Saturday, February 21, 2009

Bite Me

I was making a failed bid to catch the R train Friday morning when I looked down at someone’s lost glove on the platform and for just a second, I thought it was giving me the finger.

It’s been that kind of a week.

I’m trying not to be a drama queen here, but the last seven days have been packed with more misery, grief and bad luck that a whole month of Friday the 13ths.

Add to this my guilt in knowing that my problems don’t amount to diddley in comparison with the horrors going on in the world and you can see why I’d like to skip my life ahead to May.

For starters, something is feeding on me. I have been waking up for the last several mornings with some kind of insect bites.

New York City is the middle of a citywide bed bug infestation, so naturally I freaked at the very thought of the evil little bastards invading my hearth and home.

I pulled apart my bed, sprayed the whole bedroom with some over the counter insecticide, and even slept out in the living room. None of this helped.

I went online and talked to a friend who had gone through a bed bug attack, but the descriptions didn’t really didn’t match my situation. No smears of blood, no carcasses, no spots on the mattress. Just the bites.

My doctor believes these are indeed bites on my body, as opposed to a rash or some kind of skin condition. I think he’s right, but I intend to go to a dermatologist anyway. It wouldn’t hurt to give the old epidermis a once-over.

This business is making crazy. I went to bed the other night and before I switched off the light, I said “Come and get it!” to whatever the hell has been biting me.

I had an exterminators come over here and this two guys went to town—they pulled apart my bed, inspected every inch with a flashlight, looked in the porch and the living room, too.

I was hoping to show them fresh bites, but the most recent one was on my rear end and I didn't really feel like showing my ass to a pair of strangers. And I strongly suspect they didn't want to see my butt either.

The verdict? No sign of bed bugs.

This was a tremendous relief to me, as not only is the treatment expensive, it also involves emptying every drawer, clearing every bookshelf, washing every single bit of clothing I own, putting them in airtight bags and living this way for five weeks after the exterminators spray the house.

I’ve been putting out cat food for some of the local strays for a couple of years and I’ve noticed recently that a group of small birds swoop down to eat the cat food before the felines show up.

The exterminators suggested that it might be bird mites causing me this aggravation.

The treatment for bird mites is not as expensive the bed bug routine, but the preparation is the same—cleaning, washing, and living out of bags.

I moved the cat food dish in my front garden to the backyard just to be on the safe side. Of course, I came home on Wednesday, saw a cat looking around the garden in vain for the food dish, and felt like a dirt bag.

“Go to the backyard,” I told him. “The food’s back there.”

Is talking to alley cats a bad sign?

Mite or Mite Not?

The exterminators put glue down traps around my bedposts in hopes of nailing whatever is out there. I didn’t see anything for days, but I did step on one the other night and discovered that glue is seriously sticky.

Now today I did found…something…in one the traps, but I can’t make out what it is, even with a magnifying glass. I had collected some bits of stuff I had found in a plastic baggie—just like CSI—but the exterminators said this was nothing.

Meanwhile I’ve been in touch with an ornithologist and an entomologist at the Museum of Natural History.

The bird guy doubts its mites, while the bug guy wouldn’t rule out bed bugs and actually suggested it could be one bug doing the damage. If that’s the case, he’s one busy son-of-a-bitch.

It could be I’m in the early stage of a bed bug attack and they attackers have not matured yet. Still, the bug guy thinks I should be seeing something by now.

Could it be fleas from the alley cats? Misguided mosquitoes or a skin condition that has to date eluded medical science? Who the hell knows?

On top of this, my washing machine decided to crap out on me. Now, to be fair, it’s ancient. My parents bought this thing when I was a kid and that was in another century. But because it’s been working so well that I kind of expected—or hoped--it would just keep on going.

However, I switched it on the other night and noticed that it kept on filling up without swirling the clothes around.
Then I saw that water was leaking—gushing--out of the bottom like a torpedo strike on a destroyer and I was tempted to shout “abandon ship!” and dive out the cellar window. Maybe I could flood the bugs out of my house.

More? Okay, I came home the other night to work on a chapter in this novel I’ve been working on since the first Bush Administration and I find that the substantial revisions I had made this section were not there anymore. Gone, pffft! They simply did not take.

I don’t know if I forgot to hit the “Save” button or the chapter got lost when I overhauled this crappy computer’s worthless innards, but whatever the case, a ton of work was lost, along with my a substantial portion of my sanity.

But don’t go; you’ll miss the best part. On Friday I found my shower was on the fritz as well. It had been giving me problems every so often, where the water doesn’t come out of the nozzle and pounds against the wall like a rampaging rhinoceros.

I had a plumber look at it a while ago, but his work didn’t take either. And on Friday the shower shut done entirely. No water, just the incessant banging.

I’d like to say I handled this situation calmly, but that would be a misstatement. My reaction was a combination of the Christian Bale rant and that nutty airport lady on YouTube. I lost it completely, shoving my head under the nozzle to get some water while shouting curses to the heavens.

I don’t know what the neighbors thought. Well, yeah, I probably do know what they were thinking: hey, the bald guy’s losing it again.

I wanted to change how I react to things, and I suppose I could say that the pressure of everything else pushed me to the breaking point, but that’s just another excuse.

These outburst aren’t not good my health. And if—God forbid—I were being murdered by ravenous insects or psychotic humans, would my neighbors bother to call the cops, or just figure I was having another conniption fit?

I have to take my clothes to the laundromat and shower at my health club. The repairman is coming here tomorrow and will try and repair both the shower and the washing machine. Too bad he can't kill bugs, too.

In a little while I’m going to start rewriting—or re-rewriting—that damn chapter I lost. And I’m still itchy from what appears to be fresh bites, but that could be my imagination because I keep thinking on about fresh bites.

I told you this week sucked.


Anonymous said...

wow that is a craptastic week right there. mysterious bug infestations plus plumbing problems? thats like my worst nighmare. hope this week brings you better luck (or least working pipes)

Rob K said...

Thanks so much! The shower's fixed, but the washing machine's DOA. Still haven't figured out the bites yet...

Calamity Jen said...

I'm betting on fleas. You might try wearing a flea collar, since your feline friends likely don't. I jest.

I'm crossing my fingers that things improve for you, and quickly. It's no fun to have disaster after disaster befall you; take it from me, Calamity.

Rob K said...

Thanks, Jen. I'm just feeling sorry for myself. And you never know--I might look good in a flea collar.

Ask Aunt B said...

[Mental Image] Naked/Flea Collar!

Wow, when it rains it pours, huh dear? I'd heard that NYC's been over run w/bed bugs, nasty buggers, hopefully it's not that. I just took my two cats to be neutered (they keep giving me dirty looks, as I type this)and they had fleas. I didn't even know. But they said that they can live in the winter and they are tracked in on our shoes and then begin to quickly multiply in the carpets and such.

Damn bugs but it beats roaches, right? Good gravy I hated those things. When I first got married back in 1975 we had our first apartment and it was an all out war. See darling, something to be grateful for, huh?


Rob K said...


It's looking more like a skin problem, but I'm not completly out of the woods yet. I have to go back to the dermatologist in 10 days. Wish me luck.

A said...

I know its been quite a few months since you posted this but i'm in a similar boat with mysterious bites that don't seem to point to bedbugs. How did it everything end up turning out?