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Well it was over 5 weeks ago that I awoke covered with bed bug bites and discovered a nice sized colony of a few dozen in the folds of my bed. A Useless (but quite normal) panic attack ensued.
So here’s how I got through it; in short- I used “The All of the Above” Approach
Moment to moment escape tips are at the end if that’s all you need.
Oh No, It’s For Real!
How did this happen? I’m really clean! Was it the subway? The movies? The library? That time I accidentally put a hat on my bed? (Probably)It no longer matters, the problems right here.
If you have anti-anxiety meds, now’s the time. Ignoring this will be appealing, but only make it worse. Smoke something, have a drink or whatever, cancel plans and after a little while coming to terms with this horror story get to work ending it.
So youre gonna want some rubbing alcohol, lots of it. For one thing it takes the sting out of the bites real well, for another it kills bed bugs on contact, so get some atomizer bottles too. Or an old cleanser bottle, more on this later when we get to the Bed Bug Phazer
After I got up off the floor I realized my bed and box spring were shot. Out they went with the bed frame. Fast as possible. Then, being a cautious kind of guy I tossed my area rug. You’re supposed to encase these things in plastic trash them before you throw them out so no one else takes them in.
Clear shower liners and duct tape work, or thicker disposable plastic painters drop clothes. You might want some of these for sorting your stuff since its all possibly infested (and you have to act like it is or you wont get rid of them). This is overkill, because you’ll still need to clean the floor, but it wont hurt. So the stuff went outside looking like Chernobyl waste.
This didn’t stop some idiot from taking both, in just the time it took me to retrieve the spray paint to mark them “Bed Bugs”. So, as blood smeared as they were, encased in clear plastic and clearly sketchy, they were snatched up. Honestly, it looked like someone was murdered on them; but some people just see garbage as gold. So, too bad for them.
Back to me. I started running all my clothes and drapes through the drier at the laundromat. Budget like 75 bucks for this and only wash what you must. A lot of stuff can just be rin through the drier.
Drying for over a half hour will kill the bugs in its own, but youre gonna wanna keep washing what you always wash. You might get away with washing at regular temperature, its a long hot stint in the drier that’s the killer of bed bugs. The washing machine WILL probably kill most anyway, but they cant survive a half hour in a drier on high. ALWAYS DRY ON HIGH FOR AT LEAST 30 MINUTES FOREVER MORE!!!
You’re about to spend a fortune. Keep receipts. Some may come back to you depending on local laws and after this I got renters insurance!
Right as I’m going through this science discovers they’re even tougher than we thought, surviving the asteroid the killed the damn dinosaurs! DAUNTING TO SAY THE LEAST.
I bought some kind of flea and bed bug fogger and pulled everything off the walls. I went triple dosage. I spent 4 rainy hours wandering Queens waiting for it to dissipate. Of course the fogger said it can’t outright kill them, but it did say it would keep the small ones from maturing, so hopefully the populations now static and I’m killing the ones that are left. And thanks to the fogger they are messed up and can no longer have sex. This makes me feel a little better. If I can’t neither can they, right? Because, lets face it, my social lifes fucked for a month or so.
The City to the Rescue
My landlord here in Queens is an asshole who tried to escalate it into an eviction. My lease was almost up, he might’ve had me. So I called 311, City Services. When they found out my landlord threatened eviction they kicked it to the cops. STAY CALM. This could have ended with my landlord in cuffs for yelling at me, but I just decided that the Police should know he was an asshole and leave it at that. So with that in my hip pocket I started googling and throwing stuff away. I should have googled longer as I trashed some save-able stuff. What can I say, I was stressed, overtired and overwrought!
The authorities immediately started heating my landlords ass; and after a sleepless night I got the landlords exterminator there for the first dose. In other words – it was free. That happened mostly because he HAD to and now throwing me out now was considered some kind of retaliation so the new lease was tendered and signed. 7 days later. I didnt feel great about it, a rent hike and 2 more years in an apartment thats currently a dump filled with sealed trash bags and not much furniture.
Also, as far as the city goes, if you keep the paperwork and are sort of diligent, you can have the city send over a super adorable Jack Russell terrier to re-check the place, but it has to be at least a month after the insecticide treatment for them to be able to detect them.
There was no two ways about it, I had to go crazy washing and throwing stuff away like crazy. For days after sleep deprived day. It’s a long, painful, expensive game.
It sucks but there’s a couple of hacks to save some money. But wow is your dry cleaning bill gonna suck. You can space it out by isolating stuff in sealed bags that you’ll never open in the house again.
You’ll need lots of large strong garbage bags. Clear bags are the best cause they need no labeling. I couldnt find any in time. I labelled the bags with a sharpie and some painters tape. It paid off a million times over because you dont want to keep re-opening suspect bags.
As NYC heat laws made the couch up against the radiator across the room the last place they’d want to be I opted to try to use it as a bed. It worked out as far as I was never bitten again. But I slept like I was in a cage at GITMO as far as sleep goes. Dont count on being rested for awhile. Again, some anti-anxiety meds might make a huge difference. I would stay way from ambien though, unless you want to have bed bug hallucinations and no sleep. Valium, xanax, seroquel. Something like that.
Now you’re not gonna get anywhere if your ‘bed’ touches any wall or drapes, make it an island. Don’t let your sheets touch the floor. Check them every day for blood and put all your bedding through the wash like every 4 days and dry it for a half hour like every day!
A Dash of Luck is As Much as You Need
There was one unaffected piece of furniture I could sleep on. I had to concentrate on how much worse it could have been. Sleeping in a sleeping bag in a hardwood floor? Or maybe a long walk to try to buy a pool float to sleep on would have been even worse.
Losing Your Mind
Well this WILL probably happen if youre coming out of winter into spring and you already were cooped up for awhile, but no matter when it hits you, it’s depressing. You’ll feel filthy and you’ll be throwing things away like crazy and you will have to lose sentiment in a way moving never approaches. So much has to go.
And you’ll be a little apprehensive about going to sleep. I advise a trip to the shrink or doctor for something valium or xanax. I never felt so filthy and worthless, and for the first 2 weekends it sort of seemed unfair to others to go out as I suspected I always had them on me (probably untrue)
Surprising Saves and Hacks
Well, the plague claimed my Jets hat. It was the same hat I left on the bed by mistake and started this whole run of bad luck, but thats another post. Maybe that was the source as the infestation as it appeared right where the hat made contact. One way or another, NEVER PUT A HAT ON A BED!!!
Books and picture frames are supposed to go or be sealed for a year. I went with a novel and dangerous approach to saving my baseball hats as they wont survive the drier.
Vacuum like nuts and run it for a minute when youre done to trap them inside. Dont change bags inside. I emptied my dyson vacuum container at the public trash can on my corner. NEVER INSIDE!
I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS BUT I DID IT. As we all know from High School English class paper burns at about 451 degrees. Bed bugs die after about an hour at 140. I lucked out on this as I had an electric oven with NO OPEN FLAME. if you have a gas oven you’re out of luck. You’ll burn your house down for sure. However, I cooked my books, while I was right there with a timer, at 170 degrees. About 40 minutes will do a medium sized book set upright on the rack as high as possible above the element.
Fitted baseball hats are good after 30 minutes but I went an extra 5.
Later i found out the magic temperature is actually 140. Too late, almost none of my shoes made it.
As it really seems to start to be over stay vigilant. Fix and pay may lay off some of this expense on my landlord.
Change your anti-roach discs and treat for them too. Fun Fact – Bed Bugs LAUGH at roach killer and anything short of napalm in most cases. Small roaches are hard to tell from bed bugs. So try to wipe them out as best you can at the same time, if nothing else for piece of mind. Because believe me, your going to be looking through every bug you kill through a magnifying glass to make sure it’s not a bed bug. (Oh yeah, buy a magnifying glass)
As I write this Im starting week 6.
In retrospect waiting out the toxic spray the exterminator used that took like 5 or 6 hours to be non lethal by seeing the 3 hour Avengers Endgame movie was the only fun part. Good movie. Captain Marvel was good too, but left me with a lot more time to kill. You’ll be at the movies and probably the library a lot. Ironic, right?
I’ve reduced the amount of bags and chaos and most of my new Wayfair stuff is here and bed bug proof. Ive cleaned and repopulated the dresser and the closet and I’ve moved onto my new bed. You’d think I’d be fine but now I’m actually the most stressed as the idea they may come back and monopolize my time again is palpable.
I also have some not so paranoid new routines. They fall under the “Ounce of prevention” school of thought.
Street clothes go into a hamper or closable bin before I turn in. I change and rinse my hair if not shower before bed and never sit on my bed with regular clothes and never go sit anywhere but bed in my bed clothes. My backpack NEVER gets near my bed and gets run through the drier once a week for a half hour on high forever more. Jackets too. My jackets hand far from my bed and some stuff done for a whole year til I’m sure the bed bugs are as dead like they deserve to be.
To keep me sane I have my one proactive weapon.
My Bed Bug Phazer
Do all the googling you can. There’s lots of information on line and this is just a few tips, not the comprehensive way for surefire extermination.
Some extermination companies have lots of great info, in fact thats what led me to my Bed Bug phazer.
Simply put rubbing alcohol or Dawn dishwashing liquid kills all stages of bed bug and eggs on contact.. Whether other brands work I didnt research, Dawns readily available here. I suspect it does, but why take chances? 1/3 rubbiing alcohol, 1/3 water, 1/3 dawn will create the most deadly anti bed bug sprat ever. So I mist the area around my bed every night, spray suspect areas near where they like to hang out and I feel kinda powerful.
The pile of bloody mattresses and pictures in the trash along with the Wayfair boxes from other apartments tell me theyre still here. So I taped over all outlets not in use. The bastards love to travel along electric wires. Tape your over your unused outlests and around the edges of any poorly fitted outlet plates. Again, blue painters tape works.
So good luck my friend. Tonight, going on 6 weeks in I will sleep on valium with my Bed Bug Phazer at my side. I will be having that Jack Russell back to be sure theyre gone, but lifes changed. I’ll have Bed Bug PTSD for some time.
But, if you do your research, throw away stuff like crazy and saty calm things will eventually get better. And whatever you do, dont cut corners. This is a war. Think Im kidding? I’m still not sure that weird flu-like spell where I was sick for 3 days wasnt them. Lets face it I was also depressed, forced to stay out in the spring rain a lot and not sleeping well. Even if not the direct cause, they ended up making me sick.
So take it seriously and remember – slow and steady wins the race. Stay vigilant forever more. Lastly – Fear No Bed Bugs! We also survived the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs, and we have the brains to fight them!
Cleared by the Bedbug Dog
New York City is strict and punitive when it comes to bedbugs. I requested a bedbug dog check out the place and they happily obliged. Keep in mind it has to be at least a month after you chemically treat the place or the dog can’t detect anything I worked with 311, essentially filing a new complaint a month later, so I could have this oeace of mind. So worth it!
So you get a visit from a city housing inspector with a super cute dog. All my paranoia and overkill had paid off. The apartment was certified bed bug free. Also, the housing inspector was a totally alright guy who gigged my landlord to fix some other stuff.
Seriously once the dog cleared me I felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. And I could lay off the ongoing expense. I was still scared and all OCD about it until this reassuring thing happened. Now I can finally stop looking at mosquito bites and every bug I kill here under a magnifying glass.
It Was a Real Life Horror Story- My Mini-Escape Tips
Well, as you finish this post here’s some things that helped me survive. It’s a horror story, you can’t totally turn it off. So you might as well embrace it. Take advantage of every free offer for home movie services. You’ll still have a TV, a computer or device, and a smartphone. You’ll want to use these to escape.
Watch everything on Netflix (wild wild country will take up a whole night). I didn’t have the energy to play guitar or Game much. So its possible you’ll be a bit lethargic at home. Better that than in a panic though.
The first six Black Sabbath albums were made for real life pain this bad. Maybe check them out.
Kubrick movies, movies about Kubrick movies, movies about the people who worked on Kubrick Movies all helped. Full Metal Jacket especially was enhanced by paranoia and feeling under siege. And the ending is even more ominous. As Rafterman says in the penultimate scene, “Hardcore man, Hardcore.”
Youtube Red has a lot of books from before Audible. Just search “Book on tape” and a subject or title and save 20 bucks, you’ll need that money.
Watch Horror a little. Sci-fi and escapism are good too.
And read more. Read Horror. I did. It was appropriate. Im biased Hey, my friend Josh WROTE Bird Box, i re-read that. SO I KNOW about not wanting to open your eyes! Sadly that book was too thick to save.
UPDATE 14 months later i beat that infestation and discovered a friends had been the nexus of transmission