As my food poisoning ordeal subsided, I began to settle into my new apartment on-campus. My new home was definitely institutional living. The apartment, while fairly large, was very basic in design and construction. It appeared, at first glance, to be clean. Then, things began to happen.
I first noticed problems on my upper right shoulder blade and on one of my legs. These areas were itchy, red, and raised, almost like welt. I had no explanation for these initially. Insect bites didn’t even come into my mind. Previously, the only things that had bitten me were mosquitoes and I knew how my body reacted to them. Those bites were certainly itchy but didn’t cause major redness and large, raised areas on my skin. I actually began to reason it was an allergic reaction to something, food, clothing, or a detergent. It looked like hives to me. I even made a visit to the on-campus medical clinic to see a doctor. It was easy to see doctors as a student, especially if you lived on-campus, so I thought why not? The doctor had no answer either unfortunately. He didn’t think it was an insect bite but he didn’t rule it out either. He asked if I had recently changed detergents. I had not. There was nothing medically wrong with me in his opinion so he was not concerned and told me to just keep an eye on it. Since there was no medical reason for the skin condition, I let my worries subside just a bit.
Then a few nights later, I made first contact, without even knowing it. I was asleep and it was sometime after 2am. My bladder woke me up and I crawled out of bed to relieve myself. It was dark and since my bathroom wasn’t near a window, it necessitated turning on the lights in there. The light was bright in there and walls were mainly white, so I went from near pure darkness to instant blindness. Through the piercing light and my unfocussed grogginess, I peered into the bowl, about to do my business. Then I noticed something through my squinting and my sleepy haze, it was dark, small, and round spot on my right bicep. Without thinking and just using my instinct I flicked it off my arm. I knew it was an insect but for some strange and worrisome reason, I didn’t give it a second thought. I finished my business and then went back to sleep.
It was several hours into the next day when possibilities began to churn in my head. It was after my classes for the day before I suddenly arrived at a more reasonable hypothesis. I was sitting at my computer when I realized those itchy areas were indeed insect bites and that spot on my arm had been a bed bug. I didn’t want to believe it. I didn’t even know what bed bugs were. I thought they weren’t even real. It was just something you mentioned in that stupid saying. I turned to Wikipedia for the first of many times that year. In 2004, Wikipedia was still quite new to me but it gave me the first bits of crucial info about bed bugs, including what they looked like. It was at that moment that I saw my first picture of a bed bug and it sure looked like what I saw on my arm. It was not looking good for me.
It still boggles my mind that I was able to sleep that night, knowing what possibly could have been in my bedroom. The plan was to contact UBC Housing in the morning with my suspicions and to get someone to inspect my apartment. I woke up the next day and I was on the phone before doing anything else. It took a bit of transferring but I eventually got in touch with the housekeeping department at UBC Housing which apparently were the best people to deal with my inquiries. I calmly told them I had a strong belief that my apartment had bed bugs and I wanted someone to come inspect it and confirm my suspicions. There was strangely no surprise reaction on the other end. Whoever I was talking to seemed to almost expect I’d be calling and that this was a normal request, like I had asked for a repair for a sticky window. I was told they would get back to me once they had secured an appointment with a pest control company.
I did get a callback that day which informed me that someone would be coming by the next day (strangely expeditious). Though I didn’t know it, that week would be the week I got to meet three people that would be regular “buddies” of mine for the next several weeks, if not months.
You can find the other posts of this series here.