So, what’s it like to live in the Bedbug Capital of America?
Let’s just say it was a lot more fun when New York City was synonymous with things other than small bloodsucking parasites. Things such as Broadway! And culture! And the Statue of Liberty, with all those huddled masses happy to breathe free, not ONE of them suing a Times Square hotel for a very itchy holiday.
“America’s welcome mat” sounds a lot better than “America’s festering mattress,” does it not? Even our age-old association with urban despair is starting to look good by comparison. Despair got us “Midnight Cowboy” and “Taxi Driver” and even “Taxi” without the driver.
It also got us some sympathy. Time was when you could tell people you hailed from New York City and they’d run out and pick you daisies or bake you a pie — some homey American thing they figured you never had experienced. Some even would give you an encouraging smile so you could feel what that was like, after a lifetime of eff-you’s. (And you DO know how New York children learn their alphabet, right? “F—-in’ A!
And depravity. And graffiti. And crime. Crime! I feel the tears going up my nose. Gosh, back when people always put “New York” and “strangers will watch me get stabbed and then step over my body” in the same thought bubble, our city had so much more going for it. When you’re shorthand for death wish, you get things like, well, “Death Wish.” And “The Taking of Pelham 123” — twice! And “Raging Bull” and “Serpico” and all those crime-drenched classics, including, of course, “The Godfather.” You don’t see middleaged men quoting lines from the Bugfather, do you? It’s demoralizing.
And to think, New York was once the capital of chic! If you came from Kansas and bought an outfit at Saks Fifth Avenue AT Saks ON Fifth Avenue, you could go back home and rule the cotillion or square dance or whatever the heck you went home to out there in the sticks. (Hayride? Corn maze?) But tell someone you bought your dress in New York NOW and the person backs away. Tell people “It’s safe! I wore it to the theater!” and they may run screaming, because some of our theaters are supposedly filled with very small, nonpaying audience members. As are our opera houses. As are our cinemas. Schools, too.
Makes you long for the days of lice. Sure, nobody liked them. But basically, it was kids who got them, and they stayed home from school for a few days. You got one of those creepy little combs with the tiny teeth, and pretty soon the worst was over. But bedbugs — my friends had ‘em, and they evacuated absolutely everything from their apartment except some brand-new bedrolls they rolled out to sleep on. And when they finally announced they were bedbug-free, I can’t say I ran over to hang out.
I can say that I ran.
So I’m hoping the bedbug crisis sorts itself out soon — like, today. Before I ever actually see one. Because it’s nice to live in the world’s most famous and infamous city.
But not when you’re too itchy to care.
Lenore Skenazy is the author of
“Who’s the Blonde That Married
What’s-His-Name? The Ultimate
Tip-of-the-Tongue Test of Everything
You Know You Know — But
Can’t Remember Right Now” and
“Free-Range Kids: How to Raise
Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without
Going Nuts with Worry).”