Friday, April 28, 2006

It's Hard Out Here For A PMP

I thought that headline would get your attention.

PMPs (Pest Management Professionals) are quickly honing their bed bug-detecting and killing skills to meet the increasing demand to rid homes of bed bug infestations. But sometimes human instinct and senses aren't enough to find those few bugs who are hidden deep within the recesses of a structure. According to this article in Pest Control Technology, one company of PMPs in Ontario decided to train and employ a dog especially trained to sniff out bed bugs. Thanks to the dog's keen sense of smell, he was able to find the bed bugs-in the plumbing between the walls!

The training of bed bug-sniffing dogs is certainly a creative idea, and I would love to find such a company in New York to sniff out any surviving bed bugs in my own apartment. While almost all the bugs I've encountered in my home have been dead, I have seen one or two living bugs, proof of survivors. And where there's smoke...

Maybe I'll make that my homework assignment and throw up the results on Bugged Out.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Lame Legislature

In 2004, the New York State Legislature, which is responsible for managing the state budget and drafting and amending state law, was cited as the most dysfunctional state legislature in the United States by the Brennan Law Center at NYU. It was onyl until the results of that NYU survey of all 50 state legislatures that New York State decided to have a wave of reforms, including the changing of several of its members. It was only in 2005 that the New York Legislature had been able to approve a sound state budget before deadline for the first time in over 20 years. So until this report came out, the legislature didn't even live up to its own standards of efficiency and effectiveness.

So I guess it should've been no surprise to me when I saw that one state's legislature had beaten New York to the punch. That state? Hawaii. I read about it in the Honolulu Advertiser, where that state's politicians are working hard to push through a resolution that will request the director of Hawaii's Department of Health to create a bed bug prevention and education program.

Okay, I know the Hawaiian resolution is non-binding and therefore lacks the teeth an actual law would have, but it's a hell of a lot more than what our own state legislature is up to. New York State has made a lot of progress since that 2004 report, but they have so much farther to go. Part of the problem also lies in the fact that many legislature members represent part of the state that are outside the five boroughs, so they tend not to care so much about something they don't see affecting their own districts.

Here we have one lone City Councilwoman trying to do this, and I haven't heard of much support from other people. I haven't even heard of one hearing for this bed bug legislation that Councilwoman Brewer wants to have passed into law.

Hawaii wants the resolution to be made official quickly because bed bugs affect tourism and tourism is Hawaii's #1 industry. Well, tourism may not be the #1 industry in New York City, but it's certainly a billion-dollar industry, according to the New York City board of tourism, New York City & Co. Even if tourism isn't a big industry in New York City, real estate is. And bed bugs can seriously impact the value of a building infested with them. Bed bugs could very well spell the end of New York City's sky-high real estate values.

What gets me is that the local tourism and real estate industries should be aware of this, and if they are, why aren't they lobbying our politicians to do something about bed bugs? It's not like it doesn't happen on the federal level; the pharmaceutical industry, big tobacco and the HMOs all donate heavily to political campaigns and get the people in Congress to work for them. The tourism and real estate industries in New York City need to pool their money together and buy some good government intervention.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Media Confusion/Rant

Several times a week I'll peruse the web for news stories related to bed bugs. Coverage is usually scarce, and most of these articles mention the same information-sometimes even the same personal accounts from those bitten by bed bugs-that has appeared in other articles in the past.

But I came across one news story that bewildered me. The headline had the words "bed bugs" in it, so I clicked on it. First of all, this particular reporter, like most other reporters whose bed bug articles I've read in the last few months, must think he's the only reporter to have ever employed the adage "Sleep tight; don't let the bed bugs bite" in their headline. It just proves a famous statement made by Bill Maher on alleged media bias: "The media isn't biased; they're just lazy." After skimming this article, I couldn't agree more. The reporter didn't even bother to make some clever spin on the old saying, he just wrote it in full and made it the headline.

Also, this reporter has failed to do his homework, as the "bed bugs" to which this reporter is referring are in fact dust mites. Technically, he's right. Dust mites are in fact bugs, and according to this story, they reside in your bed, so they are bed bugs in name only.

Damn, why is coverage of this issue so lame? There's a few good, informative stories out there, but the vast majority is copy-paste journalism, just regurgitated info from other sites written by someone who obviously has done no research of his own other than to lift info from other sources.

News coverage really has to start getting better because I don't see this problem going away anytime soon. Almost everyday I see mattresses on on the curb next to an apartment building or house, sitting next to the rest of the garbage.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Mattress Mayhem

There are quite a few furniture stores in the neighborhood. To my surprise, however, none of them (even Sleepy’s) carried inflatable mattresses, and a few of the stores’ managers and workers didn’t even know what an inflatable mattress was! I don’t why, but I took the time to try and explain to them the concept of a mattress you pump air into. I felt like I was teaching a class as they looked at me in amazement and bewilderment every time. Two store managers asked me if I was going camping. One shopkeeper, this Greek guy asked, “So it is like a balloon, you fill it with your mouth?”

I tried not to laugh as I imagined myself filling an entire twin-size mattress with air from my own mouth, and passing out by the time it’s completely filled (Thank goodness I don’t have asthma!). I reply, “No, no, it’s much tougher than a balloon, and you use a pump to fill it with air. Some pumps are manual and some are electric.” The guy looked at me like I was making the whole thing up. “Why would someone want such a thing? They can buy one of my mattresses!” I stand there, trying to figure out how to answer the question without mentioning that I had bed bugs. I said, “It’s not for me, it’s for guests who stay over.” He nods and smiles, “Oh, like mother-in-law?” I say, “Yes, like mother-in-law.”

A friend recommended I go to Target to look for inflatable mattresses. Maybe I’ll just surf the Internet and see what I can find. I’m basically looking for a twin-sized mattress which can support at least 500 pounds. Do they make inflatables that can support that much weight? Before you get the wrong idea, I don’t weigh 500 pounds. I just want to be able to have sex on the inflatable without it bursting at the seams. Plus, whenever I’d bring people into my bedroom, like a bunch of people to watch TV or whatever, I usually used the bed as a couch since I only have two chairs.

So if anyone has any advice on inflatable mattresses, I’m all ears.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Only Good Bed Bug Is….

In the aftermath of the Great Spring Cleaning of ’06 and the Great Discarding of Bed, Mattress and Headboard of ’06, the only bed bugs I have encountered are dead ones. I should mention that I have not slept in my bedroom for a week. I have been sleeping on the living room couch, so the real test of how many bed bugs remain in my room will come when I actually sleep a full six hours there.

I’m waiting for my tax refund to come in so I can spend at least $100 on a quality inflatable mattress. I don’t feel comfortable laying out money for a new bed, mattress and head board in this apartment. I would only feel comfortable doing so in a new dwelling; therefore I plan to sleep on an inflatable mattress until I get my degree and save up enough money to move out.

On the positive side, I am enjoying the big increase in space that the absence of my bed and headboard have created. The bed and headboard combined were so bulky that the room almost looks empty in its absence.

I feel like just laying a blanket on the floor and spending the night just to see how many bugs, if any, appear. If only the couch wasn’t so much more comfortable than the cold, hard linoleum.

Next up for bed bug inspection are my bookshelves and my closet. One thing you learn quick about bed bugs is that eradicating them is like combating graffiti in an inner-city neighborhood: as soon as someone tags up your property, you have to paint it over the very next day. If you procrastinate and fail to cover it up in time, soon other vandals will get the message that it’s okay to tag up there, and in a few weeks, dozens of graffiti tags will have joined that initial first graffiti tag you failed to address in the first place.

Vigilance is key.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Thank you, posters!

As busy as I am, I feel the need to thank the handful of anonymous posters who have offered advice as well as sympathy and their own personal accounts of bed bug agony. Your entries have not gone unnoticed or unappreciated. I will happily respond to each and every one of them as soon as I can.

Mattress-cide Part III: Goodbye, Cruel World!

So Thursday afternoon my brother and I threw out all three items, with all of the inner contents (clothes, reading material, etc.) stuffed into plastic bags. Since I’ve had the bed for so many years, I couldn’t remember how the deliverymen were able to maneuver it through my apartment’s narrow hallway and the sharp right turn which led to my bedroom so many years ago. After an hour of budging and grunting, we decided to use a crowbar and take the bed apart. Bugs spilled out onto the floor, scurrying around as my brother began a two-man killing spree. After an hour the bottoms of our shoes as well as the floor were covered in reddish-brownish-blackish stains of bed bug entrails, and we returned to the task at hand.

I’ve spent the last two days cleaning up, vacuuming, mopping, throwing out old unwanted stuff to make room for the items that were displaced when I threw out the bed and headboard. I’m still not finished because I needed to prepare for three midterm exams this week. Plus I went on three job interviews, so it was a busy week.

Two good things about bed bugs that most people don’t consider, they force minimalism upon their victims by forcing them to get rid of a lot of their furniture and other material possessions. The other good thing they do is force people to routinely keep their surroundings clean. I know I’m kind of a slob, and the only thing worse than seeing the bed bugs as I cleaned my bedroom this week was realizing just how absolutely filthy the room was. So the end results to having bed bugs are clean, modest surroundings, a rare concept in this town.

Maybe bed bugs are God’s little messengers, sent to America to tell us to stop being such pigs and that the acquisition of material possessions is not what life is all about. I have so many friends who immediately after getting their first apartments on their own whip out their credit cards and spend thousands of dollars on fancy furniture. Marble coffee tables, leather sofas, canopy beds, wall-to-wall carpets, all so they can show the rest of the world that they have taste and style. Once I even dated a young lady who, despite earning a measly $18,000 a year, not only bought (with her credit card) lots of beautiful furniture for her new DUMBO apartment, but even used her line of credit to hire an interior decorator to help her pick out a theme for her apartment as well as furniture and other assorted accoutrements. Have fun paying off that debt. This economy is getting worse and people are still spending as if it’s getting better.

Mattress-cide Part II-Operation Extermination

I know it’s been a week since my last entry, and it’s because I finally decided to throw out my bed, mattress and headboard. Because so much time has passed between my last entry, and because so much has happened, I will split this entry into two. As I wrote in an earlier post, I had called an exterminator who told me of the small colony of bed bugs residing in and under my bed. I wanted a second opinion, so I asked my building manager to send up his exterminator, who was far more thorough than the one I hired on my own. When the second exterminator inspected my apartment on Wednesday, he pulled out the drawers from my captain’s bed and shone a flashlight into the bed’s shaded underbelly. There I saw scores of bed bugs of all sizes scurrying about. The drawers themselves, as I removed the articles of clothing inside and threw them into a plastic bag, were consistently dotted with black spots of bed bug feces. Each drawer (my bed had four of them) featured at least one nest of bed bug eggs and hatchlings. It was truly disgusting, and truly depressing.

Perhaps if I had attacked the problem back in January as fervently as I did this past week I might still have my bed, headboard and mattress. As the exterminator and I lifted my mattress we both saw the underside was riddled with little rips and tears, most likely made by the bugs and evidence that they were also living inside my mattress. I was a bit surprised to see this, as I had never really noticed these holes before. See all the difference a flashlight can make?

As for the headboard, the exterminator pounded the side of the headboard with his flashlight until a few bugs emerged from the board’s many cracks. The headboard was deep enough that it had two shelves inside, which I had half-filled with stacks of magazines and newspapers. He sprayed all over the apartment, but admitted that this wouldn’t do much to alleviate the problem. The only solution he saw was to get rid of the bed, mattress and headboard.

Even before Wednesday, I knew my bed would have to go. When I would go to bed last weekend, within five minutes after I laid down at night, the bed bugs would come out of their hiding places and bite the hell out of me. And this was with the lights on. They were no longer wary or cautious when seeking out their blood meal; they knew they now owned the bed. The pests knew what I didn’t know until the exterminator revealed it to me: that they had successfully colonized the place in which I’ve slept for the last 15 years. The insects even began biting my face, something they had never done before.

The whole thing reminds me of a popular lyric sung by the late Tupac Shakur: “We don’t die; we multiply.” Though he was referring to gangsters and thugs, I can easily view these insects as thugs, going wherever they please, doing whatever they want to whomever is unfortunate enough to be in their presence.