miércoles, octubre 18, 2006

Because in Every City, There's Fools to Pity

I just read an interesting article in the NY Times about a program called "Operation: Refusal". In response to black men's complaints about being discriminated against when trying to hail a cab, the City has come up with this plan, in which undercover cops of color go out and try to hail cabs to see how many cabbies are refusing fares based on race. It's about time they do this. So far, there is a very good compliance rate, as this article will tell you, and several folks have been very happily surprised. But really, the fact that people still equate black men with bodily harm and/or murder says a lot about this society. We have not progressed that much at all, and New York is not as advanced as people think it is. It is really just another city run by money-hungry heathens, and in that way, it is very similar to Washington, DC, so theoretically, I should feel right at home.

Now, if only they could make some sort of rule so cabs would go into Queens at rush hour, considering that most of them are on their way home to Queens. The last time my mom was in town, she came to meet me at my office in the Chrysler Building, and since she can't walk for a long time or climb and descend stairs so well, we decided to get a cab home. Nightmare. After the 6th cabbie refused to go to queens, even though it was the end of his workday and he was going in the direction of the 59th street bridge, so he said, I kicked his hubcap right off his car. The guy didn't even stop or make any obscene gestures. I don't think he even noticed, but I still have that hubcap in my living room, and I keep it as a talisman of sorts. Since I got it, I haven't had any trouble with cabs. Another secret is to open the cab door when it stops for you, plant yourself inside, shut the door, let the cabbie drive for 1/2 a block or so, and then say you want to go to Queens or Brooklyn or wherever it is. When he threatens to throw you out, remind him of the little "Taxi Riders Bill of Rights posted behind his seat, grab your cell phone and threaten to dial 311 or whatever. That puts them in line real quick. Knowing curse words in Arabic and Urdu helps too. I really should thank my colleagues for that. I'll miss them.....Why?

BECAUSE I GOT A NEW JOB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Still at the UN, but not in this office, so that's great. It is also a promotion to the next "salary grade", so I'm excited. Oh yeah and I'm excited for the new challenges and whatnot.....Actually, let me edit my previous statement: I'll miss most of them. The other ones, of whom you can probably guess, can eat me. The bosses are scrambling to find my replacements (plural because I do two jobs for the price of half of one, which you also may already know), and they have chosen a candidate, but she refused, and the next candidate refused as well, so now they are on to the third candidate, and I hope that karma bites them in the collective ass and number three refuses too. If they had acted right, this office wouldn't have such a horrible reputation at the UN as a bunch of troublemakers, which the bosses most certainly are, and they would have my replacements and I would be sitting in my new office. Which brings me to the downside, albeit a very small one in comparison: they're not letting me go to my new office until 27 November. Mr. R, the Director, asked me when I wanted to go. I said that I would like to get to the new office on 1 November so I could get settled there before the holidays, and Mr. R. was just about to authorize this, when Mr. S., like a little yipe-yipe dog, the kind that tries to jump on you when you get home because it craves attention, rushes into the room and says "No, no, you can't leave until we get a replacement and then you have to train her," yadda, yadda, yadda. Then I said "Well you know you can't keep me here indefinitely, as I'm sure you want to. You have until 1 December." So they compromised to 27 November, and of course I say "compromise" with a heavy dose of sarcasm. They did compromise, but on their terms, which is not a compromise at all, and you know I pointed this out to them both. Then Mr. S. left the room, and Mr. R. asked me why I was leaving. Let's just say that I was perfectly honest with him. As for me, this month I have left will be the easiest time I ever did, you know, like when the prisoner finds out he will be released from jail soon. The downfall of this office will be Mr. R., though, and the poor soul either doesn't know or doesn't care. He knows all the unsavory crap that's going on here, through the various eyes and ears that he puts out himself, but he doesn't do anything about anything. Like that witch Ireland? He knows very well that she is constantly degrading people, taking money out of people's paychecks for travel that they should be reimbursed for and then refusing to authorize the reimbursement, and doing other, bitchy, underhanded things. She's accusing people in the office of fraud for God's sake, without any hard evidence. But he does nothing. So anything that is or will go wrong here is most certainly his own fault. But I am out of here, and thank God I will not be associated with this dying fish anymore.

PS - I am loving Mr. T's new show, "I Pity the Fool", and his slogan: "Because in every city, there's fools to pity." Don't I know it. The show is on TV Land. It's sort of a "Shalom in the Home" kind of thing, Mr. T style.

viernes, octubre 06, 2006

"The Pest of the 21st Century"

I've had this problem since July, perhaps even earlier. I haven't wanted to admit it to anyone except the stupid people who are supposed to "manage" my building. But since I see that the problem is rampant in NYC and could almost be considered very en vogue, and you all know that I like to bitch a lot, I will admit it: My name is Mariposa, and I have a bedbug problem. First of all, bedbugs are not like roaches and don't just happen to dirty people. I am pretty damn clean; I sometimes drift a little into the Anal Retentive category. In fact, in the olden days, bedbugs were considered the plague of the cleaning-staff having rich, since the suckers (quite literally) prefer cushier digs like comforters and mattresses. The bugs cannot be controlled by conventional means, although I have recently found bedbug sprays at the supermarket, now that the problem is so out of control in the city. There have been cases of infestations on Park and 5th Avenues, if that is any indication of the scope of this problem. The problem could be taken care of with one swift spraying of DDT, but that's been outlawed for a couple of decades. Unless you want to go online and see if you can get some contraband from Canada or something, you are limited to using pansy-ass sprays.

It took me over a month to be able to even get someone in my building's management office (Celtic Park Owner's Corp./Tudor Realty, Woodisde, Queens, to be exact, and you know I have no problem pointing fingers) on the phone to report the problem. A lot of people in my building have had infestations for a while now. One woman's infestation got so bad, she had to throw away over $9,000 in furniture and clothing, due in part to the fact that when she first went to report the problem, her complaints fell on deaf ears, and nothing got done. These "managers", let's call them, thought perhaps that she was lying because they didn't have bugs themselves, and they apparently remained inactive until they started to experience problems in their own houses. As for me, my problem was worse over the summer than it is now. Me and the X used to see a lot of them on the couch, maybe 3 in one night as we watched TV, and some of them we found because we could feel them crawling ON US. Fortunately, they did not come out when other friends were over, and since I am afraid they will come out at any time, I don't have many friends over anymore. I also feel them on my skin when they are not there, which means that very soon the problem gets into your head. So after I realized I would need to go it alone, I went online and bought almost $100 worth of Delta Dust and two sprays, one to kill them on contact, and the other, Gentrol, to make them "sterile", thereby instituting a forced family planning policy. We turned over the couch and pulled back the mesh cover, dusted and sprayed that, sprayed the upholstery, the rug, my bed, wall hangings, etc., and out of sheer paranoia, I left a little ring of Delta Dust around my couch and around my bed, which the cats sniff at and then run away. I moved both pieces of furniture away from the wall and taped up any large cracks in the floor and along the walls, of which there are many in my $1200 a month apartment, since I had asked for those to be repaired/closed months ago, to no avail. This has all helped considerably, but has not completely wiped the suckers out. Which leads me to my next round of complaints.

Now that the managers have gotten through their thick skulls that they need to do something about the bug problem since it's on their watch and it's their property, they have taken swift yet quite muddled action, even assigning a "project manager", Ms. C, to coordinate between us residents and the exterminator, Metro Pest of Queens. On August 24th or so, I trudged over to the Management office and sat there for a good hour so that I could talk to someone face to face about my problem, as none of my calls were being returned and I was getting no act-right from any of those people in general. The woman at the office, Ms. V, got on the phone with the exterminator and then told me that I would have to basically take my house apart as if I were moving and put everything in plastic bags so that the exterminators could "inspect and go ahead and spray since you've already reported a problem." She was quite nice and understanding at the time, but I know that people often smile big to cover up their unwillingness to move their asses. I made the preparations, the biggest and costliest of which was boarding my cats while the exterminators sprayed, at a cost of $92 for both cats, in addition to the separation anxiety that both babies and myself experienced. Poor Samson couldn't stop shaking on the way to the Catotel and for the whole time he was there, and he meowed accordingly, quite loudly, I've been told, since he is the momma's boy and doesn't like to be far from my side, for better or worse. When I returned from work on the day the exterminators were supposed to come, I found that furniture was indeed moved and couch cushions were strewn across the room, so I thought the job was done for now, although I'd still have to live in a virtual dumpster for three weeks until they did their follow-up spray. A few days later, though, I found out that they did not spray at all, so I had just wasted $92 dollars, which is a big deal in my broke-ass world. Fast forward to last week. Ms. C sent a letter, which I have since thrown away in my sheer disgust at their inability to do this thing right, that the exterminators would be visiting again on 27 September. Again, I went through the process of tidying up and of boarding my cats for the occasion, at the same cost. I got home, saw nothing was out of place and the apartment was untouched. Another $92 down the drain, and all Ms. C can say to me is "well, that's too bad," and honestly, she gets a little attitudinal with me when I ask her "and what do I do with my cats?" A simple question, but I have had to repeat it several times because she didn't get it the first time. No reimbursement either, not even an empty offer of one. By the way, the excuse that the exterminators gave for not coming into my apartment as scheduled: the key that security/maintenance has used for over two years to enter my apartment to make repairs and such all of a sudden did not fit the lock, which has not been changed, by the way. A lame excuse, I pointed out to Ms. C. I used to make better, more creative excuses in high school. We have since rescheduled so that the exterminators come in on my next day off, the 24th, so I can personally let them in and watch them as they work to make sure that they do it. I have also emphasized to Ms. C. that I am not spending another cent on something that may or may not happen, but i don't think this has gotten through to her. Apparently, the managers, Ms. V, her receptionist, Ms. C and the exterminators think this is a huge joke, and that money grows on trees. All told, I have spent approximately $284 just for this problem, hours of my and the X's time spent putting things in their plastic bags as well as time spent explaining things to people who quite obviously are not paying attention or are plain stupid. The landlord has been charging me rent as if nothing has happened, which I suppose is fair enough, but I hope that soon enough he gets to know for himself what an inconvenience this all is, how little help he will get, and what it is to keep shelling out $1200 a month when you have to live like one of those poor souls who are forced to take up residence in the municipal trash dumps in third world countries. However, mine is far from the worst case. The stories that I have read in the Times and on websites are really the stuff of nightmares and make my problems look like infinitesimal potatoes. At the very least, I take comfort in the fact that I am not alone in this, and people don't pass as many judgements regarding the bug problem as they used to, probably because now they have the same problem.

My advice, keep a look out for any mysterious dark spots on your bed linens, upholstery or clothing. They look like little ink spots, but they are actually bed bug droppings. Also keep a look out for any small, red, circular welts, which may or may not be itchy, because chances are they are bed bug bites. You will not feel these as they happen, sort of like when mosquitoes bite. You never know it until the bump swells up and the itch comes in, usually not until the next day. Take action immediately and complain very loudly to anyone who will listen and to those who should listen but will not. Do your own inspection. Look at folds and creases in your mattress and couch, wash any affected linens, clothes and upholstery covers in boiling hot water (this burns the bugs to death). Seal your mattress in a vinyl cover and suffocate the little sons of bitches. Run a hot shower in your bathroom, close the doors and the windows, if any, and steam the fuckers out (I've done this and whether it really works or not, I can't say, but I haven't seen any in there). If you see some, your first instinct, if you are as sadistic as me, might be to pick them up in a tissue and squeeze the life out of them. Don't do this. Find a way to get them in a sandwich bag that you can seal shut so that you have proof of the problem and ammo in case your building authorities don't want to help you. You can bring the baggie to them later and shove it in their faces to drive your point home. My problem is not as rampant, but I've heard that some people have had to check their books, wooden furniture, clothes, picture frames, electrical sockets, and crown mouldings. Go to http://doyourownpestcontrol.com, get sprays and dusts and get to it. Don't wait for help from others, even if those others have a responsibility to take action. The problem will get worse if you wait. Keep in mind that you may have to get your own exterminator, even if you rent from a large company. Best of luck and here's hoping you never have this problem! And thanks for letting me cry on your collective shoulder!

UPDATE, 10/19/06 - It's been a month, and no sign of the little buggers. I think what I will do is tell Ms. C. to cancel the exterminator (I'm sure the appointment isn't even made yet). Besides, I saw the "special" sprays that the exterminators use, and the same ones are available online. So I'm going to do this myself.

Another update of interest, 11/15 - I read in this week's "Us" magazine that Maya Rudolph from SNL and her boyfriend are suing their landlord for $45,500 because they had bedbugs in their $13,500 a month apartment. They allege that the landlord didn't do anything about it. Benedict, be afraid!

Yet one more update, 11/17 - An inspection has been performed on my house by Metro Pest, and they have found that my apartment is bug-free, no thanks to them.