Bed bugs are back! / ¡Los Chinches Estan De Vuelta!

by nobugsonme on April 28, 2010 · 7 comments

in bed bugs, fun, humor

Dear Readers,

We have some very creative and funny people in our forums.  When funny people get bed bugs, their humor serves as comic relief for all of us in the trenches.

Below, a recent contribution from a reader going by the name of elchinche. It was originally posted on the forums.

With elchinche’s permission, I am reposting it — and the author’s  introduction to it — here, so it can enjoy a larger audience.

I know you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

Your editor,



Hello Folks,

One day in a fit of despair, I sat down and wrote the following (hopefully funny) essay loosely based on my adventures in the world of fighting bed bugs in NYC. Just for the hell of it, I submitted it to The New Yorker’s “Shouts & Murmurs” sections. The editors said they liked it but it wasn’t for them. Then I realized that the perfect audience of people who could really use a laugh about this are right here on So I hope you enjoy!

– elchinche

Bed Bug Boxes complete! by Sappymoosetree / used under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 2.0 license


by elchinche

You hear rumors–stories that involve someone’s friend or co-worker– but rarely does anyone have the courage to stand up and say, “I am dealing with this. This is my story too.” Well, I for one will no longer live in shame. New York City, I am here to tell you that I am one of those mythical people discussed with pity at every cocktail party you’ve been to for the last year. That’s right, I have bed bugs.

I’m not anyone special. I’m just your regular, run-of-the-mill (but less much successful) Liz Lemon type. There is no reason to fear me, avoid me or refuse to shake my hand– except that I may inadvertently introduce blood-sucking super bugs that are almost impossible to get rid of into your life. And while bed bugs don’t normally travel on a person’s, uh…person, there is always a chance that despite all of my precautions one might have wandered into my bag or between the pages of that copy of Eat, Pray, Love that I’ve been carrying around for 6 months, but haven’t yet started to read.

If you think you can avoid me, think again. I’m active in several neighborhood organizations. We may be members of the same community garden, if yours is the one where every single member hates every other member so much that it is only a matter of time before someone gets attacked with a rake.

We might be members of the same CSA. I’m the person who always puts her fennel back in the swap box. Wait, you’re right; everyone puts their fennel back into the swap box. I’m the person who accidentally filled out her order form wrong and ended up with 50 pounds of dried beans.

You won’t just see me around my neighborhood either; I’m all over the city. That’s me crammed backside to backside with you on the train. It’s so depressing to look up and see those ads for mattress encasements. You know the ones with the giant disgusting picture of a bedbug that say, “Bed Bugs are Back!” It’s a bummer that there are so many of those ads, but none of them are in Spanish. I rely on the Spanish ads in the train to help me prepare when I haven’t done my homework as I rush downtown on Monday nights for my continuing education language class. The good news is that I’ve learned to translate: “¡Los Chinches están de vuelta!”

I could easily spread this pest to the entire city by six degrees of separation simply by starting at my job. My office is in a fairly well known midtown Off-Broadway theater venue next to a methadone clinic. We get quite the cross-section of New Yorkers. I once saw Matthew Broderick get attacked by a homeless woman with a ukulele.

The most frustrating thing about bed bugs is that they can be really hard to detect because they are notoriously secretive. They are able to hide in tiny crevices and only come out at night. Knowing that the bed bugs are waiting until you go to sleep to crawl on your body and suck your blood can make you start to get a little crazy. Sure the city never sleeps, but people ought to get at least a few hours of rest a night. If you don’t and instead do something like say, wear socks over your hands as well as your feet and then tape your pajamas up at the ankles and wrists and then lay in bed pretending that you are falling asleep but instead jump out of bed every 15 minutes and shine a high powered flashlight around your bedroom…well, from experience, I can tell you that after about a month of doing this, there is a good chance that you will begin to have sporadic hallucinations.

I have started to see bed bugs everywhere I go. I won’t even stand next to the benches in the subway system. I refuse to sit when I visit people’s homes. Don’t even get me started on movie theaters and museum coat checks.

Just the other day on my way to work, I’m pretty sure I saw a bed bug jump from my bag and grab the lowest rung of the New York Times building and quickly climb to the top where it unfurled a green pro-global warming banner. Sure, it was a small banner, almost impossible to see with the naked eye, but luckily I had my binoculars after being instructed by my armoire the night before that I should carry them with me in the morning.

I have a working theory that bed bugs have evolved and no longer travel through space and time as physical beings. I believe they now have the ability to travel through the Internet. They’re all over the blogosphere. Just the other day I was reading on Jezebel about how the wage gap has barely budged in years (wtf, America?) when I saw a bed bug crawl across a snap judgment photo of Michelle Obama. And what I’ve heard about the situation on the parenting message boards will shock you. Even in Park Slope! Ironically, the safest place on the Internet is the forums section over at because they require that all of the posts and even the comments be individually encased in plastic.

Bed bugs may soon (perhaps already!) be able to travel simply as an idea. In fact, you may want to stop reading right now, drop this magazine and set it on fire. Oh no, I forgot that last night at 3 a.m., I read that fire only makes them stronger!

Yesterday, I admit, I let my defenses down and fell asleep in the middle of the day. In my dream, I had to battle a giant but invisible bed bug. I was about to hit it with my bedside lamp, when the armoire yelled for me to wake up. As I lay there in a cold sweat, I vowed that this would not get the best of me. I will get through this with good old-fashioned can-do spirit, optimism and a willingness to do whatever crazy thing it takes. I will sew tiny outfits so that when I do catch the bed bugs, I can dress them up and post their photo on (look at the nymph in the baby outfit!). I will encase all of my possessions in hermetically sealed plastic bags; I will spray poison directly onto my person. I will put kerosene on the bed frame. I am a New Yorker dammit! I have to do this for my family back home who think that I am living a life full of glamour and sophistication and for all of the people in the city, suffering in silence and shame, I have to do this for the armoire! ¡Muerte a los chinches!

Post Script: After a lot of soul-searching, the author has moved all of her possessions into a storage unit in New Jersey for an indefinite period of time. She is now living and working on self-sufficient kale farm in upstate New York, and through therapy and enrollment in an experimental PTSD program, she is reclaiming her sanity (although she still misses her armoire).

1 Strabat April 29, 2010 at 12:18 am

>(: \\)= Glad you liked my banner!

2 nobugsonme April 29, 2010 at 1:48 am

You lost me, Strabat!

3 tarrabyte April 29, 2010 at 12:11 pm

OMG, I laughed, I cried (I’m still crying). This is so funny because it’s so so true. I am still, a year after they’ve been declared gone, freaking out (but usually not more than three times a month) and worrying they’ll come back. Elchinche, thank you for making having bed bugs funny, cause it’s not, but you’ve proven that not losing your sense of humor is so important when you’re a sleep deprived zombie. Nobugs, thank you for sharing this post and your tireless efforts to educate others about you-know-who.

4 Strabat April 29, 2010 at 3:18 pm

A little reference to the banner mentioned by Elchinche, “Just the other day on my way to work, I’m pretty sure I saw a bed bug jump from my bag and grab the lowest rung of the New York Times building and quickly climb to the top where it unfurled a green pro-global warming banner. Sure, it was a small banner, almost impossible to see with the naked eye, but luckily I had my binoculars after being instructed by my armoire the night before that I should carry them with me in the morning.” >(: //)=

5 nobugsonme April 29, 2010 at 11:54 pm

Thanks, Strabat! 🙂

6 MAFA July 14, 2010 at 11:15 pm

Having gotten rid of the darn things is worse than having them as you never want them again. It’s been a year. We won’t go to anyone’s house. Mom was in the hospital and we stood the entire month of visiting her and them wiped each other down with our hands when we left, as we do after a movie. We both are artists and canceled all exhibitions in libraries as they are high on the list of danger sites (you take stuff home, it lies about, and then you return it). We don’t sit in booths in restaurants as you can’t check them like you can seats. We bought a suitcase heater and heat all our mail and most other items coming into the house. I have learned to fold laundry and get dressed in mid air so nothing touches anything. We are looking at getting an RV that is in a large Chevy van for travel for way more than we can afford. We carry in the car large plastic zip bags and kitchen size garbage bags to seal stuff in. I am still putting the house back together. I heated and sealed around 60 bags of fabric items, including around 50 bags of yard goods as I am a fiber artist that had to be sorted and put back. I travel to clients for my main job and put my briefcase in a plastic bag while there and won’t put my coat away in winter. They have to come up with a way to get rid of them wholesale and not on a case by case basis. I still have scars on my arm a year later!

7 nobugsonme July 15, 2010 at 10:43 am


I understand where you’re coming from. Dealing with stored art and supplies has got to be a pain when dealing with bed bugs, or trying to avoid them.

A Packtite (which I assume is the “suitcase heater” you mentioned) can be a great tool and many people find a lot of use for it during and after bed bugs.

I can understand the desire for an RV. And yet staying in hotels is perfectly feasible if you are willing to take precautions with your luggage and clothing and other items you wear or carry.

Keep in mind, too, that you may someday get bed bugs again despite these extreme precautions. We have heard of a number of people who have gotten them a second time, and the general experience seems to be that it is much easier to detect and treat the second time — that you know what the problem is and how to get rid of it seems to play a large role in this.

That’s not to say you ever want to get bed bugs again, but if you ever did, it probably would not be as bad as the first experience.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: