The Real.Est List
Bedbugged! How not to get rid of your stuff
In case you haven’t figured out Major Error No. 2 (No. 1 having been committed the previous week, when I moved into the living room instead of serving as bait in my own bed), it has to do with the disposal of my infested furniture. Everything should have been completely encased in plastic so that not a single bug could escape during transit. Instead, the workers leaned the unsheathed pieces of wood in the hallway, right next to my neighbor’s door. Distraught as I was, it took me about 15 minutes to notice.
When I did, I started yelling at them: “This can’t stay there! You have to bring that straight to the curb!!”
I couldn’t believe they hadn’t figured that out. Today I can’t believe that I couldn’t figure out how to get it wrapped in plastic. Mind you, this all happened in 2009, before bed bugs started crawling all over the media, along with instructions on how to deal with them. In my defense, I had called 311 to ask how to dispose of mattresses, and someone named Cornelius had told me there was such a thing as mattress-encasing plastic just for bed bug removal.
I had tried to procure some during the week between the first and second sprays, but no one had known what I was talking about.
“Home Depot will have it,” Cornelius 311 had said.
Home Depot sent me to Bed, Bath & Beyond, which only sold the mattress covers that you leave on for sleeping. So I sort of let it slide. Then when the horror of it all broke upon my brain, I simply shoved the offending items out the door.
Thus, beleaguered and bedless, and divested of my bed bugged furniture, I went out and bought an air mattress. I slept in the living room because I didn’t have the energy to clean up from the bed-frame demolition.
The next day dawned bright and sunny in my east-facing digs. I woke up itching, with several new bites. I opened my eyes. They fell on the business end of a plastic broom about 18 inches from my face. I saw something suspicious in the bristles, grabbed my glasses. Yes. It was a bed bug.
My heart fell. I started looking around in the piled possessions, not yet bagged. I found three or four more. I started crying.
I called TC yet again. “I’m finding bed bugs in the living room!” I yelped.
“Really?” he said. “They must be stragglers.”
Stragglers, shmagglers. He promised to come over. We were becoming like an old married couple.
He arrived with the magic can and doused my living room all over again, and then some. Before it had been mainly the sofa, but this time he didn’t hold back. Wielding the hose, he drenched the floor, then moved to the walls, as high as the door frames between the living room and kitchen. Pesticide dripped down from the top of the doorway onto the floor, forming puddles.
TC promised to come back in a couple of weeks and bomb the place. But I had at last found some credible information on the Internet, and one thing I had gleaned was that bombing is another HUGE no-no. Bombs contain chemicals that repel the bugs and send them deeper into the walls and potentially to your neighbors, which is fine if you want the pests to come back to your pad when the coast is clear. I, curiously, didn’t.
“Well, the bombing gets rid of everything else,” TC explained. “Then we come back in and focus on any bed bugs that survived.”
He was so fired.
Next week: Shopping for a Real Exterminator
Theresa Braine is a NYC-based journalist and bed bug survivor whose work has appeared in the NY Daily News, People, Newsday and other outlets. Bedbugged! is her weekly column about life in the bed bug trenches and how to climb out with your sanity intact.