Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Reflecting on 2006

2006 was quite the life-altering year for me. This time in January 2006, I was working for AM New York, handing out free newspapers in Washington Heights from 6 to 10 am, and coming home to blood sucking bed bugs. I still had my bed, mattress, headboard and pillows, all appealing real estate for the tiny insects which would soon irrevocably change my life. At the time I kept telling myself the problem would go away, that the right amount of roach spray and fogger would take care of everything.

I remember searching the web for information about bed bugs, only to find deals on fumigation tents for detached houses. I still remember grumbling to myself, “I live in a 10-story apartment building; you’re gonna throw a tent over that?” I remember the hopelessness I felt as I continued to peruse the Web, looking for that magic answer that would make the bugs go away. I remember being thankful that the weather was still cold so I could wear clothing that would cover my bite-riddled forearms. It was the lack of resources and support for New Yorkers that prompted me to launch Bugged Out.

By spring, the bugs had fully established themselves in my bed and were now visible in our sofa and love seat. They went out along with my bed, only to be replaced with a series of $10 beach chairs. Thankfully, we inherited a couch and love seat from a relative in December.

In February, there was the City Councilmember who made headlines by proposing to draft laws protecting New Yorkers from bed bugs. The Councilmember’s press people made sure to paint her as some kind of Consumer Affairs superhero, but her proposal didn’t even get an official hearing until half a year later. Even then, the hearing was lackluster with a bill that has been laid over in committee only to be revived next year. Unfortunately, this bill is most likely not to be reviewed, have a hearing scheduled on it before September 2007, as the City Council usually spends February to June drafting and revising and bickering over the City’s 2008 budget in order to approve it into law by its July 1 deadline. What do City Councilmembers do during July and August, while they're still recieving their paychecks? E-mail them and ask them just that!

Perhaps embarrassed by its inability to get any meaningful law passed that would help New Yorkers suffering from bed bugs, the City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) published pamphlets regarding bed bug awareness, detection and treatment for both homeowners and the hospitality industry. Definitely a step in the right direction for the DOHMH.

My blog roll has grown as more and more individuals launch web sites related to bed bugs, including projects attempting to provide a comprehensive map of infestations in the five boroughs.

The highlight of 2006 was definitely meeting M, who is now my fiancé. What were the chances of meeting another person (through MySpace, of all places) who had also lost their furniture to bed bugs? Someone I got along with, someone I grew to love, someone with whom I share a deep spiritual connection. I remember that first date when I went up to the Bronx to meet her, when I pulled her close to me and we shared a full, passionate kiss under a big tree under the rain in Van Cortland Park. I remember in the pizzeria when she showed me the bug bites on her arm, and I took her arm, gently caressed the bite marks with my fingers and then leaned forward to kiss them.

I would not have been able to clean out my home strike a winning blow to the bed bug infestation without her and my brother. My brother who eventually lost his own mattress to bed bugs (thankfully his bed is a metal spring-loaded frame!) and now sleeps on a much thinner sofa bed mattress wrapped in plastic. He says he can feel every spring with this cheap mattress, but I asked him if he’d rather feel the itch of bed bug bites instead. For months, the bed bugs lingered within my pillow, the last remaining remnant of the sleeping environment I’d known almost all my life which I refused to throw out. By fall, that too was trashed, and for several months my folded arms were my pillow.

Bugged Out earned its share of notoriety in the national spotlight, the local beat and from fellow bloggers who were cool enough to swap links (A big thanks to Caitlin for being a faithful blogger and reader from the start!). Then there was the controversial DDT ban issue, an argument which has supporters on both ends (including myself) debating on Bugged Out whether or not the chemical should remain illegal.

Like I said before, I started this blog to create an online community for New York City residents suffering from bed bugs, a place where they could exchange personal accounts, advice and sympathy for those in the early stages of infestation. A year later, I am happy to say that more and more ventures in cyberspace have materialized to inform and support New Yorkers suffering from bed bugs. I hope 2007 will see even more steps in the right direction, with fewer and fewer New Yorkers suffering from bed bugs, until the days comes when no human being ever has to, in sheer paranoia, scan their sheets, pillows, mattresses or furniture for any sign of these despicable little monsters.

Happy New Year!

1 comment:

nobugsonme said...

Hi!
Bedbugger has also been linked to you since we started in October. We'd love it if you were willing to link to us as well!
Congratulations on your blog and on finding LOVE... I think it's a very cool story. Bed bug romance, who would have thought?