staying power…us vs. them

Despite the turmoil bedbugs have caused in my family’s life recently, I’ve an underlying admiration for their “sticktoittiveness.” I’m certain you’ve heard the word before, although it’s probably not in Webster’s Dictionary. After all, bedbugs are just trying to coexist, especially since they need our blood to survive. Don’t you think we can spare a little, now and then. If it weren’t for the itchiness and accompanying rash…???

During his initial visit to my daughter’s apartment, the rep from All America Pest Control, demonstrating his vast knowledge of bedbugs, explained that there’d been an infestation in the U.S. back in the 80s. However until recently, the problem had been on the wane. With the influx of people from Third World Countires, the rep indicated that bedbugs were again on the rise. Why so?

Image representing Bill Gates as depicted in C...

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According to the rep’s explanation, bedbugs are rampant in Third World Countries because the people have not the means to erradicate them. Since the pests aren’t a health threat, as yet, the people learn to live with bedbugs. In other words, they’re viewed as a nuisance, not a hazard. Makes total sense. Who has unlimited funds to drive the little buggers from existence? Maybe Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Queen Elizabeth. Not me and mine, that’s for sure. Therefore as a result of the inability to contain the bedbugs, they are being inadvertently transported by Third World Country travelers, via their belongings, as many seek to improve their lots elsewhere in the world.

My personal take on the rep’s stance is that we should learn to live with bedbugs to some degree. It’s a fact that world travel isn’t going to disappear, and neither are the nasty pests for that matter. So what other recourse have we? We’ve not the financial resources to exterminate their entire population, nor have we the stamina to Clorox-wipe them out of existence. Believe me, I tried. After cleaning too many articles to count, my daughter and I took to garbage bagging stuff and leaving them to bake in the heat of her locked car for a couple of days. Otherwise, we’d still be sanitizing every crevice of every single thing. That’s more my friend Sylvia’s “cup of tea.” She has staying power to match that of bedbugs, especially when it comes to cleaning.

Source: Jackie Gleason Columbus, OH Desc: Pict...

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Another bug with staying power is the termite. It’s a native of tropical climates, because of the warmth and moisture. I’d forgotten what nuisances termites can be until our family rented a spacious home atop Diamond Head one summer years ago. It was in the Black Point neighborhood where the view of nearby Waikiki Beach is stunning. Sipping coffee while watching early morning surfers ride the waves was luxury personified. While the house retained its charm, it was in need of updating. But with so many windows giving way to beautiful views of the flora and fauna, as well as the ocean, and allowing the tropical breezes to wend their way unobstructed throughout the many rooms, we felt we were in paradise, which we were. Having extended family over to enjoy our hospitality was the reason for our once-in-a-lifetime treat. The “fly in the ointment,” were the termites.

Mastotermes darwiniensis or Darwin Termite, is...

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Termites would settle on the window sills in never-ending numbers. I’d Windex them away, only to find more settling in as replacements later. The kitchen windows seemed to hold a particular attraction for them. Keeping termites from alighting on our food was a battle. Not a major one, but still a struggle nonetheless. It was not an appetizing sight to watch their little bodies writhing about as they attempted to take flight. There was no fear of them attacking us for they were so inconsequentially small. But they were as bothersome to us, as David and his slingshot were to Goliath.

Just as with bedbugs, and most definitely cockroaches, termites will probably outlast the human race on this planet we like to call ours. It’s my feeling we only rent, while the insects own. We’d better start being nice to our landlords.

Inspecting for Bedbugs

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…here bedbug…nice bedbug…hugmamma. 😉      

no a/c, a stroke, and bedbugs…???

Red bedbug

So we finally come to the end of this tragi-comedy about bedbugs in my daughter’s apartment, the old one that is. Content with having secured a new place in the nick of time, my daughter felt extremely fortunate to have somewhere to go, leaving her unwelcome buddies behind. (Fingers xxxxx.) But just when things seemed to be going her way, the a/c in her new apartment went on the fritz…almost immediately.

Traveling west to be with my husband and me, my daughter missed the initial couple of weeks without a/c in her new digs. A couple of friends took turns trying to have repair people stop by to put more freeon in the old a/c unit. The excuse given by the company  who was referred by the apartment’s owner and landlord, was that the technician didn’t have a ladder long enough to get to the roof where the unit stood. When my daughter and I returned to her home, that was the same excuse given by a couple of other a/c servicers. In fact one technician who did come, left without even telling us he couldn’t do the job. Not until an hour-and-a-half slipped by without a knock at the front door, did my daughter learn after calling his company that he left because they don’t service that particular brand. Upon relaying this info to the landlord, he exclaimed that the company got the brand name wrong. He indicated he would try to track down another company through the insurance he had for repair services. My daughter also gave him the name of the company whose truck we had seen in the parking lot of the neighboring apartment house, the same day our disappearing a/c guy showed up. Those workers looked like they were diligently working to get some problem resolved, even in the sweltering 90+ temperatures. As it turned out, a couple of men from that company visited my daughter’s apartment later that afternoon.

Upon checking the interior part of the a/c unit in my daughter’s apartment, it was determined that there was a leak. After reporting this to the landlord, the company’s co-owner visited us the next day under orders to do whatever it took to fix the a/c. Because it was so old, the replacement part could only be gotten from a manufacturer in Texas. It wasn’t expected to arrive until the following Tuesday, so that the a/c couldn’t be fixed until Wednesday or Thursday. That meant several days of sweltering heat inside the apartment.

Happy that the a/c was going to be fixed, I didn’t calculate the hours we would have to suffer through the 90+ degrees even as we tried to sleep. I imagined with 5 fans blowing day and night we would manage. Was I ever wrong! One night is all it took to decide that my aging body was not up to the task. I awoke to find my hands and fingers, feet and toes swollen. The blood had rushed to the surface of my skin as if to escape the confinement. I’d never had to worry about high blood pressure before. But I was certain if I slept there another night, my pressure would be through the roof!

And that’s why we made the unlikely decision to bed down with the bedbugs, my daughter on the couch, me on the bed in the second bedroom. Because both had been treated, we hoped we wouldn’t make a hearty 9-course meal for any starving bedbugs. I think we willed ourselves not to scratch. 

My daughter’s new landlord must’ve “paid an arm and a leg” to repair the a/c. Besides it being an emergency repair with a new servicer, the necessary part had to be Fed Exed from out of state, and a crane was hired to haul the a/c from atop the apartment building so that it could be fixed on the ground and then put back in place. Added to that, the servicer had to repair the indoor unit which had been leaking the freeon. Why the a/c was installed atop the three-story building in the first place is unknown to us. I guess things were done differently in the 70s. But it was while my daughter and I were waiting for the a/c to be fixed that we got food poisoning. After that, everything else  became “background music.”

A Bed Bath and Beyond store in a shopping cent...

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How did we manage to contract salmonella, you ask? Well on one of our outings to Bed, Bath and Beyond to secure new pillows and their corresponding bedbug resistant covers, we stopped to buy a few groceries on the way home. Remember, the temperatures were in the mid-90s. Deciding to eat a light, healthy lunch, we opted for a veggie platter. Not realizing that the included dip was probably turning rancid as we drove another 20 minutes home, we proceeded to chow down once there. With floor fans set to their highest levels, we munched away feeling the cool blasts on our faces and bodies. Mind you, the indoor temperature over the next several hours was also in the mid-90s. It’s my belief that we were ignorant to the fact that salmonella was probably making its way into our digestive tracts. My daughter’s case may have been slightly more severe since she also feasted on a dessert of chocolate pudding pie. Something we’d picked up from a nearby restaurant the day before, which served up real southern cooking, a haven for high cholesterol foods.

As I mentioned before, my daughter’s recovery from food poisoning went relatively smoothely. There were no residual effects, unlike my bout. While my vomiting and diarrhea ended, the nausea, queasiness, and mild dizziness persisted. I just didn’t feel 100%. A couple of times I was overcome by tears, so frustrated that I couldn’t attack the chores with the same gusto I’d had prior to being ill. The second time was when I heard my husband’s voice on the phone asking how we were. Bawling, I told him how much I missed him and couldn’t wait for him to arrive to assume control. My brains were “fried,” I told him.

I’d wanted to accomplish so much before my husband joined us. Because of the extreme heat and humidity I feared his asthma would flare up if he tried to do too much. I didn’t want him landing in the ER during his short, four day visit. I even contracted a private mover to transport my daughter’s large pieces of furniture from one apartment to another. The price was fair for the heavy lifting involved, and the 2 flights of stairs the men had to climb at her new place. My husband was immensely grateful for my last minute decision to hire someonelse. He’d forgotten how weighty the huge, glass bookcase was. Not one to drink bottles and bottles of water, my husband felt moving such massive furniture in the heat would have been very difficult for him. I also took pity on any male dancer friend of my daughter’s who had offered their services. I didn’t want their aches and pains or worse, broken bones, on my conscience.

Grateful for my husband’s contribution to our ongoing efforts to move stuff from storage to the old apartment, and then to the new apartment, I continued to deal with the lingering effects of food poisoning. It was distressing to have to stop what I was doing and rest until I felt better. I attempted to ignore what I was feeling, but wasn’t able to in the end. I had to give in, and go with what was happening. Such an occasion occurred while we were shopping for hardware at a local Lowe’s Hardware.

 

A typical Lowe's storefront in Santa Clara, Ca...

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Walking up and down the aisles looking at storage paraphernalia, I felt lightheaded, as if I were about to faint. After a few more aisles, I nearly passed out. We decided to leave, my husband quickly making his purchases. He headed out to get the car so that he could pick me up at the exit. My family and I decided I should go to a nearby walk-in clinic.

Upon arrival at the clinic, I felt spacey. My husband and daughter each held an elbow as they escorted me inside where I immediately took a seat. My husband checked me in and filled out the necessary paperwork. When my name was called, my daughter accompanied me in to see the doctor. After waiting a short while, he appeared. After asking me questions, and listening to my replies, he asked me to follow his moving finger with my eyes. I did okay although I felt myself struggling a bit. The doctor then asked me to stand and walk towards him, which I did with some hesitation. After I sat down, he advised us that I might be having a stroke. I must admit, strokes never come to mind when I feel something might be awry. Heart attack, maybe. Stroke, never. And yet two of my brothers have had strokes, serious ones, from which they’ve thankfully recovered.

ER (TV series)

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At the doctor’s insistence I went to the nearest ER. I think my husband and daughter were somewhat alarmed as we drove to the hospital near my daughter’s new apartment. I was going to the same ER I’d taken my daughter to in February, when she suffered from an unremitting migraine headache. I think I felt relieved that I might finally discover why I wasn’t “up to snuff.” I was really sick of feeling sick!

Unlike the lengthy wait my daughter had during her prior visit, I bypassed much of the bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo because I was a possible stroke victim. It didn’t help when I burst into tears because I couldn’t remember what day it was when the receptionist asked me. I turned to my husband for help, crying as I asked him what day he’d arrived. Even as I lay on the hospital bed answering the doctor’s questions, I felt I had to will myself to relax, taking my time to mouthe the answers.

Treatment began with forcing fluids into me intravenously, along with a medicine for nausea. After that there was an EKG, cat scans of my brain, and abdomen (I’d felt a sharp pain when the doctor’s hand compressed my side), and a chest xray. I’d also given them a urine sample. Happily, all tests came back negative for a stroke, heart problem, appendicitis, or anythingelse. And by the time the fluids had made their way throughout my body, I was feeling much better. So in the end I was probably suffering extreme dehydration brought on by my bout of food poisoning, and possibly some heat exhaustion as well.

With my new lease on life, we finally settled our daughter into her new apartment, cleaned out the old one, assembled a treasure trove of stuff for her to cart off to Goodwill, and transported a nominal amount into her storage unit for safekeeping. The last 2 nights my husband and I were with her, my daughter and I were up Saturday until 4 a.m. putting things away. On Sunday my husband fell asleep on the air mattress (not the old one, but a new one) at 2 a.m. I remained up again with my daughter, laying down for just one hour before getting up to prepare myself for the trip home to Seattle. Grateful for all my husband and I had done, our daughter tumbled contentedly back into bed after our car drove away.  

I’m sure you’ll understand now why my daughter and I agree that “you should let the bedbugs bite.” It makes life a helluva lot easier that way…

 

Halloween Parade 2007: Bedbugs!

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you think?…hugmamma. 😉

tenant must pay for bed bug treatment…???

Adult bed bug, Cimex lectularius

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You read correctly. In the continuing struggle to rid her apartment of bed bugs my daughter was advised that of the $600 charged by All America Pest Control, she had to pay $400, the apartment management would pay $200. That was the proverbial “last straw” as far as we were concerned.

A cat at the Seattle Animal Shelter

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Trying to carry on with her life as best she could, my daughter attended the final performances of her ballet company, cheering on her fellow dancers from the wings. In addition to that she partook of their annual choreographic project, WIP (Works in Progress), in which she choreographed a solo upon one of the trainees. My daughter also helped with administrative details like marketing the show, coordinating photo sessions with the dancers involved, distributing advertising fliers, and making contact with the animal shelter for whom donations were being requested as entrance fee for the show. All this while battling bedbugs and sleeping with one eye open, or not going home to sleep at all. Oh yes, she still had use of only one hand. Luckily, she’s left-handed so she could still drive, and write, and eat, and bathe and dress herself, however awkwardly. Within days of honoring her final commitments, my daughter came home for some much needed R and R.

Having seen to it that All America Pest Control treated her furnishings first, albeit minimally, my daughter approved our emailing the apartment complex‘s assistant manager detailing our disdain for how the bedbug situation had been handled. To be told by her that there was no plan in place to combat the critters once discovered, that our daughter’s case was the first, was unbelievable. The problem with bedbugs had been covered by local and national broadcasts beginning a year ago. That management didn’t take preliminary steps to deal with them since infestations were being reported to occur weekly, if not daily, in hotels and other public places seemed irresponsible. A worst case, best case scenario should’ve been worked out with Orkin, rather than subjecting my daughter to being the test case, the guinea pig. But matters went from bad to worse when my daughter was told that bed bugs weren’t covered by Orkin’s treatment plan, that they were lumped in with “general insects” for which there was no coverage. And so my daughter was being charged for treatment decided upon by management, which was less than satisfactory when compared with what Orkin’s rep said her company would’ve done. And never mind that my daughtered’d already spent almost $300 in following Orkin’s instructions.

As fate would have it, our family had already decided to move my daughter into a smaller, one-bedroom apartment. Of course we were prepared to honor her lease at the old one which didn’t expire until the end of July. But with the bedbug incident occurring the beginning of May, and my daughter not occupying the premises because of the bugs, we requested the lease be terminated the end of June. We felt the situation had been mishandled from the start: no formal treatment plan in place, allowing the Orkin rep to speak for the apartment complex, and then not following through with what she’d outlined to my daughter as the course of action, effectively telling her she shouldn’t have spent the several hundred dollars she did in compliance. We also asked that management pay for treatment because of their failure to point out that erradicating bedbugs would be my daughter’s responsibility, at the time she signed the lease.

What recourse did we have if the apartment’s management didn’t honor our requests? Social media, of course. While I explained in our email that we were just seeking recompense for the wrong done my daughter and no more, I went on to say that if she was not recused from her lease a month early and if she had to pay for treatment, we would have no choice but to broadcast the injustice to the world via the internet, and consumer advocates on TV. Thankfully the outcome was predictable, but only because the regional manager realized their mistake in not having a management rep present when the Orkin woman met with my daughter. It became a case of “she said – she said.” As it turns out, Orkin’s rep denied her entire conversation with my daughter, giving a signed affidavit that she lied about everything. Can you imagine?!? Why she would put herself through hell moving everything into storage, first having to find and rent a unit at the last minute, buy and load up huge plastic bins into her car with a broken hand in a cast, and sleep on her couch, and then on an air mattress is beyond comprehension, except for the fact that she was obviously complying with the advice of an expert in erradicating bedbugs, the Orkin rep! Did I want to nail that woman’s hide to the wall? You betcha! It’s a good thing I live 3,000 miles away.

In her email response the regional manager of the apartment complex apologized profusely for the distress my daughter experienced, but faulted her with not speaking up about it earlier. My email reply explained that my daughter handled the situation in a very grown up, rational manner. It wasn’t until the treatment went from happening 3 days after her conversation with Orkin’s rep, to 2 weeks later, that my daughter became anxious. Who wouldn’t in an apartment completely torn apart, with furnishings in and out of storage, having to board her cat at the vet’s in anticipation of the bedbug treatment (costing another $200 because of the delay), sleeping on the couch and then an air mattress and on friends’ couches, all with a broken hand?!?

Having put all our family’s frustrations into writing was very therapeutic. And it got us what we asked for as a result. The regional manager bore the complete burden of fault since management didn’t accompany Orkin’s rep in her visit with my daughter. In compensation, she bore no responsibility for payment for the bedbug treatment; her account was credited with $750; and she was allowed to exit her lease whenever she chose. In response to the regional manager’s generosity, I refrained from publicly denigrating their facility and its management.

My daughter was able to secure her new apartment on May 3rd, a month earlier than originally intended. And she was allowed out of her lease on the old apartment, without penalty, and compensated for her out-of-pocket expenses incurred in the treatment of the bedbugs. Lessons learned? Before signing on the dotted line, ask if bedbug treatment is included in lease. Make sure someone from management is present when advised how to proceed by a pest control rep. Ask questions, register complaints, and seek retribution if warranted. But always remember…you get more with honey, than you do with vinegar. But if you don’t succeed, get out your cannons…and blast away!!!

One foot shown en pointe.

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the end? no way…the fun (ha!)only begins as the “saga of the bedbugs” continues…so stay tuned for the next episode…hugmamma.  😉 

lie down with your bed bugs…???

A bedbug nymph feeding on host

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I jest, I think?!? Perhaps I’ve not fully recovered from my recent mind-boggling, mind-numbing journey to hell and back. Suffice it to say it felt like boot camp to this over-the-hill, suburban, empty-nester mom. I went from aging gracefully to battle-axe within a few short days. Ergo my advice to you. Bed bugs? Embrace the little buggers with all your mind, body and soul. That’s what my daughter’s decided to do if any of the critters hopped along for the ride to her new digs. Know what? I agree wholeheartedly!

Let me begin at the beginning, always a good place to start. A couple of months ago, my daughter suffered tiny bites to her arms which itched. Initially she chalked it up to being outdoors enjoying the warm weather. Especially since she’s sensitive to mosquitoes. Over time she suspected the culprits might be fleas, or even chiggers since she lives in the south. But when she googled information, it became clear that bed bugs might be to blame.

An Orkin rep met with my daughter after she notified her apartment’s management of her suspicions. Since the pest control company regularly treated the complex as part of a maintenance contract, my daughter was predisposed to believing everything the rep said. Based upon the discovery of one larva embedded in a seam of the boxspring of my daughter’s bed, she was informed that she needed to remove all clothing and decor from the apartment in preparation for treatment. Doing so would facilitate Orkin’s ability to treat all walls, carpeted floors, closets, table tops, dresser drawers, insides of cupboards, and of course, beds, sofa and other furniture.

Understandably overwhelmed by what she needed to do, my daughter, whose right hand was in a cast since she’d broken it during a rehearsal 2 weeks prior, felt she had no choice but to comply with Orkin’s instructions. The woman indicated the apartment would undergo treatment toward the end of the week. With barely 3 days to accomplish the task my daughter went into high gear renting storage space, buying plastic bins and packing up everything as instructed. Because her dancer friends were in the theatre rehearsing for their final performance of the season, my daughter had to pretty much go it alone. Fortunately one friend who isn’t a dancer was able to help out when she wasn’t working. 

Not wanting to subject herself to any further bites, my daughter slept on her couch; her girlfriend bunked down on an air mattress. A day or two after the Orkin rep’s visit, the young, assistant manager for the apartment complex called to say that Orkin’s quote was exorbitant, so another company was being asked to bid on the job. Unfortunately its rep could not come until the following Monday. Needless to say my daughter was upset since her apartment was in total disarray, and she’d already spent several hundred dollars to prepare for Orkin. The assistant manager knew this because my daughter told her what she had to do, when the young lady called and asked what the rep had said. At that point, my daughter was not told to hold off, so she proceeded.

Accompanied by the apartment complex’s assistant manager and regional manager, the rep for All America Pest Control told my daughter she needn’t have evacuated the apartment of her furnishings. He claimed his company would’ve worked around them in treating for bed bugs. He too found another larva in the boxspring mattress, and proceeded to tell my daughter that she needed to live normally, which included sleeping in her bed. If she didn’t, the bed bugs would follow her to where she slept, thus infesting other parts of the apartment. You can imagine her reaction, although mine would’ve left no one wondering how I felt. My daughter is more restrained, for sure.

You know who got the contract to treat the apartment for bed bugs, don’t you? All America Pest Control because they came in with a more conservative approach and price quote. Two weeks after my daughter notified management of possible bed bugs, treatment was rendered. The only items that she could see that were treated were her bed and the bed in the second bedroom, the sofa and one piece of luggage. She was told that closets couldn’t be treated because she’d not rid them of everything. I guess the rep forgot to tell his crew that he stopped my daughter from continuing her evacuation of everything. When the rep explained they’d have to come back in a few weeks to check if they’d been successful, and then again a few weeks after that, you can understand my daughter’s wariness as to whether or not the bed bugs were eliminated. Compared with what Orkin’s rep had said about treating the apartment above because bed bugs travel through walls and that the apartment management would be asked to change out the switchplates because bed bugs like to hide there, my daughter did not feel All America Pest Control had done as thorough a job.

Sleep tight and don't let the bed bugs bite

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Between sleeping on the air mattress, since my daughter was bitten while sleeping on the couch, which meant her girlfriend boarded at another friend’s, and taking friends’ offers to sleep at their apartments, my daughter was only at her apartment during the day continuing to bag everything up to transport to her storage facility. As she put it, she felt like she was in a “war zone,” and that the bed bugs were winning. It gave her the creeps imagining that they were lying in wait for her. Evidently, they don’t make their move until a body is resting. They don’t like disturbances, you see. I guess they could be aptly named “vampire bugs.” They suck your blood while you sleep.

Stay tuned for the next installment of my yarn. Believe me, it’s not a “tall story,” more like a thriller with twists and turns…

thanks for hanging in there…hugmamma. 😉