#3. You Will Have to Destroy Your Belongings
With our clothes scourged like LV-426 at the end of Aliens, we realized it was time to nuke our furniture from orbit as well -- which meant throwing out everything we owned.
Because no hope remained. Also, the stuff was infested.
But throwing out your belongings is harder than you think -- particularly if your goal is not to infect a bunch of strangers' houses with biting insects. Although we took precautions (wrapping our rugs and sheets in garbage bags, sealing them with duct tape, and labeling them with the word "bedbugs" and a cartoon picture of a mean-looking insect with frowny eyes), the dumpster scavengers were undeterred. In fact, while depositing our second load of plagued goods, we found some unwitting schlub collecting our very first load. He ignored our protests, threw the bag of bug-infested goods over his shoulder, and sauntered off, whistling a little tune like some kind of Johnny Fucking Appleseed of bedbugs.
From then on, we knew the only way to avoid spreading our curse to others was to destroy everything we owned. We disassembled our futon and then smashed it with a hammer. I threw our TV into the dumpster hard enough to shatter its screen. My desk was cathartically splintered by my renfair ax.
Then my ax was cathartically cleaved by my bare hands.
And no, we weren't just being paranoid -- the infection of others' homes through casually repossessed furniture is a bigger problem than you might hope. Boston, for example, is home to something called Allston Christmas, in which students from its roughly 7 billion colleges move out and leave most of their furniture on the curb. Guess what happens when you take that furniture home. Bedbugs. Bedbugs happen.
#2. After Everything, You May Still Have to Flee Your Own Home
Tim Boyle/Getty Images News/Getty Images
After two months of sealing our clothes in plastic bags the size of Godzilla condoms, scrubbing our bodies with buckets of isopropyl alcohol, and three failed pesticide treatments, we finally found the solution to our problems: retreat. That's right. We moved out of our apartment. The bedbugs won.
And a hundred generations will feast on the skin flakes we left behind.
But our ordeal wasn't over: To make sure we didn't bring any of the vermin with us, we had to conduct a "truck-based treatment," which means we rented a U-Haul and turned it into an insect abattoir -- and, somehow, "loading everything you own into a truck and then baking it" is even more complicated than it seems.
First, we needed a propane permit, which meant we had to explain to a bunch of skeptical firefighters that this process wouldn't combust our crap. Second, we couldn't just throw our stuff in the U-Haul and be on our way -- we had to pack the truck carefully, making sure the air would be circulating and there would be no cool pockets for the flesh-eating bastards to hide in. And finally, we had to park a truck on a busy Boston street and hope no curious Sox fan wandered in and died of stupidity next to our mattress.
The truck sucked in and killed a couple of LaRouche supporters, but what can you do.
It looks crazy, and it worked. The guys hooked up the machine, we all took turns watching it heat, and then we got a pizza and just hung around for eight hours. Once we finished, we let our newest best friends drive off in their pickup and moved into our new apartment.
The infestation had cost us something close to $5,000 once all was said and done. Take a moment to imagine all of those people who A) don't have the money to do this and B) don't have the option to move. Oh, and it also cost my sanity.
Pablo Demetrio Scapinachis Armstrong/Photos.com
That's because here is where I hit rock bottom. After weeks of torment, a hard day of moving, and the sweet relief of finally roasting every bug left on my personal belongings, I stripped off all my clothing to discover two massive bites on my leg. I panicked. The idea of all this expense and inconvenience being pointless sent me into a downward spiral, knowing that it all might have been for nothing.
#1. You Will Be Scarred Forever
My new place, as it turned out, was bedbug-free. I didn't believe it until they brought in a bedbug-sniffing dog (yes, those exist, and they are the most wonderful things in the world) to convince me.
Niels Elgaard Larsen
The place had hidden carpet bacon and bathtub ghost cats, but nope, no bedbugs.
It turns out my psyche has been irrevocably warped by this experience. I'd call it PTSD, but that insults everyone who has experienced worse shit than mere bedbugs. Instead, I'll draw on my years of psychological training (seriously) to bullshit a new name: PBI, or post-bedbug insanity.
To get an idea of how my brain works now, take a look at the chaos around your computer. Check out that little black dot near the mouse. Is it lint? A food particle? A stray dingleberry? Or is it a bedbug? Now take off your pants and contemplate all the random red spots that have sprouted since you last inspected your legs. Is that new splotch an ingrown hair? A wildly inaccurate crotch piercing? Or is it a bedbug bite?
Are those bedbugs? And why does my neck now swivel 180 degrees? But mainly, are those bedbugs?
This is how I think now. Any stray speck of dust creates an instant rush of fear. Whenever I see a yard sale, it's all I can do to stop myself from screaming inane warnings and dousing each piece of furniture with gasoline. I've spent more time on my knees in hotel rooms than the average congressional aide, but I'm searching the mattress for evidence of an infestation instead of angling for a promotion.
And I'm not alone. People who experience bedbug infestations can end up depressed or socially anxious, start hallucinating, or other things that are way too depressing for a comedy article to get into. You might be thinking, "Oh, it's just insects," but that's because you don't understand how this problem gets under your skin and inside your brain and festers. Hold on -- I have an itchy lump near my elbow right now, and I was recently on an airplane. These must be bedbugs.
Excuse me, I need to go take a bath in isopropyl alcohol.
Related Reading: Cracked is just lousy with personal experience articles that aren't quite so louse-y. We've also got the inside scoop on life inside a mental institution. And beyond that we've got stories of escaping Scientology and palling around with Somali pirates.