Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Watch Your Wires!

For those of you in New York City, you know the temperature went up to the 70s this week. I had a standing fan that I had put away during the winter months, and this week I took it back out to make up for the fact that I have no air conditioning. The area of my bedroom where I usually put this fan is too far away from any outlet, so I used a heavy duty extension cord to solve the problem.

But instead of unplugging the extension cord from the outlet back in November when I put away the fan, I simply left the extension cord on the floor, splayed out along the wall and still plugged into the outlet, without giving it a second thought.

Fast forward back to two days ago: I put the fan in place and get on my knees to plug it into the extension cord, except...

...there are bed bugs in the extension cord.

The extension cord itself is covered with little dots of bed bug feces, and live bugs are crawling out of it, and some dead bugs fall out of the cord as I pick it up. My eyes follow the length of the cord back to the outlet (actually it's one of those box adapters that turn two outlets into six), where I can see a few specks of bed bug feces. Long story short, I replace the infested cord as M mops the area and carefully wipes down the outlet with rubbing alcohol.

I have no idea if the bugs that ventured inside the old extension cord sensed heat from the live electrical currents, mistaking it for body heat. If anyone knows if there's any connection between bed bugs and electricity, it would be great if they could sare with the rest of the class.

I usually have a no picture policy at Bugged Out, but I thought it was necessary to show these photos. Let this be a lesson: watch your wires!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Report From Councilwoman Gale Brewer

New Yorkers have long been disappointed by our City Council to effectively address the bed bug epidemic in their city. In January 2006, Councilwoman Gale Brewer, who represents Manhattan's Upper East Side, announced plans to introduce a bill which if approved would request the City ban the sale reconditioned mattresses and ban new mattresses from from being transported next to new ones and establish a Bed Bug Task Force. Her plans were to introduce this into the Council's Consumer Affairs Committee, which she does by mid-February, where it sits in the Committee for months. A spokeperson for Brewer, who promised to put me on a bed bug bill e-mail list, stated that her office wanted to hold a public hearing on the issue before introducing the bill into the Health Committee to gather public testimony that will help her case when she tries to convince Committee members to vote for it. The whole January announcement got her face in the paper, but she sure didn't do anything for New Yorkers suffering from bed bugs.

The Consumer Affairs Committee finally holds a hearing in September 2006. The hearing got a lot of press, especially for Brewer, but it didn't get much more else done for those New Yorkers living with bed bugs and those yet to have them in their homes. In fact, the Bed Bug bill died in committee.

Last week I received an update e-mail from Brewer's office, informing me of her latest move to boldly stand for nothing: On April 29, Councilwoman Brewer wrote a letter to the New York State Department of State to create regulations on how businesses can sanitize used mattresses before reselling them. Here's the letter in its entirety.


April 29, 2008

Ms. Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez

Secretary of State

Department of State
41 State Street
Albany, NY 12231-0001

Dear Secretary Cortés-Vázquez:

New York City is trying to find a way to eradicate the bed bug epidemic, and as part of this effort, I would like to obtain more information about rules regarding reconditioned mattresses. Specifically, I would like to be informed about state guidelines for the sterilization process for used bedding. In 1996, the State Legislature passed State Law Article 25A, Section 385, but it seems that rules were not promulgated regarding enforcement of that law by the Department of State or the Department of Health. The law stipulates that these standards are to be used to deem mattresses acceptable for re-sale throughout the state.

We are drafting a Resolution in the Council to request that the Department of State pass such regulations. Many reconditioned mattresses are currently sold without much "reconditioning"; they are simply covered with a new layer of cloth. As this does not sanitize them, bedbugs can continue to live within the newly purchased mattresses. Any guidance on the rules would be helpful, especially any mandatory processes for sanitization before selling the reconditioned mattress.

A female bed bug can lay five eggs a day, and over five hundred in her lifetime. These insects bite people as they sleep, causing inflammation to the skin, welts, and itching. They also spread into wall crevices, window and doorframes, electrical boxes, floor cracks, baseboards, furniture, and wall-to-wall carpeting.

People who buy or use second hand mattresses, including families, the elderly and managers of low cost hotels, could end up sleeping on a mattress that is contaminated. Commercial retailers who sell reconditioned mattresses inadvertently victimize these individuals, who then find themselves with the additional economic hardship of hiring professional exterminating services. These mattresses act as nesting places, and are conduits for bedbugs to live and grow. The rising cost of fighting bed bugs impacts all sectors of New York City’s social and commercial life.

If you have any questions, please contact me, or my Chief of Staff, Shula Warren, at (212) 788-6975. I look forward to your response.


Gale A. Brewer


She then included a link from Dateline NBC's latest show, "Bed bugs living in new or refurbished mattress".

People who are familiar with my other blog know I am a libertarian and do not want government interfering in private affairs, especially in dealing with local business. This is a fine example of why the government should really not get involved in this and many other issues. The politicians pretend to care, hold meetings that go nowhere and lead to nothing. They take forever to address local issues, especially something as serious as bed bugs.

I think the private sector has done far more than the government to help the public. I give credit to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for creating their bed bug pamphlet to better inform New Yorkers about bed bugs, but it really didn't contain any information that most of us weren't already aware of. Information we already got from non-government sources like the pest control industry and various universities and media outlets. Some retailers have solved the problem by selling only used mattresses and completely sealing new mattresses in tough plastic wrapping.

So I really do think the private sector did more to help consumers than the government. Perhaps they did it in self-interest (the pest control industry informed New Yorkers to make them realize how badly they need to hire an exterminator, and retailers like Sleepy's refused to sell used mattresses at all in order to win customers over from those retailers who sell refurbished mattresses.), but they got the job done, without any help at all from our lame-duck City Council and local government. Unfortunately, the only thing New York City government excels at is arresting people for marijuana; according to the New York City Bar Association, for every white person arrested on marijuana charges, nine people of color are arrested for the same charges.

I believe that if this bed bug problem is ever solved, it will only be done by the private sector, and not by the government. If the government really gave a damn about eradicating bed bugs the only helpful it could ever do is repeal the ban on DDT and at the very least allow it be be researched in an unbiased manner to test its effectiveness of bed bugs and look for any serious side effects of DDT exposure to plants, animals and humans.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

For the Record...

I will be deleting the long-defunct bed bug poll on my sidebar, "What have you parted with in the last 12 months due to bed bugs?"

But before I remove the poll from the sidebar and sending it to poll hell, I figured I'd record the results of this poll, which closed Dec 31, 2007.

What have you parted with in the last 12 months due to bed bugs?

Couch...34% (32 responses)

Bed Frame (including headboard)...37% (35 responses)

Mattress...48% (45 responses)

Other Furniture...38% (36 responses)

Apartment...17% (16 responses)

Sanity...71% (76 responses)

Significant Other...8% (8 responses)

For those of you who tuned in after 2008, don't feel left out! I will be resurrecting this survey from poll hell next week. It's not scientific, but it sure is fun!

Friday, May 09, 2008

One More Reason to Stand In the Subway

According to the New York Post, New York Daily News and one City agency, among other sources, bed bugs have exploded in population in our subway system, finding a comfortable home in the wooden benches on the subway platforms.

Bed bug sighting have been confirmed at the following subway stations:

  • Fordham Road, Bronx
  • Union Square, Manhattan
  • Hoyt-Schermerhorn, Brooklyn
While only three out of the dozens of subway stations in New York City have had confirmed sightings, there's no doubt in my mind that the others are just as contaminated.

Apparently, a bed bug workshop held in Greenpoint, Brooklyn last Thursday by the Department of Housing and Preservation Development slipped my radar; sorry about that. It's detailed in most of the news articles and it seems this declaration by media is based on what was discussed at that workshop. Fortunately, a blogger in Greenpoint attended the event and provided details.

Just for fun I thought I'd start another poll asking readers to tell us which borough's subway stations they have encountered bed bugs, if they have done so at all. Please, join in on the fun.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Out of the Mouths of Children

I got this comment the other day from a frightened teeny bopper who just found bed bugs, presumably near her Hannah Montana pillowcase.

I am 15 and ive found bed bugs. at first i saw little brown& red bugs and thought nothin of it. then when i saw the blood fed ones crawling around i freaked.then more of them start comming and finaly i threw the bed out and got a new one.i was vaccumin like crazy,washing the comferter and sheets threw the pillows out and sprayed! and it didnt even affect em.i sprayed one constantly that i found,a blood fed one,and it keep crawling.and the sad part is the we also shampood the carpet and i found one last night at 3:00am and i mom saw them and saw that one last night and dont believe me and she thinks it ants or just bugs.which is is it possible that the bugs came back with a new bed?
Dear Bianca,

I'm so sorry you found bed bugs in your room, but I'm even sorrier your mom doesn't believe you. Did she see the blood stains or the bites on your body? Roaches and ants simply do not do that. Do NOT tell anyone at school about this because kids can be cruel. I got teased in high school and I was just fat. Don't even tell your friends.

Also, you should never replace furniture when you haven't even gotten rid of the bed bugs. Your mom totally wasted a bunch of money because that new bed will become infested. I'm broke; she could've sent the money to me. This is something your mom should really be worrying about, not you. Tell mom to come to Bugged Out for more info, tips and to keep us updated on your own bed bug experience. If she acts soon enough, she can prevent these bed bugs from spreading, because bed bugs can lay about 500 eggs at a time, and that's a lot.

Besides, you should not be reading Bugged Out because it is full of foul language, descriptions of various body parts and explicit descriptions of sexual activity between myself and my fiancee M, whose sister-in law is also named Bianca. And some awful people on this site have even advocated the use of alcohol and-gasp!-illegal street drugs to make themselves feel better about their bed bug problems. No, Bugged Out is no place for children.

Also, I think it's cute that you posted anonymously yet left your name at the foot of your comment. Did I say cute? I meant amusing.

Good luck Bianca, and try to pull your mom out of denial.

Monday, May 05, 2008

A Condition Like No Other...

...that's the best way I could describe living with bed bugs.

In a previous post, I related my own struggle with diabetes and attempted to draw parallels between that and my ordeal with bed bugs. I said that in both situations, the affected party must drastically alter their lifestyle, implement a routine of corrective as well as preventative measures, and that in both cases the idea of giving up crosses one's mind at times.

One anonymous commenter stated the following, to which I feel I must respond:

Ok. I totally understand where you are coming from. Really I do. The "Don't give up" speech. I would trade bbs for a disease anyday. Yes I would. Why. 'Cause then my kids can have their character decorative pillows that they want. So my kids do not hafta live outta fu.kin' plastic bags and ugly, stupid platic bins. So my kids can have their toys and go to school normally. Disease affects that one person only. Sure, family members get sad about the disease, but family members do not hafta be quarantined like some freak or deadly virus. You can have a beautiful home with a disease. I have, really have thought about suicide from this bb bullshit. I even wrote 2 suicide notes. I feel like an unfit parent for doing too little about the bbs in my home. I'm doing the best I can and yet I feel I cannot protect my kids and I feel overwhelmed and outta control. If it was just me living by myself, I really wouldn't give a crap. Really. I would have no furniture except the basics like bed, tv, chair, that's it. But, when you hafta raise kids and seeing what they hafta go through just breaks my heart. I want my kids to have a nice plushy couch to sit on and watch tv and beds, etc. I don't even have their beautiful school pictures on the walls. This sucks!! How do families in other countries do this? I didn't end it because when I wrote goodbye to my kids in my note I just cry and cry. I LOVE my kids. But the pressure from this bb bullshit has pushed me over the edge. I live in NY. Yes, I know NY is infested. But, I feel so alone.

Don't tell me to see a therapist because I am.

Oh yeah, I don't wanna read any comments from people saying that they've been there and that this can't go on forever, etc. and that they understand. If you have bbs no more, then you do NOT know what I'm going through. Your ordeal is over, mine is not. You can move on, I cannot.
I understand where you're coming from, lady. Seriously, I do. I know that's exactly what you didn't want to hear, but it's my blog and I'm saying it. I don't think I've ever heard of anyone contemplating suicide because of bed bugs, though. Tell me you're not seeing a therapist because of the bed bugs! Not that I'm making fun of your reaction or your situation, mind you. There were many times when I too considered looking for a therapist due to my bed bug problem, but my fiancee M was my rock. We really relied on each other for emotional support.

I don't think you're overreacting at all, but I do think you're downplaying the impact a disease can have on a person and their loved ones. If, God forbid, one of your children was suddenly diagnosed with leukemia, would you be just "sad about it", as you stated in your comment, or would it absolutely devastate you as you watched your child's hair fall out and grow weaker each day, with little hope of recovery? I can't even imagine how my life would be destroyed if M, God forbid, suddenly was diagnosed with a terminal illness.

My analysis is that you and your family have had a relatively easy life up until now, and this infestation is probably the only devastating event you've had in your life. If you grew up in poverty, if you were abused as a child, if you have a disease or have recovered from one, you'd have some perspective, something to which you can compare your current infestation, and realize that as bad as things are, they could be far worse and you've endured situations that were almost as bad as your infestation.

In your comment you asked how families in other countries deal with bed bugs, and they deal with it because their lives were probably a lot harder than yours even before they had bed bugs. I love my country, but Americans only read international news when it involves the United States. Right now, there are people in Colombia enduring a 30-year civil war, and in Congo and Darfur, people are being shot or chopped into pieces due to tribal genocide. In Sub-Saharan Africa two out of three adults and 90 percent of children live with HIV, according to the United Nations. In Somalia people were rioting over food prices. In the city of Odessa in Russia, 1 out of 4 men have HIV. And in Iraq...well, we all know what's going on in Iraq. According to USAID, 2.7 million people worldwide die from malaria (with 90 percent of those deaths occurring in Africa), a disease that was wiped out in the U.S. and Europe in the early 20th Century, thanks in part to DDT-the same pesticide that was used to nearly wipe out bed bugs 50 years ago.

So how do people in other countries deal with bed bugs? At the risk of sounding arrogant, Americans on the whole live better lives than most of the other people on this planet. I'm a poor person in the wealthiest country on earth, and I'm a Latino in a country run by Anglos. I wouldn't want to be poor anywhere else but America, and I certainly wouldn't want to be an ethnic minority in any other country, either. I consider myself very lucky that I live in a country where so many people of different, races, ethnicities, religions and political beliefs get up in the morning and want to work together rather than slaughter each other. The people in other countries are surrounded by so much turmoil, when they do have bed bug infestations they have something to compare it to.

And please, don't hate on the plastic bags and bins; they're what's keeping your lives somewhat more livable with the bed bugs while you try to completely eradicate those little vampires. That's why I can't sign on to this whole environmentalism movement. These limousine liberals all declare war on plastic, but plastic has basically saved my life simply because bed bugs do not like it. My books are on my shelves in plastic bins; I have plastic dressers, plastic hampers, and milk crates for extra storage. I just replaced my cloth curtains with vinyl ones and I sleep on a mattress that is completely covered in thick plastic and on pillows that are covered in plastic and covered again with pillow cases. The tree-huggers don't understand what plastic means to poor people, and the way this economy's going, a lot more Americans are going to be joining the lower classes. Besides, the idea that the earth needs to be saved by humans, or that humans could ever hurt the earth is ridiculous and arrogant. If the earth ever feels threatened by our species, it will get rid of us like it has to 99 percent of the other species which once inhabited this planet (mind you, millions of years before our primate ancestors even learned how to walk upright 200,000 years ago).

I also can't get with the environmentalist movement because of their success in banning DDT, a chemical which lead to the near-extinction of bed bugs 50 years ago. Despite the fact that there was no unbiased research conducted on the environmental effects of DDT, one dead bitch wrote one book and it convinced the EPA to ban DDT in 1972. As a spokesman for the U.S. chemical industry famously said when the Carson's book, Silent Spring, was published,
"If man were to follow the teachings of Miss Carson, we would return to the Dark Ages, and the insects and diseases and vermin would once again inherit the earth."
Perhaps those days are upon us right now.

I don't have kids, so I'm not even going to begin to pretend I understand what you're going through. I do however, invite any bed bug sufferers who are parents to share their experiences and maybe even tips to help out a fellow parent in the same tragic situation.

As for my ordeal being over, you're dead wrong. The problem with one's home being infested once is the knowledge that it could very well happen again, either by accidental introduction of new bugs from the outside or a resurgence of bed bugs previously thought to have been successfully eradicated from one's home. I'm not going to bother to buy any wooden furniture or try to revert my home to what it used to look like before my bed bug infestation, not until DDT is legalized in the U.S. It's like fighting crime; the police know they will never keep their city crime free, but they do what they must to keep it as under control as possible and never allow it to get completely out of control. Just because crime is low doesn't mean you leave your doors unlocked, and just because you don't see bed bugs doesn't mean you go back to the kind of environment bed bugs crave.

But I do appreciate your comment nonetheless, because I know there are many New Yorkers living with bed bugs who feel the same way you do. And I think your comment offers them some small consolation that they are not alone in this. If Bugged Out accomplishes nothing else, it should be to let New Yorkers and everyone else dealing with bed bugs that they are not alone. When I first launched this blog in January 2006 I certainly felt alone, and I don't feel that way any more.

Keep the comments coming, and try to keep a positive attitude about all this, as impossible as it may seem. Might I suggest alcohol, or a less legal alternative?

Don't Mind The Ads

For those of you who have cared to follow, I’ve been looking for steady work for the last four months. I recently joined the CBS News blog ad network and that’s why you see all those long vertical ads on the sidebar. Right now I’m basically surviving on my tax refund because the money from a job I did last month has run out.

Unlike Google Ad, which allows you to place their links anywhere on the site, MSNBC requires they be near the top of the page. It just means you have to scroll down a bit farther to see the categories, posts, comments, blogroll and all the other fun sidebar features on INTOO.
For those readers who may find all of these display ads to be visually offensive, just bear in mind that unlike myself, you probably have a job. This is me surviving. I am so sick of filling out applications and going on job interviews that go nowhere. I’m also going to expand my writing hustle and my array of services.

I’ve lost faith in finding steady employment for now. I’ll still keep filling out job applications and pouring through classified ads, but I will be doing so as if I am buying a lottery ticket: I know I probably won’t hit the jackpot but I also know I have no chance of winning if I don’t play.

My new plan is simply to do what I can to get by and wait for the economy to eventually bounce back. This New Yotk Times article at least gives me some consolation:

“But the number of jobs reported lost by the Labor Department on Friday was significantly smaller than most analysts had predicted, and the unemployment rate nudged down to 5 percent, raising hopes that the economy may not suffer as severely as once feared.

“It strongly argues that this downturn will be mild and short- lived,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s “As long as businesses hold the line on their layoffs, the economy will weaken, but it won’t unravel.”

I was considering applying for the New York Police Department and the New York City Department of Corrections, and the exams are in May and June, but the Mayor has said that due to a decrease in federal funding, fewer officers will be hired this year, so my chances of being hired are not that great. The only government agencies that seem to be hiring en masse are law enforcement and the Armed Forces, and I figured while policing the mean streets of New York aren’t much safer than policing Iraq, at least I get to go home every night.

The City’s public school system is hiring teachers too, with a fellowship program that provides new hires with a free Masters in Education as long as they agree to teach in the public schools for five years. I’ve had a few friends who graduated from college and not only couldn’t find work in the field for which they studied or trained, but couldn’t find anywhere else and began teaching during the day as they attended graduate classes at night, so by the time they earn the Masters, they only have two or three years left under their contract. I wonder how many people have opted to become a poorly paid New York City public school teacher solely because they couldn’t find any other form of steady employment.

The next application season begins in August. Unfortunately, I missed the February application deadline because I was so confident I’d find a media job. That was stupid of me, because I could be teaching right now and earning a steady paycheck.

This post is a lot longer than I originally intended it to be, so I’m just going to end now. Again, don’t mind the display ads, and if you’re feeling charitable without having to donate any money, please click on a few of them.