Invasion of the bedbugs - Page 3

How we dealt with these disgusting little bloodsuckers; and why we still fear stigma and our landlord
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The same thing happened at Fox News' Manhattan office in March of last year, and again this month at Bill Clinton's offices in Harlem.

Spokespersons for these three entities claim to have things under control. But the question is, does treating the building really solve anything? What about the employees? And, in the case of Penguin, what about all those books? Aren't they infected too? It would certainly seem so. But perhaps you're also wondering why, if the epidemic is getting so out of hand, you still haven't encountered a problem. Well, the truth is, the bedbugs might be closer to you than you think.

INVISIBLE INVADERS

There are dozens of reasons why you might not have noticed the resurgence, but probably the biggest is that it's embarrassing: people don't want to discuss the issue because it's gross. But this line of thinking works against us, and if we ever want to learn how to handle the situation, we've got to come to terms with the fact that bedbugs have nothing to do with social class or cleanliness.

That's something my girlfriend hasn't quite been able to come to grips with, which is why I'm writing under a pseudonym. She hasn't told anyone but her mother and she can't stand the idea of bosses, friends, and potential employers Googling her name or mine and somehow finding this story. Yet I've come to realize, while researching this issue, that there's really no reason to be ashamed.

"This is really the first time in human history where people — all people — aren't constantly on the lookout for bedbugs," Potter said. "And our first course of action is to get reacquainted." That's not as easy as it sounds. But here are some tips.

First, you should get rid of the idea that bedbugs are microscopic. They're not. When bedbugs are born, they look like milky-white flax seeds, but after the first feeding they grow to the size of chili flakes and develop a similar hue. Full-grown bedbugs are about the length of a Tic-Tac. They're brown and flat and they have six legs — something like a two-dimensional, oval-shaped tick with stripes.

Second, don't underestimate the cunning nature of bloodsucking insects. Bedbugs may not be able to communicate with one another or build intricate nests, but evolution has blessed the species with one sinister adaptive trait: near-invisibility. Bedbugs are masters of disguise. They live in tiny crevices in hard-to-find places — box springs, mattresses, baseboards, etc. — and usually only come out when people are sleeping. But nocturnal dining habits and the ability to hide aren't the only tools in a bedbug's arsenal.

The real reason we can sleep soundly while hordes of insects wriggle through our undergarments and suck our blood is that these particular insects are equipped with anesthetic. Simply put, bedbug bites do not hurt. What's even worse is that, unless you happen to be allergic to the numbing agent found in bedbug saliva, there's not going to be any evidence in the morning either.

That's why I thought my girlfriend was either completely insane or perhaps the victim of some unknown skin disorder, even after she got back from the doctor. I just couldn't understand how a colony of insects could repeatedly bite one person and not even touch the other as he slept inches away. My girlfriend still had her doubts as well, but for lack of any other plausible answer, we decided to look deeper into the issue.