Though the new pest company certainly gave me a very bad first impression, they were more cordial in my subsequent dealings with them. Once they actually stopped to get my bed bug treatment history, they tailored their pesticide treatment to my own situation. As the weeks passed, random bed bug bites gave way to no more bites. My long, personal battle with those bastard bed bugs was essentially over by March (if my fuzzy memory is correct). It was difficult, however, to change so many of the habits that I was forced to pick up. I continued to keep my clothes bagged. Some items that I had in the bedroom didn’t leave the bedroom until I moved out, just on the small chance some dormant bed bug was still alive. By that time, I had read that a researcher had witnessed a bed bug go more than a year between feedings. Overall though, the majority of the second semester of that academic year and the last semester of grad school for me, had nothing to do with bed bugs.
There were just a few loose ends to tie up before the school year ended. The first was the issue of compensation for what UBC Housing knowingly let me to move into. Had UBC Housing not known there were bed bugs in my apartment before I moved in, I don’t think I’d have any case for compensation; same if I had actually brought them in myself. The truth, however, was something they couldn’t avoid. UBC Housing knew they had an infested apartment. They tried to treat it but failed to confirm the problem was gone before letting me move in. Those were simple facts. I wrote a long e-mail to the Director of UBC Housing. It was a polite, yet firm message detailing all that I had to go through over the last few months. I stressed that UBC Housing had a mission statement of supplying more than just a roof over my head, that it was supposed to give me a safe environment from which I could live and study. I forget what I asked for in return but I know that I got a 50% reduction in housing fees for half a year. It wasn’t exactly free housing but at least it was something.
The second thing I received was a new mattress. I had brought my own mattress to sleep on when I moved it. As the mattress was on the floor, the odds of it being a home for bed bugs was likely. Even though I had bagged it and put in pesticide strips, UBC Housing believed it wasn’t a good idea for me to bring that mattress home. They gave me a brand new mattress, which for weeks I kept in its original bag propped up against a living room wall, in the safe zone. When it was time to move out, I simply brought the new mattress home and left the old one in the bedroom.
The last thing I got was the smallest item but probably had the most emotional meaning. One day after one of the pesticide treatments, near the end of the battle, curiosity got the better of me. For some reason, I wanted to lift my mattress off the floor to see if there were any of those little bastards underneath it. I knew it was a bad idea but I just had this urge to do it. As a kid, I used to lift rocks when I was outside sometimes and I learned all manner of creepy things liked to hang out underneath things. So, I did it in one quick motion. As I looked at the bare carpet, I didn’t see anything at first, relief beginning to wash over me. Then, I saw it. There was a single bed bug, barely moving. I thought it was going to dash away quickly so I panicked somewhat but it didn’t go anywhere. It was dying and it was trying to move but it couldn’t. I had no pity for it. I wondered for a second if any of my blood was inside its body. It didn’t matter. For some reason, I wanted a memento of this battle, a trophy of sorts. I went away to get a small plastic container and a pencil. Using the pencil, I picked up the bed bug and deposited into the container. I then taped the container closed with masking tape. I must have examined that dying bed bug for about ten minutes. I kept tapping the container to get it to move. Was it hungry? Was it dying because of the pesticides or the weight of the mattress? It finally died not long after I captured it. I felt no remorse for it at all. I kept the plastic container on my desk for the remainder of my time in that apartment, which was months and months. When I finally moved out of that apartment in September of 2005, I made sure to move that container with me. I continued to keep that container on my desk for years afterwards. My bite scars had healed a long time ago but that container had a real and tangible reminder that these things made my life terrible for a good part of my last year in grad school. I’d sometimes look at that dead bed bug and think how great it was that in the end, I won that battle. I don’t have that container any more, I threw it away before I moved into my current apartment.
For those who are wondering, when I moved all my stuff back to my parents’ place, no bed bugs hitched along for the ride. Everything I had done and that the pest control companies had done led to that good outcome. So there you have it, my long and personal story about my first and hopefully last encounter with bed bugs.
Oh, don’t fret though, I have an epilogue post coming up because I wanna drag this thing out for one more post.
You can find the other posts of this series here.