: What’s tiny, parasitic, and ruins lives in a matter of weeks?

A: Your Ex! Bed bugs!

Generally, I am a pretty average person with few interesting and unique qualities. This crippling blandness allows me to seamlessly blend into the background of most situations. (In fact, I am behind you right now, reading a smut magazine and sipping a Coolatta, the drink of champions.) Unfortunately, I have a few irrational fears that draw both confusion and derision. One is the Build-A-Bear Workshop, which, like Voldermort, makes me uncomfortable to type. Another is being trapped in an elevator filled with front butts.

My latest and most paralyzing fear is bed bugs.

What a cad.

When people ask me what bed bugs are, I explain to them, after briskly slapping them in the face for their ignorance, that bed bugs are blood-sucking creatures that live anywhere, typically in mattresses, on clothing, or in fibers. In the past, people thought that bed bug infestation was the cause of unsanitary living conditions, though today that is not usually the case. Like most biting insects, their bites leave raised marks on your skin. Unlike other insect bites, bed bug bite marks are highly recognizable and bring an unjust yet unshakable stigma to those that have them. You are affected. You are blighted. You are a walking testament to the evils of this cruel, unyielding world. All of a sudden your life collapses. Assuming the worst, people who have never seen your apartment secretly volunteer you for the show Hoarders.  Friends bail on plans with excuses such as “My dog has to go outside and take a shit, and I need to be there for this momentous occasion.”

My only personal experience with bed bugs happened across the Atlantic Ocean. I was a bright eyed backpacker then, testing my limits, putting myself outside my comfort zone, and —I thought— rolling with the punches with great aplomb. So of course I was pissed when my travel mate chided me for not “going with the flow” because I insisted on researching each and every hostel and booking them weeks in advance. After succumbing to this hippie passive aggressive peer pressure, I forced myself to have a Devil May Care attitude and ended up checking into what I now suspect was the most decrepit hostel in Serbia. It was as if the hostel outfitted each bed exclusively with twin bedsheets similar to the ones from the 1980s that my mother can’t bear to throw away even though they’ve worn away to a fine, spiderweb like consistency and have no elastic left whatsoever.  I remember my fitted sheet not fitting at all, curling up at the bottom corners of the mattress. I shrugged it off, and in the morning I woke up to my legs covered in what I thought were bites from approximately ten thousand mosquitoes. I walked around Belgrade drawing looks of shock and horror that I assumed were from the particularly hideous pair of Old Navy cargo shorts I donned that day.

But when I arrived arriving at my next hostel, a far cleaner hostel in Croatia (that I, ahem, booked weeks in advance), I saw a sign taped to the front door that both enlightened and frightened me. Although antithetical to its goal, the sign was formatted like a Wanted poster. On it were pictures of bites that looked suspiciously similar to mine and handwritten text scrawled at the bottom that read. Peering closer at the sign, I read:

Do you have these bites that look like this? They are BED BUG BITES. You and your bites are not welcome here!! THANK YOU!!

I backed away from the hostel, rushed to the nearest internet cafe, Googled like a madwoman, and looked at my legs with dismay. And then, like any other self-respecting global citizen, I changed into pants, went back to the hostel, and nonchalantly checked in. Girl’s gotta get her beauty sleep, am I right?

Fast forward a few years, and these pests are now infiltrating my beloved city in record numbers, leaving New Yorkers on high alert. While my apartment has been lucky enough to have escaped the bedbug infestation wreaking havoc on New York City, this constant and ever present threat has drastically changed my life in many ways:

  • After reading about how bed bugs are infesting movie theaters, I flat out refused to go to the movies for the better part of a year. Eventually, I reconciled my fear of the movies and my desire to see Step It Up 2: The Streets by researching every movie theater on Bedbugregistry.com and finding two movie theaters with no bed bug reports. (I’d tell you which ones they are… but I don’t want you bringing your bed bugs to my theater.)
  • Every time I get a bug bite, I needlessly clarify the origin of the bites. This naturally arouses more suspicion from people, which is why, I assume, that people avoid me. All the time.
  • I check my mattress and sheets relentlessly for evidence of bed bugs. Whenever I think I see something, I become momentarily hysterical and surrender myself to the impending bed bug infestation by lying on my mattress similar to how I imagine Jesus did on the cross. 100% of the time this has happened, it eventually comes to my attention that the bed bug is actually lint.
  • Out of fear of getting a bed bug on the subway, I no longer envelop fellow subway passengers in big bear hugs, even when I really think they need it/when I want to smell their strange, yet beautiful scent.

People, namely my psychiatrist, think I’m being histrionic whenever I caution them about the sinister danger of bed bugs. As a truth-teller, soothsayer, chronic malapropist, and concerned New Yorker, I leave you with this post and this Venn Diagram to decide. Good luck, World. You need it.

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Change Is Gonna Come. That’s What She Said.

Instead of a fakepartment, I’m sitting in a faux-ffice, French for “a desk in a hallway.” Rather than procrastinating graduate work, I’m on my lunch break weighing the health risks of a back alley Financial District quickie manicure.

Well, hello. It’s been awhile.

After moving to New York City in 2009, I realized that I was becoming increasingly baffled by the unnecessary complexity of normal things while staying completely unfazed by bizarre things. As it turns out, this is an early presenting symptom of becoming a New Yorker– before the cocoon and the all-black wardrobe acquisition. Noting this change, I did what any self-respecting procrastinating grad student would do: blog about it. And so, HOW TO BE A NEW YORKER was born.

Then, I fell off the face of the planet for two years, and so did this blog. My venture into social obscurity coincided with my attempts to trick people into thinking I’m employable. The blog was on lock down, I (briefly) stopped day drinking, I bought a zillion cardigans, and I started practicing saying sentences like “Pedagogical development is necessary for effective standards-based education” and “No, I do not have a criminal background” so I could say them convincingly in interviews. And once I started teaching, there was no time for anything: going out, exploring, meeting people, pooping, blogging.

I made the difficult but wise decision to leave teaching and slowly get my personal life back. When 2010-2011 the school year ended, I hugged my kids goodbye, cried, packed up the classroom, and prepared for subsequent hibernation (read: an office job). Now with a new job, more spare time than I thought humanly possible, untwisted bowels, four bear cubs, and few real connections made in this vast city, I still find myself as an outsider looking in. I’ve lived here for three years, but I haven’t really lived much at all (she says, poignantly, as a single tear rolls down her cheek and into her personal pan pizza).

So basically, if you’re like myself and gave up after the first two sentences to look for pictures, here:

Nothing much has changed, but I’m looking forward to changing.

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Step 2: Remain positive. Cynical, but positive.

It’s been awhile, but in the last few weeks, I gave up on the housing search and settled for what I affectionately (?) call my “fakepartment.” If I were to describe it on Craigslist, my new crib would sound something like, “This brand new, luxurious, junior studio with penthouse views is located on a historic street in a community-oriented, secure building.” Translating that into reality speak, it would be:

1. Brand New = Not actually brand new, though still retaining that sterile, unwelcome feeling of a new building.
2. Luxurious = Way overpriced, but also not a complete shithole.
3. Junior studio = Bedroom, small bathroom, no kitchen, claustrophobia abound.
4. Penthouse views = You are on the 18th floor. Your view is of the Triborough Bridge and Robert Moses’ spartan public housing monstrosities, with both being a constant reminder of how he displaced poor minorities on a massive scale due to his control-freak, power-hungry mentality. You are completely f*cked if the elevator breaks.
5. Historic street = Surrounded by beautiful historic buildings! Yours isn’t one of them.
6. Community-oriented = You share a kitchen. On a different floor. Feel free to make friends with the yuppie grad student you are currently butter-knife fighting with over access to the back left corner of the stove.
7. Secure building = There’s a uniformed man who occasionally checks for vagrants that wander into the lobby during his breaks from what he’s actually paid to do, which is reading dirty magazines under the front desk.

It’s easy for me to be critical of the place, especially when I’m so set on making myself a home in this big city. It’s hard to make a home out of one and a half kitchenless rooms that force you to hard boil eggs in your hot water heater. It’s hard to feel at home when No Diggity by Blackstreet comes rumbling through the walls from another fakepartment, waking you at eight in the morning. Oh, and don’t forget the whole initial loneliness of it all, in addition to your denial of being lonely. That’s not an easy feeling to deal with. It is so, so easy to pick this place, this transition, this entire experience apart. But, it’s not impossible to love it, either.

Even I, Bitter McSourpuss (it’s a family name) recognize some great things about living in my fakepartment, even beyond my respectable cable plan. Side note: Jon and Kate Plus 8 is the Crystal Meth of reality television. Really, my favorite part of my fakepartment is that it’s located in the city. Low standards, I know. But I can’t describe how immensely relieving it is to have a busy, tiring, but fulfilling day in New York and know that you’re only a subway ride away from your bed instead of subway, a train, and a significant drive away from home. The diversity of the people and streets and neighborhoods in my immediate area is astounding. There’s a lot to see. A lot to bitch about, I’m sure, but a lot to see and love, too.

Blackstreet approves this post. PLAY ON, PLAYETTE!

Blackstreet approves this post. PLAY ON, PLAYETTE!

It’s important to remain positive about living arrangements, even if it is in a van down by the river, a hovel in Alphabet City, or a fakepartment in Morningside Heights. Maybe there are bright sides to the crap sides. Maybe my Blackstreet-loving neighbor Ricco is just trying to tell me that he “likes the way I work it” hey yo hey yo hey yo hey yo. Okay fine, it’s important to remain positive, but not idiotic. I’m giving Ricco a piece of my mind first thing tomorrow. No diggity. No doubt.

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