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Nina In New York: We’ve Won The War On Imaginary Bed Bugs

Bed bug beagle

New York City is using specifically trained beagles, like this one, in the battle to eradicate bed bugs. (Photo by STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York.
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Just the other day I passed an exterminator’s truck on 49th street and I thought to myself, where has all the hysterical bed bug coverage gone? A year ago, the sight of that vehicle would have sent me into itchy hyperventilation. Now, I barely flinch. And though part of that is due to intensive psychological rehabilitation, I can’t help but make the connection that the more headlines there are announcing the bed bug invasion, the crazier I feel. So conversely, the news items I read on the subject, the less stressed I feel. Just thinking about this made me launch headfirst into a whirlpool of neurosis, unfortunately.

Are there fewer bed bugs now, all of a sudden, when every report last year claimed the problem was only going to get exponentially worse until finally the human race would become entirely consumed by bugs and slowly become them? No, that seemed unlikely! (I mean, the part about there being fewer bugs, not the other stuff. I’m pretty sure that other stuff is exactly what the news people were saying.) I’ve simply let my guard down. How sloppy and reckless of me! Or perhaps there was a winter lull and the summer season is about to ramp back up. It’s about to start all over again. I need to resume vigilance.

More: NYC’s Bed Bug Guide

Only now I’ve come to find out that there really are fewer bed bugs in the city compared to last year. Or rather, there are fewer reports of bed bugs compared to last year. And fewer violations have been handed out. At least, according to the city, who feels their efforts to educate the public and hold landlords and business owners accountable are working. Natch. Also according to at least one exterminator, who attributed his decrease in calls to the fact that “a lot of the hype has disappeared.”

Ah. So, essentially, the number of  imaginary bed bug infestations has gone down. Well. I guess I’m living proof of that.

NOTSOFAST says another exterminator interviewed for the piece. While the city’s 311 hotline may be getting fewer calls, he certainly isn’t and wants us to know that bed bugs are as active as ever! It’s just that people are dealing privately rather than reporting their landlords to the city. Which on the one hand means landlords are taking better initiative and responsibility. On the other hand, this guy obviously has a stake in the general public’s level of fear and paranoia staying at very healthy red alert levels. Imaginary emergency calls could be this guy’s bread and butter! Between me and my brother alone, the pest control industry made a pretty penny without having to do much heavy lifting at all. The dog sniffs a few times here, they lay a few gas bombs there, bibbidy bobbidy boo your fictitious bugs go poof.

So whom to believe? I’m going to have to go with the city on this one, for purely self-preservation purposes. I’d rather exterminate all of the hallucinated bed bugs from my brain. I think they were always more numerous than the real, live ones.

That being said, I’m still not sure when I’ll ever enter a movie theater in the city again. I mean, please. Let’s not get carried away.

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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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