Monday, October 11, 2010

Guest Post: Not All Bug Bites Are Bed Bug Bites (But Seriously, Does This Look Like A Bed Bug Bite To You?)

I met Owen of While Not Making Other Plans in college, where we were both theater nerds. In 2001, Owen cast me in his production of "Runaways," a musical about a bunch of latch-key kids who sing about being child prostitutes and shooting heroin. Good times.

I played the gender-neutral "A.J.," who runs away from home after his/her parents have one too many violent fights. I was really good at playing a pre-pubescent street urchin--they didn't even have to give me a costume! (Except for the jacket I wore my own clothes.)


Note my slack-jawed expression of confusion and hunger.

I am basically Pacino.

But this blog is supposed to be about Owen. Sorry. I need to butt out and get back to singing "Volare" at the top of my lungs while taking off my pants in the Trevi fountain (predicting my Italian adventures is fun!)

Over the years, O's become a close friend and trusted pop culture ally (we often G-Chat about Gossip Girl, ANTM, and, of course, Project Runway, which Owen is recapping this week while I'm away). He's also a cutie:

Try not to be frightened by my crow's feet. They can't hurt you from there.

So please give it up for Owen The Man, aka OTM, as he sounds off on one of the most frightening pests to hit New York since the Olsen twins: Bed bugs.
_________

“Now I lay me down to sleep
And ask the lord my soul to keep
And if I die before I wake
At least that’s better than bed bugs.” 
                           Leviticus, 18:22 (I think…)

For me, Fall in New York is preferable to summer for many reasons, and as time goes on, the list only gets longer. Fall has cool breezes anddelicious harvest smells. By comparison, this past summer was way too hot, WAY too humid and the rotting/baking garbage smell that usually is restricted to August started well early in July. Unpleasant, it was.

Additionally, Fall has my birthday, and Halloween and the NYC Marathon. Summer has none of that going for it. I guess it has swimming (BIG DEAL). But beyond those things that have been true for years, presently Summer Nights in the City bring with them much dread and uncertainty. In much simpler times, if you woke up on a summer morning and realized your skin was itchy and welty, you’d think “Oh, there was a mosquito in my room.” Or possibly, “Oh, maybe there was a spider in bed with me.” Or even quite possibly “Well, I don’t really live by the water, but maybe this is the work of a greenfly?” But now, if you’re living in NYC and upon waking notice any kind of bite at all, immediately you must jump to the conclusion that it’s bed bugs. What used to be just a normal part of living – hey, bites happen, especially if you're one of the tastier humans like me! - has now turned into an occasion for extreme unease and panic.

If you’re not from New York City, you might not know what an epidemic bed bugs is for us here. They are everywhere. It’s not just in frat boy apartments and high end hotels anymore. Recently they’ve popped up
in our local corner store establishments like Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister, Victoria’s Secret, the AMC 25 Movie Theater on 42nd St and even the 5th Ave New York Public Library. New York City already has
its signature plagues in rats and roaches and ridiculous rents! We didn’t need anything else!! Bed bugs are a horrible nuisance and very difficult to get rid of once they set up shop somewhere. The bizarre
thing is that even though they look gross and suck your blood at night, they don’t actually spread disease. That means the city doesn’t consider them a public health threat and won’t clean up after them. Everybody is on their own to hire bed bug extermination companies to get rid of the problem. Man, if that bed-bug sniffing dog Roscoe ever dies, we are all so screwed.

 All hope lies with him…

I find it inevitable that I will one day get bed bugs. I partake in several high risk activities. These include:
  • Riding the subway
  • Shopping in stores
  • Shoving my way through crowds on the sidewalk
  • Eating in restaurants
  • Attending movies & theater
  • Visiting friends at their homes
  • Having people over to my home
  • Occasionally sleeping in a bed that is not my own
  • Living in an apartment building with many other tenants leading high-risk lives
  • Sitting in public anywhere.
So you see, it’s rather unavoidable and with a sizable minority of the population already infected (infested?), it seems like just a matter of time before it gets to me. I’ve kind of resigned myself to this fate and I’m not always so worried about it. You know who is always so worried about it? People who have already had bed bugs. I’ve had several friends go through it and they all exhibit a certain PTSD afterwards. Apparently experiencing it once is more than enough and they will go to extreme lengths not to go back there again. Such
lengths can include:
  • Crossing the street to avoid discarded furniture left on the sidewalk. It’s like the Scarlet A for infected apartment buildings to them.
  • The swearing off of thrift stores and flea markets and hand-me-downs in general.
  • Living so there is not so much to throw out/replace next time bed bugs come for them.
  • Regularly replacing their mattresses even though they cover them with bed bug resistant covers because one can never be too sure.
  • Being celibate and avoiding Frottage.
  • Constantly warning all their friends and neighbors about the dangers of bed bugs. I mean they’ll never shut up about it. Can we not talk about anything else?
  • Becoming a shut-in.
But back to my initial point about the seasons. Be happy for the colder weather as it envelops us. I figure if you get eaten alive in the night right now, at least you’re sure what you’re dealing with and can respond quickly and appropriately. There’s no big question as to what it could be, As GI Joe always told us, knowing is half the battle. The other half of the battle involves a bed bug sniffing dog named Roscoe.
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6 comments :

  1. Wow. I once had a bedbug sniffing beagle named Roscoe. Awesome. Brought back a lot of memories, Owen.

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  2. I think you should wrap yourself up in Saran wrap every night before you go to bed. If you want to make sure none get on your face, I'd advise covering your face with the wrap too but use a snorkel to breathe. The only problem with this is you might get bed bugs in your lungs. It's a toughy.

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  3. According to TIME magazine's article on bed bugs, we're all doomed. They live for a year just waiting for the opportunity to strike and they hitch rides in public on anything, as you noted above...Ohio is the worst hit state but a blog friend wrote up her experience out in Wyoming......yaaaahhhhhhh.....makes me not want to step outside --which I hesitate to do now anyway because of the ticks and chiggars.....

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  4. I had bedbugs in NYC back in '03 (I was cutting edge!) The bites are like spider bites, but you don't wake up with them - they won't appear for several hours. They're horrid. My #1 piece of advice - NEVER EVER put your suitcase on a bed. Either in a hotel, or at your own home. That is the #1 way they travel. In fact, I'd suggest you don't keep your suitcase in your bedroom at all. Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  5. This is an amazing post. I am so glad that I came across this awesome piece of work!

    ReplyDelete
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