Nina In New York: Bed Bug Torment
A young professional’s take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.
By Nina Pajak
I live in fear. The bedbugs. Are literally. Everywhere. They’re in my bed, my furniture, my chair at work, the conference room. They’re on that guy next to me on the subway, and that girl sitting over there. Hey, get away from me. Did you just touch me? I hope you didn’t. I’m sending you my dry cleaning bill.
I am tormented. Every night I lie awake, feeling the sheets for them, popping the covers up fast to surprise them as they launch their attack. I reach down to scratch my leg. What’s that bump? Oh man, it’s a bug! Oh wait, it’s a birthmark. But what’s this I feel by my foot? Oh lord, it’s a bug! Oh wait, it’s a microbial speck of lint. Only, is it? No! Oh wait, yes.
I’ve pretty much ceased shopping (an unexpected and positive side effect) and I inspect the seams of seat cushions in taxis (this, on the other hand, is generally inadvisable). Just thinking about them gives me hives, which I become convinced are bites, which gives birth to new hives, and so on and so forth. This cannot go on.
Here’s the thing: I don’t actually have bedbugs. As far as I know, they are not now nor have ever been in my apartment. But they could be! I had a brush with them in a mistake of a hotel in Washington, D.C., and I managed to leave them there. But I feel like I just dodged a Nina-seeking missile. Did you ever see “Final Destination?” You can’t cheat death—or bedbugs. It’s only a matter of time.
Every year, an epidemic is announced. And every year, it gets worse. Last summer, NYC residents went to bedbug Defcon 1. Now as the warmer, bug-breeding weather approaches, the city is unveiling its new “bedbug portal” online and a tougher stance on landlord responsibility. But how much will any of that really help? Better individual education and more responsive building-owners may slow the exponential spread to some degree, but it won’t quash their very existence. There’s only once course of action that will kill them all: we need to reintroduce whatever dread chemical pesticides killed them off in the 1950s. Whatever wussy, EPA-approved stuff we’re using now is clearly inadequate. I say we blast them with everything we’ve got! We don’t want another Silent Spring, but we need to step it up. We could all just agree to use the stuff more sparingly, or judiciously, or—I don’t care. It just needs to get done, or soon the bedbugs will take over the city and beyond. And that would just be a disaster, though it would be good fodder for the next M. Night Shyamalan plot in which bedbugs are in City Hall, making budgetary decisions and enslaving the human race. Then it turns out it’s all a dream, or we realize we’re worse than the bugs because we’re mean and they’re just insects.
Regardless, it sounds awful. All of it. DDT is looking pretty good to me.
Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I’m always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.
Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.
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