Tuesday, August 24, 2010

This Tuesday with Old Lady Mary: And Also Last Friday, the Bedbug Edition

First, let's look at the way cute dress I got on clearance at Anthropologie, which Old Lady Mary loved. I was so worried that she'd think it was too short, as she has a thing for modesty, but she L O V E D it. Click on the photo for the whole story.

tuesday, august 24, 2010

And now for another story. One about which I am a little bit ashamed. And also a little bit afraid that someone will figure out who Old Lady Mary is and report her for something that is not her fault.

A few months ago, Mary heard a report on the news about bedbugs and immediately decided she had them. Mary is quite paranoid, and thus reacts this way to a lot of stories, so when she announced to me that she had bedbugs, I sort of...brushed her off. "Oh, Mary," I said, "I'm sure you just have some bug bites from all that walking you do. Do you want me to bring you something for the itching?" Being paranoid about medication, she declined, and insisted that she was sure she had bedbugs. I inwardly rolled my eyes. Because, great, one more thing she'd lie awake at night worrying about.

And she did.

Lie awake.

At night.

Worrying.

And also scratching bites and finding bugs.

Which she did not tell me about, exactly. She said that she was getting more bug bites, and she said that she thought she had bedbugs, but at that time she did not tell me that she'd found a bug on her person in the middle of the night. So I brushed her off again. Because I am a terrible person.

Shortly after that, Nicole, who was Old Lady Mary's first friend of all us girls, came into town from Chicago and made her usual visit to Mary. Mary complained about the bugs to Nicole, and Nicole (bless her courageous heart), actually inspected the couch that Mary sleeps (and, um...how do I say this...leaks a bit on). And do you know what she found?

BEDBUGS.

REALLY.

Mary was not just paranoid and exaggerating. There was an infestation. So we discussed what to do, and Nicole did some online research, and eventually Carrie and I coordinated our schedules so that we could show up and do what needed to be done, which was basically to cover the couch in a plastic tarp and seal it up. It seemed simple enough. I brought a giant trash bag to throw the old couch accoutrements and Mary's pillow into, gloves so we wouldn't have to touch any bedbugs directly, and a big roll of brown packing tape. When we moved the couch, we discovered a small pile of detritus underneath, and as I was taping and taping and taping the plastic tarp to make sure that there was no place any remaining bedbugs could exit, Carrie was picking up handfuls of that detritus and noticing that she was also picking up (get ready to cringe) HANDFULS OF LIVE BEDBUGS. I'm surprised Carrie didn't vomit on the spot. Instead, after picking up most of the trash, she made Mary get out some of her rubbing alcohol (which she uses for all sorts of things because she is very afraid of germs), and she began sprinkling it on the carpet where the couch had been. There were bedbugs everywhere, and the alcohol wasn't really doing anything. Carrie looked at me and said, "You know, I've been meaning to get a new vacuum. I think I am going to bring my vacuum up, vac up all these bedbugs, and then throw it away." I nodded and asked if she was sure. She nodded back. And so that's what happened. We covered the couch in plastic. We vacuumed up all the bedbugs we could see. We put the small rug that had been in front of Mary's couch into the garbage bag. We carried it all downstairs and put it in the dumpster.

And then I lint-rolled my entire self in the parking lot. People were watching. I didn't care. I was not bringing home any of those bastards with me.

Since then, Mary has had no more bedbug bites. She is sleeping again. Her bites are healing. And on the door of someone down the hall from her, there is a sign that reads, "BEWARE: This apartment may have bedbugs." For that, I am grateful. Not that someone else has an infestation, but that someone who is not paranoid is willing to report to the building managers that there are bedbugs in the building. Mary has lived there for eight years and only began getting bitten when they did renovation a couple of years ago; we are sure they were already somewhere in the building, possibly on the floor they moved her to when they renovated the apartment that used to be hers. But Mary is an odd duck, and though she is paranoid and, as she says, "germ-conscious," her housekeeping isn't fantastic. We are very afraid that the stigma attached to bedbugs will work against Mary, and they will evict her. So we have done all of this in secret, even though it's something the managers and social worker at this subsidized apartment building (for elderly and disabled folks) should take care of. We hope that someone else (who is friendly and not paranoid and bathes regularly) reporting the problem will allow it to be less stigmatized so we can get Mary the bedbug removal services she has deserved all along.

If you or someone you know suspects they may have a bedbug infestation, here is a link to a resource we found to be very helpful. I hope you never need that information.

1 comment:

ericagwen said...

Mary, you are a saint. OLM is lucky to have you!