We always talk about “experiences that we would never wish upon our worst enemies” but frankly, we haven’t given enough attention to the ones that we actually would wish upon them. So in attempts to break the silence, I would like to offer an experience that would truly mess with that special person in your life, but not as to fuck them up totally (exept sometimes).
As you know, most cities and countries have some sort of dark underbelly that only the woke locals know about. Unfortunately it seems like all the exciting cartels and outlaws were wrapped up in cooler cities, so somehow Geneva got stuck with a marvelously disproportionate overflow of bedbugs. Now, this isn’t Gotham City. You’ll find that most people can lead a comfortable life here without ever having to be confronted by these cynical pests. Unfortunately, I wasn’t so lucky. In fact, one might say I got screwed by them.
Addressing the stigma
As the exterminator who seemed stuck in the ‘80s told me, the reason Geneva has so many bed bugs is because nobody wants to report them, in fears of appearing unhygienic or generally gross. As it turns out, bed bugs don’t actually care about how much you shower or wash your sheets. It really is essentially a flip of a coin. Now I wouldn’t normally trust a 50-something year old man in double denim and a bolo tie with anything other than a lasso, let alone bedbugs, but I figured that since he deals with bedbugs all day, those clothes are probably just the uniform he burns at the end of work. I hope.
But before getting ahead of ourselves, let’s rewind
If I were to give you one piece of advice when dealing with bedbugs, it would be to not be in denial. I assumed the itchy spots on my body were mosquitos. Of course, mosquitos don’t tend to come out in Switzerland in January. Eventually I woke up at 3am to the sight of two of these punks crawling on my duvet. Now, dear reader, imagine me on my bike 20 minutes later; under the rain and very much scarred heading on a dreadful 45-minute ride to my mom’s house.
How’s that for regression?
As it turns out, many survivors of intense infestations of bed bugs suffer of heightened paranoia, anxiety, and intrusive thoughts. In other words, keystone symptoms of PTSD. And in many cases, it is very real, as Alexis Hansen, a trauma-oriented psychotherapist points out in an article by The Atlantic. “It’s your safe space and something invading that is really terrifying,” You’re essentially being physically attacked during the time when you’re at your most vulnerable state possible. And as a person who suffers from lifelong mosquito invitation syndrome, I can attest that bed bug bites are infinitely worse than our casual bloodsucking summer flings.
Luckily my infestation was not that bad. That said, I did find myself scratching my body, doing double takes at regular harmless brown spots, and having that mental image of the bedbugs crawling along my sheets and promptly yelping more than once over the following days.
Good dogs and archaic solutions
Did you know that dogs can be trained to detect the presence of bedbugs? I sure as hell didn’t until I met Paco, the exterminator’s german shepherd mix. Paco would sniff around my studio apartment for a while and perform a little head-bump into any piece of furniture that he felt needed to be dealt with.
The studio used to consist of the following:
- 1 bed
- 1 couch
- 1 shiny new chair from ikea less than two weeks old for my online classes
- A quite large painting from a thrift shop that my sister had bought
- Music equipment such as guitars, an amp, and keyboard.
My studio apartment now consist of:
- An inflatable mattress with a double-sided tape moat around it (which will be explained later)
- General sadness
Old Mr Double Denim told me to get rid of most of my shit. Now, it could have been treated for bugs in their facility, but it would have cost more than getting a new bed completely. I’ve never had so much trouble parting with an object in my life – not because I was emotionally attached, but because I live on the 6th floor and the elevator is the size of an underwhelming closet.
Not only that, but I also had to go pick up specialised labeled plastic bags to put the furniture into, and stick an A4 sized sticker that essentially says “HEY THIS THING IS INFESTED AND GROSS DONT TOUCH IT”
As if I didn’t need any more public shame
Now, the process remains the same for any size of infestation. Not only did I need to get rid of most of my shit, and sleep on an inflatable mattress, but I also had to remove any electrical outlet and light switch covers, and literally rip off the wooden tiles that separate the wall and floor.
“But why don’t you just sleep at your mom’s?” I hear you ask. Well as one of the few tenants with bed bugs (they choose specific hosts) I was asked to stay in the apartment to essentially function as a litmus test to see if the product they use is strong enough or if they need to upgrade to a stronger chemical. The idea is that they’ll get caught on the double sided tape in attempts to get to me. And if they do manage to even get to the tape, that means whatever product they’re spraying isn’t strong enough. I’m left wondering why the world’s best biomedical organizations haven’t even tried to capitalize on a better solution than this one which seems to not have evolved past the 1800s
So sleep with the knowledge that there’s a hungry gang of bloodsucking children in your room, physically and emotionally exert yourself to the max to take care of the issue, and then add entire days of online classes to the mix sitting on the floor. Suddenly you’ve got a fun roster of topics to bring up to your therapist at your next meeting.
We’re all sick of talking about silver linings (thanks for that one Rona) but I truly did find that one of the silver linings here was that I can now be a true minimalist like every travel influencer and YouTuber these days. That said, fuck those pretentious assholes. Why can’t they just be sad like the rest of us?
The other silver lining is that bedbugs are fairly easy to catch. So in theory, you could potentially plant a couple in the home of your least favourite person and watch their life get turned upside down over the following month. Bonus points if it’s during a pandemic!