Several years ago when I lived in Brooklyn, before bedbugs were the scourge of the rich and famous, they were the scourge of everyone else, including yours truly. For a few weeks I noticed some welts. I decided I was having an allergic reaction to something and dismissed them. Then a couple weeks later I got them again. I knew that NYC had a bed bug epidemic. And news sources reassured me that it is not because I am filthy, but still, I was in complete denial that they were a possibility. Ok, not complete denial. I looked on the internet for how you detect bed bugs. I checked my mattress, noticed no signs, and called it good. Until a Tuesday night when I was sitting in bed, felt something on me and found a bed bug. Tuesday night didn’t provide a lot of rest. Wednesday night wasn’t a lot better and I slept on the couch. I had torn apart my room looking for more evidence and found a bedbug cemetery in my box spring, a nauseatingly clear sign that yes, I did have bed bugs. I threw out the box spring. You’re actually not supposed to do this. You’re supposed to wrap it up if you throw it out so the infestation doesn’t spread. And you’re supposed to label it so that some schmuck from the projects across the street doesn’t take it and spread bed bugs to the entire complex. I did neither, and on Thursday the box spring was gone. I still feel bad about that.
Wednesday I also called the landlord, who refused to pay for extermination. Here is something you need to know about Sam the landlord, he was a sketchy asshole. He was in jail for the first six months that I lived in that apartment and no one would tell us why. He also refused to learn my first name. I don’t know if you know this, but Luci Furious is not my birth name. So, for the sake of this story, let’s pretend that Furious can also be a first name, because my real last name can also be a first name. So Sam always called me “Furious.” I lived with a roommate, Gabby, and we had lived together for about a year and a half at the time that all of this went down. Sam usually dealt with Gabby for apartment-related issues, so when I called him to report the bed bugs and ask that he hire an exterminator, he seemed confused. “Who is this?” “It’s Luci. Furious? In apartment 1? I live with Gabby? I really want you to hire an exterminator for these bed bugs.” “Your bed, your problem” he said and told me to buy the spray you can get at the hardware store
I couldn’t get an exterminator to come on Thursday, so I spent Thursday night on the couch too, which was another rough night. Every tickle, every itch was cause for a bed bug inspection. And when you have bed bugs, you get phantom itches a lot.
Friday morning the exterminator came to give an estimate. $600. Which Gabby refused to pay half of since the bedbugs were not in her room. I ended up negotiating the cost down to $400 left for the day so he could do his thing. While I was out I went to Bed Bath and Beyond to get a mattress cover that protects against bed bugs. I also bought new pillows, and while I was at it, pillow protectors too. This all came to about $130.
I came back in the evening to a sprayed apartment. The chemical burn in my throat made me feel confident that maybe, just maybe, this will turn out ok. I went to the laundromat to wash my linens on HOT and to dry some of my clothes, also on HOT, supposedly this kills the bed bugs.
I put sheets back on my bed, cleaned my room and went to sleep. A long, comfortable sleep. A hopeful sleep that I may be safe from bed bugs for a while.
At 3 am on Saturday night/Sunday morning I woke up to go to the bathroom. When I got back in bed, the cats were nosing around acting all weird in a way that usually makes me concerned that they have a mouse (which was another terrible, sleepless, vermin filled night several months before). But in this case, I was worried they had seen a bed bug. One of the cats started to nose under the covers and then under me. So I got up. I kneeled on my mattress looking for any signs of “the animal”, which is what the exterminator kept calling it. I felt a poke on my lower back, under my shirt. I froze and then slowly reach back, knowing that I will find a bed bug there. But I didn’t! No bed bug!
I grabbed one of the largest roaches I have ever seen. On me. Biting me. Under my shirt. It had come out from the walls due to the spraying, and was hanging out in my bed. It met its demise when I screamed and threw it against the wall
I spent another itchy night on the couch.
The next week I went down to the courthouse to pick up some forms to fill out so I could file a complaint against my landlord for not reimbursing me for bedbug costs.
I ended up suing him.
Who knew it was so easy? Not me. I didn’t even take any of my receipts or paperwork because I figured I would have a bunch of papers to fill out and I would rather do it at home. But when I went to get info about they said I had to file a small claims suit. So I went to get the paperwork for that. Anyway, it’s just one form where you just say what you’re suing for, you pay your $15 and then that’s it. I set a court date for a month later. I ended up adding other bedbug-related costs to the lawsuit. I just wanted him to reimburse me for the cost of the extermination which was a little over $400. But if I’m gonna file a lawsuit I figure I’d go all out, so I put all the rest of the costs in too.
Five days later a producer from a court show, scheduled to premiere in the Fall called me about my case and was going to contact the landlord. I was so excited, because all I really want is to be famous. My joy was tempered because of Gabby though. My roommate was really, really angry with me for suing the landlord. Like, really angry. She didn’t think we would get our security deposit back, thought we wouldn’t be able to use him as a reference and was just generally irate. I had sent the landlord letters with the NYC housing code, explaining that he is responsible for extermination costs. He wouldn’t call me back though, he would call Gabby and essentially threaten her and tell her to convince me to drop the suit. She apparently listened to the landlord too much and also did not think that extermination was his responsibility. She had blamed me from the start, like I went to the crackhouse and bought bedbugs though, so I wasn’t really surprised. In one e-mail she wrote: “it’s the same situation as if one of us were cockroach breeders and one day they all got out, and we expected the landlord to cover it.”
I replied: If I was breeding bedbugs I certainly wouldn’t want them exterminated. You’re just not thinking like a breeder and that’s where your argument loses power.
This whole experience was actually horrible though. Gabby and I had been close friends, and the bedbugs and the lawsuit were tearing us apart. One time, Sam came by to yell at me for suing him and I fell down the stairs on my way downstairs, just as he was opening the door. I sat on the stairs casually resting against the banister, feeling the bruise developing on my ass, pretending like I always meant to slide down the stairs, while I argued with him and actually said the phrase, “I’ll see you in court!”
Join me next time for the continuation of this exciting saga! Do we get on TV? Does Sam learn my real name? Do Gabby and I ever make amends? Do I win my suit? Find out!