…in which we continue our woeful tale of The War of the Bed Bugs.
The Big Shot Professional exterminator made off with my infested camping cot and 200 shekels (approximately 65 US Dollars), leaving me with a completely empty apartment…or was it? I strongly suspected that in folding up said cot, he had dumped some unwanted guests onto the quarry stone floor. There were deep gaps between the quarries, which could harbor anything.
So I got out the bleach. In Israel we don’t have wimpy 1% sodium hypochlorite bleach like we do in America. We have 5%, which burns through rubber gloves, shreds clothing, and makes your eyes water as soon as you open the bottle.
I dumped enough into a bucket of water to kill anything, or so I thought, and swilled it around the stone floor, letting it fill the cracks between the stones. Then I turned on the fan and got out of there.
After a severe coughing spell that threatened to activate my stress incontinence, I ambled over to my favorite coffee den in the Shuk to think things over and decide what my best course of action was. Actually, my choices were few and none. I couldn’t go back to Ron’s, seeing that he was also infested; and I really couldn’t visit myself on any of my other friends because of the risk of contagion: the little beasts conveniently travel in the seams of your clothes, the soles of your shoes–not to mention your luggage. Damn, I was stuck.
I hit upon one good idea: the apartment came with a flat tarred roof that extended over three buildings. I had access to it via an Arab-built wooden ladder that my landlord, a contractor, had doubtless saved from one of his many construction projects. In Israel, the construction industry is almost exclusively run by Arabs. Instead of scaffolding they often use purpose-built ladders, which are abandoned, in many instances, after they are no longer needed. They are sturdily built, reminding me of the ladders that the Pueblo Indians use for getting up and down the levels of their dwellings. Mine was perfect for getting up to the roof.
There are two things that reliably kill bed bugs: dry heat above 145 degrees Fahrenheit, and prolonged freezing temperatures. So after my coffee I went next door to the variety store and bought a bunch of black plastic bags, the better to cook bugs in. I went home and loaded my clothes and anything else that could take high heat into these bags and hauled them up to the roof. Also my luggage and my dog’s doggie travel carrier. I must have made 25 trips up and down that damn ladder. Let’s not forget that I was still suffering from the concussion I got from taking one on the chin, and it was becoming apparent that I had “done something” to my right shoulder in the same wreck, so I had to be extra careful on my excursions up and down the ladder.
Did I mention that the ambient temperatures were hovering around 40 Centigrade/104 Fahrenheit? Well, they were. Good for killing bedbugs, bad for people on Lithium. I was feeling it.
Finally everything I owned was either on the roof baking or in the freezer freezing. I wondered if my external hard drive would survive freezing, but since it certainly would not live through broiling I thought the freezer was the better risk.
As I stood there wheezing in the bleach fumes, it occurred to me that I no longer had a bed. My Israeli mattress, a 3 inch thick strip of hard foam, was on the roof baking. The Professional Expert Exterminator had pronounced that to be unnecessary, but I was taking no chances.
Under normal circumstances, I would have simply tossed the mattress on the floor until I could get some semblance of a bedstead; but Jerusalem quarry stones are not only very hard, but uneven and pointy in many places. Not only that, but the proximity to my bleach job might melt the foam, and kill me via asphyxiation.
Then came one of those “lightbulb moments.” Indeed, I did have a bedstead!
Three years ago, I was forced by family circumstances to give up my long-term lease on a beautiful house in the same neighborhood. A very sweet couple moved in, and I had left them my bed; but they had their own, and they were storing mine–for when I returned to Jerusalem for good.
I called them, and within the hour had my old bed back. Tears of gratitude welled in my eyes–or was it just from the bleach?
Nightfall, and I hauled myself back up the ladder for the last time that day, to fetch my mattress down. Something nagged at me, paranoia perhaps, that I should run down to Davidka Square and buy myself a brand new mattress wrapped in plastic, but then again I had had the cover off of this one and inspected all the seams for signs of bed bug poo, and eggs, and all of the signs and symptoms of infestation, and found none. I told myself firmly to have confidence in my own expertise, and plunked the mattress on my good old bedstead.
This wasn’t just any bedstead. I had bought it in 1989, just after my ex-husband moved out and took every stick of furniture in the apartment with him (he was moving into an unfurnished apartment, you see), including the bed. So I invested in this wonderfully simple bedstead made of hardwood slats, that came apart and went together in a few minutes’ time, perfect for the young upwardly mobile professional lifestyle.
The first night was blissfully bugless. I awoke, anxious, and checked myself over for new bites; and finding none, rejoiced. Even my dog was scratching less. She is allergic to everything, and, as I found out later, bed bugs feed on anything with blood in it, including warm-blooded animals. I took her food out of the freezer, and took myself out for Israeli Breakfast to celebrate. If you haven’t had Israeli Breakfast, you haven’t had breakfast. I will tell you all about Israeli Breakfast another time.
It is with great sadness that I must inform you that the third morning dawned with a peppering of itchy welts. I freaked out.
I called Sammy.
Sammy showed up the next morning with a backpack sprayer and a respirator mask. Now, I thought with satisfaction, we’ll get something done about this. I stood guard over his van, which he had left in a tow-away zone, while he did his thing. He came running out of the apartment followed by a noxious white cloud, coughing through his mask. Jesus, I thought, what the hell did he spray in there? I didn’t care, as long as it killed the damn bugs.
I was told to abandon the place for three hours, and then wash the floors very well. VERY well, he said, looking significantly at Noga, my dog. Sammy raises champion Pekingese, and knows what dogs can handle and what they can’t.
I left the apartment to air out for eight hours instead of three, just for good measure; then I went after the floors with a vengeance. I washed them VERY well. But I did NOT wash the bedstead. I wanted anything lurking in there to be DEAD. And so it was that as I was inspecting the bed, a very sick bed bug tottered out of one of the joints of the headboard. It looked like its shell was melting. Ugh, and GOOD. Death to you! Death! And then another one, fat with my blood, dragged itself out from beneath one of the legs. Oh. My. God. Even now the hair stands up on the back of my neck to think of….what it…..had certainly done….
To be continued……