Stalking Maine’s Wild Bedbugs, and Other Natural Wonders
A woman in Lewiston needed a bedbug.
It didn’t have to be a particularly impressive bedbug, displaying an exceptional talent for bloodletting or an especially attractive exoskeleton.
In fact, it didn’t even have to be alive.
It’s not as if Misti Oliveira wanted the thing for a pet or something. Which is good, because bedbugs make lousy pets. They’re all but impossible to train, which means they jump on guests and suck their blood.
No, the reason Oliveira had to find a bedbug is because the Lewiston Housing Authority (motto: To See Our Motto, You Must Fill Out Three Forms And Submit Them At Least 45 Days In Advance Of The Date On Which You Wish To View The Motto – Also You Will Need A Bedbug) told her to come up with one.
According to the Sun Journal, Oliveira tried without success for two months to get the authority, which is her landlord, to send an exterminator to her apartment to deal with a bedbug infestation. The little pests had bitten her kids, ordered out for plasma, and used her credit card to watch pay-per-view slasher flicks on her cable. You’d think that would be plenty of evidence.
Nevertheless, she was told that until she produced an actual bedbug, no exterminating would occur. After all, unscrupulous people are always trying to fake a plague of bedbugs in order to get themselves on reality TV shows.
It’s not as if Oliveira didn’t try to catch one of the little buggers. She probably set up bedbug traps like the one where you get a person you don’t much like to lie in a bed, and when a bedbug comes to bite the victim, you drop a big box over them, seal it up and mail it to the housing authority.
There are also bedbugs who will rent themselves out for inspection, but they charge by the hour, and if the housing authority didn’t return the thing in good shape, you lose your deposit.
Some people have also been known to attempt to fool the keen-eyed bureaucrats in charge of exterminator authorization by substituting easier-to-catch insects – such as cockroaches, dung beetles, and spruce budworms – and claiming they’re bedbugs. This is rarely successful, because the housing authority supplies all its top officials with insect-identification software for their computers.
This story does have a happy ending, though. A maintenance worker spotted what the newspaper called “evidence of the bugs” and confirmed Oliveira’s story to the powers that be. The Sun Journal didn’t say what that evidence was, but according to entomologists I haven’t bothered to consult, common examples include copies of “Bedbugmate” magazine, maps to the nearest blood bank, and itty-bitty foot warmers in sets of six. A visit from the bedbug SWAT team has now been scheduled, and the housing authority is considering a rule change to ban bedbugs from its apartments unless they pay for their own cable.
As amazing as that tale is, it was hardly the most remarkable recent zoological incident in the state. That honor goes to the flock of pelicans that somehow ended up in the waters off Spruce Head and, later, off Chebeague Island.
Maine is not generally on the pelican travel itinerary, being well to the north of the birds’ usual habitat.
But it is worth noting that pelicans are closely related to another species of bird called boobies. It’s worth noting not because it has anything to do with the birds being in Maine, but because I like using the word “boobies.”
According to scientists, most sightings of pelicans in this state can be attributed to overindulgence during happy hour (“I wuz gonna leave, but dis boid wid a big pouch unner his beak kep’ buyin’ me drinks”). But in this case, the weather may have been to blame (“So, da boid leaves, see, but den dis meteorologist starts buyin’ me drinks”). A warm early December storm apparently blew the birds off course.
The pelicans seemed to enjoy their brief visit (“The bedbugs were delicious”), but were soon headed south. They did promise to tell their friends about Maine (“I met this weird drunk in a bar and bought him a few drinks”), which may account for reports of a pair of pandas eating bamboo shoots in an Old Port restaurant and several meerkats racing Mini-Coopers around Mount Desert Island.
Although, it could just be the cheap liquor at happy hour.
Speaking of things that will drive you to drink, it’s time to catch up with the Lewiston Maineiacs.
When last I mentioned the Quebec Major Junior League hockey team, it had just finished losing its fourteenth game in a row. This resulted in the owner firing the coach, the assistant coach, the exterminator, and the guy who’s supposed to keep the pelicans off the ice.
The team then hired Jean-Francois Houle as its new coach.
Houle had previously been executive director of the Lewiston Housing Authority.
Just kidding. The Maineiacs weren’t about to give the job to somebody who couldn’t get the bugs out. Houle is actually an assistant hockey coach at Clarkson University and former ECHL and American Hockey League player.
The changeover worked. Sort of. Lewiston lost its first game after the firing (under an interim coach), but won its next one (also under an interim coach) on Dec. 16, beating the Gatineau Olympiques 4-1 to put an end to a futility streak that had lasted forty-two days (slightly less time than it takes to get some exterminating action out of the Lewiston Housing Authority).
Unfortunately, the team’s next opponent may be tougher to overcome. They’re from one of Quebec’s most impoverished towns, and they’re called the Pauvre Petit Punaise.
In last year’s playoffs, they were almost impossible to eliminate until they encountered the Mortel DDTs.
There’s probably an allegory there someplace.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.