Charlie said bedbugs were taking over his building. He lives at 200 Wellesley. He should know. He is being bitten, and he offered to introduce me to some of his bitten friends.
I hate that there seems to be no solution to the bedbug problem. No, not true — I hate that there are real solutions, but nobody wants to do what it takes to put them in place.
Charlie lives on the 20th floor. Up we went. He said, “Since January, I’ve been sprayed nine times. They’re scheduled to come in again.”
Sprayed nine times?
One spraying, yes, of course, absolutely; twice, yep, you have to get the hatchlings two weeks later. Three sprays, I suppose, to make certain sure.
But if you have to spray a fourth time, all the way up to nine times, a normal person starts wondering if someone is watering down the spray, or not doing the job at all; not caulking, nor steaming, nor properly laying down diatomaceous earth.
Charlie, a guy my age, invited me into his place and apologized for his housekeeping; frankly, it was not so bad. He said, “I sleep in my armchair; now that’s invaded, too.”
He has had to replace his most of his furniture. He lives on a disability pension. He can’t afford to replace any more furniture. He said, “I’ve lost interest in my place. I’m mostly outside.”
I hate having to remind you that, because this is community housing, you and I are Charlie’s landlords, and this infestation of bedbugs is happening on our watch.
We went down in the elevator to the 16th floor. He introduced me to Mary. She is smart, soft-spoken and self-possessed; her place, neat as a pin.
Mary said, “I had bedbugs last Thanksgiving. I don’t know where they came from. One night I was sitting on my chair and I got a bite on my back.”
What did she do?
“I reported it. They said they couldn’t come for a week. I called a private company. They came the next morning. They charged me $621. They steamed and sprayed.” Bedbugs, be gone.
Let me point out that Mary can’t afford that kind of money, and anyway she ought not to be paying, out of her own pocket, for a private company to come in and spray. She shrugged. “If I’d had to get rid of my furniture, it would have cost me more.”
She ought to bill the city.
And then Charlie and I went downstairs and outside to meet some other people.
Amy is young, bright and chipper. She said, “I noticed the first ones before Christmas.” She has bites on her shoulders and her belly; her fiancé has bites on his side. They are waiting for a spraying.
“We can’t sleep in the bed. We’re not sleeping on the couch. We’re sleeping on the floor, because I can’t sleep without my arm around my fiancé.”
That is just so sweet.
And then a woman named Denise came by and said, “I seen them on the 18th floor in the hallway. I went to tell the super. He said, ‘No way, they can’t travel from apartment to apartment down the hallway.’”
If the super really said that bedbugs cannot travel down a hallway, then the super is surely one of the reasons why the bedbugs are spreading in that building.
And then Charlie and I went back inside, up in the elevator again and onto the sixth floor, where I met Lorrie. She is a spitfire. She is a pistol.
She is hopping mad.
She said, “I moved here two years ago. I noticed black dots on my bed.” Since then, her place has been sprayed several times; as is the case elsewhere in the building, the treatment has not worked. She said, “I’ve gone through four bedroom sets.”
Lorrie, like some others in the building, suffers from dual contamination — bedbugs, and cockroaches. She said, “I don’t keep food in my cupboards.”
Nor does she encourage people to come over for a visit; worse, she no longer asks the super for help.
She said, “I have HIV. I have lupus. I’ve got cancer.” She also has a fierce sense of self: “Just because we’re in housing — we’re still people.”
She stood and, with angry modesty, hiked up her shirt so that I could see the fresh red bites on her back, on her shoulders, on her chest.
I hate that.
Credits: Toronto Star