The Village Voice has an hilarious article about the bed bug frenzy gripping the easily excitable denizens of the country’s largest city.
In a city where people already depend on Ambien for a good night’s sleep, the thought of bedbugs has wreaked havoc on circadian rhythms from homeless shelters to $2 million loft apartments. The thought of them is making people itch—not the bedbugs themselves, whose numbers don’t even quite live up to the media hype. What has yet to be quantified—but what has become an urban infestation of its own—is the paranoia that the bedbug craze has produced. It turns out, perhaps no surprise in a city as neurotically obsessed as New York, that something as small as a bedbug can grow colossal in the minds of millions.
A bedbug—more formally referred to as a Cimex lectularius—at its biggest is smaller than a watermelon seed and is the thickness of a credit card. Though their bites don’t bring disease and we, outsize mammals that we are, could squash them using our thumbs, bedbugs have transformed the lives of thousands, if not millions, and not at all for the better—as would easily admit the victims, who spend much of their time spreading noxious chemicals on all their belongings and sporadically checking in with the Bedbugger blog bedbugger.wordpress.com to see if a new cure has been posted. Even the youngest of our species, accustomed to getting a good deal by furnishing their homes with free street-side wares, have given the practice a second thought.
Getting rid of bedbugs is quite a fight, but the fear that comes along with an infestation has grown even harder to exterminate. No spray exists to eradicate paranoia; no home-visit fee has yet been tailored to quell anxieties. The Yahoo Bedbug Support Group had 27 postings for the month of February; for October—only eight months later—the number went up by 55 times, to 1,494 postings. Out of Eisenberg’s 100 calls a day, at least 15 percent are wrongly self-diagnosed rashes or lint balls. Carmen Boon, the spokesperson for New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, reports that of 4,638 calls about bedbugs in fiscal year 2006, about a quarter—only 1,195—of those, upon inspection, were actual infestations. That’s up from two complaints in 2002. That’s an increase of 231,800 percent (not to mention a 25,000 percent increase in bedbug articles in newspapers and magazines). Fiscal year 2007’s count has already gotten off to a good start, Boon says. There were 2,133 complaints within the first three months, which resulted in 546 violations.
And my favorite quote from a women who experienced a bed bug infestation, which has clearly gone to her head.
“At least when you have cancer you’re dealing with doctors who are educated,” she said, “and not predatory, lowlife, uneducated exterminators.”
If anything will bring DDT back to the shelves, this is it. Some of the people written about in this article are obtaining it illegally and using it. I guess for some New Yorkers, who would doubtless rally to cries of “it’s killing the pelicans” if informed that the chemical were being used to reduce malaria in third world countries, it’s okay if their own bedding is being threatened by bed bugs.