Bedbugged! is a weekly column by journalist and bed bug survivor Theresa Braine. For more, click here.
It is said that having bed bugs changes a person. I guess one could say that about me, given that I think about them pretty regularly—even two apartments and nearly three years after it all started.
Though writing about the critters certainly makes me think about them more than the average bed bug survivor, I have noticed some changes in my behavior since bed bugs, all based on being more conscious of what can happen.
I have become more cautious about things, and remain not as cautious as I should be on others. I haven’t quit anything but I have revised some habits. For the most part, though, I have tried to live with just a bit more awareness.
Anything I do differently is based on addressing the question of where, and how, does one pick up bed bugs?
I had stopped this habit in my last apartment, the share that I had after Bed Bug Land and before the place I live in now. But since moving, I have found myself jumping on every piece of lint for a close-up look, even if it’s obvious from a distance that it is not anything remotely resembling a bug of any kind.
I do it not because I think I’m looking at a bug, but just because … I have to. I am assuming/hoping this goes away.
If I do see something skittering, a bolt of adrenaline shoots through my body. I startle easily.
As it happens, I haven’t hit a movie in quite some time. That is not because of bed bugs, but I imagine I would do at least a bit of due diligence. I would bring as little as possible with me and keep it on my lap. Upon emerging from the theater, I would be sure to brush myself off and shake off my (zipped-shut) bag.
When traveling, of course, I inspect hotel rooms to the extent that I am able. I keep my luggage in the bathroom, if not the bathtub. More on my travel habits is here and here.
For months I didn’t sit down on the subway. It happened to be at a time when The New York Times ran an article about how damaging it is to sit all day, and how many more calories one burned standing. So for that and other reasons, I rode standing up for months.
However, with the advent of a daily commute, I have started sitting more often than not. It makes reading easier.
Luckily U.S. subway seats are plastic, often light blue, which would be easy to spot a bed bug on. And I do scrutinize, albeit in fast motion, before sitting down when a seat becomes available.
I never sit on those wooden benches on the platform, even though they only have a bad rep because, it is rumored, bed bugs were found lurking in one once upon a time.
In fact I was horrified a few weeks ago to read a news snippet about how the city was phasing them out and … selling them (who would buy those??).
It almost goes without saying that my method of apartment searching has completely changed. Now, rather than simply looking at an apartment, deciding I like it and applying, I ask about bed bug history, check the bed bug registry and check 311 for complaints in general at the Housing of Preservation and Urban Development (HPD) website.
Moving, too, has changed, my last experience notwithstanding. When I moved, as recently recounted, I was subject to all manner of moving tactics that may as well have been designed to transmit bed bugs. My preference, though, is to shop around and find a company that really knows its stuff when it comes to bed bugs.
I kind of steer away from used clothing stores. I know for a fact that at least one of them, a charity store I will not name, is the repository of some of my ex-neighbor’s unsold possessions.
He is the geezer who lived next door and possibly the cause of my bedbugged troubles, though one can never be sure.
“Would you consider going to vintage stores or flea markets?” my mother asked me recently, as I shopped for things for my new apartment.
“Well, I wouldn’t be averse to it,” I said, “but I’d feel compelled to treat anything I bought, which would cancel out any savings.”
Even buying new furniture can be fraught for me. When I bought my bed, both times, I grilled the people at the store, even though it was the same chain. “You only transport new furniture in the truck, right?” I said. They assured me yes.
“Never take old beds away once you deliver the new one?” Nope, they said. I did the same at the place I bought my futon.
Now I’m at another crossroads: I am looking for a sofa bed. Again I am fielding the question about buying used. Buying used, to me, especially from an unknown source such as a second-hand store, would be unthinkable when it comes to furniture.
Even if I didn’t want to start fresh with a new piece of furniture, especially when it comes to a mattress, I would feel compelled to have any furniture I got from a secondhand place gassed with Vikane—and that can cost hundreds of dollars. I may as well spend that money on something brand new.
Of course, if a proactive second-hand store had already done that to its merchandise, it would be great, though that would probably add to the purchase price.
These are all things I never would have thought of before this affliction. And I don’t know whether I will ever stop thinking about them.