You can lead your neighbors to knowledge, but you can’t make ’em think.
When I wrote my May column, I had no intention of making it a two-parter. But the story warrants an update. As you might remember, bed bugs invaded neighbors on the second floor of an apartment duplex directly adjacent to mine. Their landlord already had a “professional” come out, but I offered a few tips from across the driveway that thankfully separates their building from mine. They seemed appreciative. The girlfriend and I swapped email addresses so they could contact me if they had questions or wanted some back issues of this magazine.
About a week later, they contacted me. They thought after one treatment, their problem would be solved. I’d already informed them that was unlikely. They said they’d stripped their carpet and thrown out furniture. I’d already informed them that was unnecessary and a bad idea. They said the “professional” who treated their apartment was a friend of the landlord who “sprayed everything down with stuff the other guys don’t use.” I wasn’t sure what this meant, but I was sure it wasn’t good. I informed them it sounded illegal, but they shrugged off my comment. Everything seemed fine now, they said. I had my doubts.
In less than a week, the girlfriend emailed me: “They’re back! Any suggestions?” “Well, yeah I have suggestions,” I thought. “Maybe you should grab a pen and paper this time.” I composed an overcaffeinated manifesto of an email that included all the tips I could think of. I was careful not to write anything that would send them into a panic. I also was sure to explain their problem wasn’t unique, rare or impossible to solve — with the help of a pro. “Hope” and “get a real professional” were the themes.
That same day, as I walked home from work, they noticed me noticing the rolled-up carpet and couch pillows sitting on the curb.
“Got your message, Will!” she said leaning and smirking over the porch bannister. Smirking? At my bed bug advice?! I’m trying to help you people, I desperately wanted to say.
“I hope it helped,” I said instead.
“It’s all good,” the boyfriend replied, somewhat condescendingly. “We had that guy back out.”
That guy, who’s almost certainly breaking the law?
They returned to their beers and chit-chat as I sighed and smiled weakly in their general direction. That’s when I noticed their guests, who were clueless or had been assured there was nothing to be concerned about. Guests who might unknowingly become the Bed Bug Express to New Bloodville.
With those innocents in mind, I made it upstairs to my porch, leaned over my railing and said in a loud voice: “So you beat the bed bugs. Good for you. Most people can’t do it the way you did, laying down a coat of mystery spray — but, well … you already read my message.”
It might seem cruel, but I wanted to at least let their guests in on what was up. It would’ve been more cruel to remain silent. I’d given my advice and extended my neighborly hand. So now, maybe it was time to make a call and report health violations by a careless neighborhood slumlord and a rogue pest management professional imposter … for the greater good.
Earlier this week, I received a call from a close friend looking to rent in my neighborhood. He noticed the downstairs apartment in the duplex next door was up for grabs. As much as I’d love having that friend as a new neighbor, I said grimly: “Yeeeeeah, you don’t want to live there.”