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Hanna was telling me a story earlier today from a meditation talk she listens to, in which a small boy is asked — after a class workshop on mindfulness — what “mindfulness” means. “It means not punching someone in the face,” he replies.

The dharma teacher relating this story points out the kid is actually quite accurate. That practicing mindfulness in the world often translates into trying not to be that jerk that hauls off and hits the super-annoying bastard who’s standing beside you on the subway.

Why am I telling this story?

I’m telling it because on Tuesday night, right before I got home from work at 8:30pm, Hanna answered a knock on the apartment door and it was a notice that on Thursday morning (approximately thirty-six hours hence) they landlords were sending in a pest control team to treat the apartment for bedbugs.

what used to be my room (Aug 2008)

Which we don’t have.

But apparently someone in an adjacent unit does, so we’re getting the abbreviated preventative treatment.

Though the two-page preparation leaflet we got handed on Tuesday night didn’t mention anything about “abbreviated.” And it made it sound like we basically had to tear our entire apartment apart and re-arrange it in spatially impossible ways. For example: all furniture at least eighteen inches from the walls, but with things like our bed out in the open where it could be treated. And if we were supposed to empty our closets into plastic bags and set them “aside” while the treatment was going on, um, where exactly was “aside.”

This is a one-bedroom Boston apartment. There’s not a heck of a lot of space going spare.

Thankfully, after some rather strongly-worded emails to the landlord (“We are disappointed that …” and “While we appreciate the seriousness with which you are treating the situation, in future …”) we confirmed our apartment has no bedbugs (whew), and that the exterminators are only treating a few items of furniture. And we don’t have to dismantle and quarantine our entire (material) life.

I spent most of Tuesday night wondering what to do with stuff like this.

So basically, we’ve had a lot of opportunity in the last 24 hours (and will have more opportunity, no doubt, in the next 24 …) to practice not punching people in the face.

While, yes, bitching and angsting about the situation on Twitter — as well as strategizing about what to do about things like keeping the cats safe, I also tried to keep in mind the opportunities for gratitude:

  • WE DON’T HAVE BEDBUGS and don’t have to destroy our belongings, relocate temporarily or permanently, haven’t suffered through the discomfort of an infestation, etc.
  • We have friends who unhesitatingly responded to our rather frantic email asking if our two cats could spend the day with them on such short notice, since humans and pets must be out for at least four hours post-treatment.
  • We have understanding workplaces with generous benefits that mean we don’t lose pay or jeopardize our jobs by calling out at the last minute to prepare the apartment.
  • Did I mention we DON’T HAVE BEDBUGS?
  • The weather is lovely right now in Boston, so we didn’t have to put all our textiles in 30-gallon trash bags in 100-degree heat plus humidity.
  • We can afford to rent a car to transport the pets to/from our friends’ apartment, and
  • This was the kick in the pants we needed to purchase a second cat carrier that we needed anyway.
  • The woman at the management company’s office who went out of her way to answer my (strongly-worded) email requesting clarification and assured us she would keep us, specifically, better informed in the future. Sometimes, it’s worth being the squeaky wheel. Also, I truly appreciated her professionalism.
  • While it’s made for a stressful week, I am glad that our landlords are addressing this issue quickly and thoroughly; WAY better than to actually get bedbugs because they failed to clean up the infestation one flat over. And they’re footing the bill. So. There’s that.

Of course, the flip-side to all of these slips and slivers of gratitude are the “I’m not going to punch them I’m not going to punch them I’m not going to punch them” moments. To expect your tenants to prepare for toxic chemicals to be applied to their furniture on thirty-six hours’ notice is impolite at best, abuse of authority at worst. Both Hanna and I realize it’s within the landlord’s right (and probably advisable) to do this thing, but we’re not happy about the chemical bit, about the potential short-and-long-term effects for us and the cats, and the fact we have absolutely no say in the matter of where, when, and how.

shadows on the living room ceiling,
and Ianto our that-plants-that’s-like-a -philodendron-but-not

Even though the landlord is paying for the treatment, we’re still going to be about $200.00 out of pocket to deal with the situation — it would have been more had we not had friends willing and able and instead had to fall back on a pet boarding service. Hanna and I have enough of a financial cushion that this is manageable. Not fun, but manageable.

For many people, including our colleagues and friends, this would have been a substantial hardship.

Not to mention if said people lost pay due to taking time off work to prep and deal with the aftermath.

Obviously: bedbugs. The landlords probably don’t have much choice, in the end, about how to approach dealing with it. And I’m super-glad they’re on top of the situation so that we don’t get any. Because: bad. But I resent that we were not kept more clearly informed of the developing situation (they inspected for bugs over two weeks ago; we heard nothing post-inspection until the instructions arrived Tuesday night). And I resent the poor and confusing content of (most of) the communication we did receive.

Le sigh. Urban living.

Off to try and practice my mindfulness!