Monday, May 21, 2007

I'd give you everything I've got for a little peace of mind

If you're a New Yorker, you probably remember a recent spate of articles in the local press about bedbugs, the city's newest plague. Up until about two years ago, when I read my first frightening story on this topic, I assumed "bedbugs" were a made-up thing. But, in fact, they are real, and if media acccounts are to be believed, they are really hard to get rid of. After a while I made myself stop reading those stories, because I didn't want to get too paranoid. I already have my hands full managing my concerns about ATM-related scamming and insecure sidewalk grates; I can't take on another everyday-danger worry.

Well, it turns out it's a good thing I read at least a few of those stories, because if I hadn't it might have taken me months more to realize that I have my very own bedbug problem (or so I've concluded; the evidence is scant but suitably alarming). I got home one night last week and settled in for some email-writing and TV-watching, and to get myself in the lounging mood, I pulled my pajama pants out from under my pillow and put them on. Fifteen minutes later, I was scratching my knee and wondering, How on earth did I manage to get a mosquito bite today? Fast-forward to later that night, when I put on the rest of my jammies and climbed into bed to read... and discovered a couple more itchy bites on my arm by the time I was ready to turn out the light. Ruh-roh.

I don't know what people did in situations like this before they had the internet to answer all their questions. I spent the next day doing a lot of online research, and I've spent all my free time since then applying what I learned. The infestation seems to be small, and relatively under control, but I am anxiously awaiting the exterminator's visit on Thursday, and turning the apartment upside-down in the meantime. I'm trying to embrace this as an opportunity to de-clutter -- there's no room for sentimentality when your blood, not to mention your mental health, is on the line, and after all, I have to trim my belongings sooner or later. But even de-cluttering is more complicated than it sounds, since you can't just toss a potentially infested item in the trash. So much cleaning is in order. Bugs or no bugs, my apartment can certainly stand a thorough cleaning -- but it's very difficult to accomplish in such a tiny space (you are familiar with those boxes tissues come in, right? The smaller, square ones, I mean, not the spacious rectangular ones), which is why I haven't ever done it in the first place. So now I'm vacuuming, scrubbing, and facing the daunting task of washing all (and I mean all) of my clothing and bedding in hot water and drying it all on high heat to kill any lurking bugs, and then bagging each item individually to protect it from reinfestation. I am a neat and orderly kind of person, and there is something oddly satisfying about sealing all my socks, shirts, etc. in Ziploc bags... but the novelty wears off after a few loads. Especially considering how many quarters I've had to scare up, and how small and inadequate my building's laundry room is, and how depressing it is to allow hot water to rob all my brightly-colored clothing of its personality. Oh, and I am not sleeping all that well, for obvious reasons.

In the midst of all this, I find myself wondering: Haven't I been through enough?

Speaking of which, I had my six-month post-treatment checkup today, and I am still cancer-free! I was too busy losing sleep over the aforementioned plague to worry much about this morning's scan, but I am glad I have good news to cheer me up. Have a cupcake in my honor, and please be patient with me if blogging continues to be light... I'm hoping Restricted View HQ will be free from the curse very soon!

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