Thursday, March 11, 2010

Don't Let the Bedbugs Bite

Back when I worked in-house at textbook company here in Austin, our department had a rivalry with the New York City office. The deal was that even though Texas was the well endowed girl every textbook company wanted to take to prom (big state + millions of ignorant school children = big kaching for sales), our company originated in New York, and enthroned in the Manhattan office was one of the pioneer women of textbook editing, a woman named Kathleen Daniel. KD presided over the development of the literature-language arts books that actually went into the children's hands. Oh, the glamor and prestige of reading lichrachur and culling of appropriate fine art! Oh, the sheer magnitude and importance of the task of distilling Great Works for the Minds of Impressionable Children! The NY office agonized over every line, obsessed over every detail, and missed every deadline. The job of the Texas editors, however, was to pry the red pencils out of the New York editors' hands and use their material to prepare the books for the teachers. We provided answers to the Deep Questions and offered classroom management strategies for teaching different student populations, such as kids with special needs or kids who barely speak English. Ours, of course, was the harder road. (Can you explain Beowulf  to a kid who is autistic and just arrived from Korea, in 100 words or fewer? Production needs it in twenty minutes.) But the New York editors looked down on us, when they considered us at all. In response, we had posted in a prominent place a postcard with the saying, "We don't care how they do it in New York."

So it always gives me a quiet thrill when I read about the tribulations of living in the Big Apple—not the bogus problems like the cost of a co-op or coffee or the ride to the airport or how Broadway is dying. Big deal. But bugs? Bed bugs? Yes! Take that, Empire Staters! Bed bugs are a huge, huge problem in NYC, where recently there have been thousands of documented cases of infestations. And New Yorkers are embarrassed. Imagine that! In a city where rats travel in armies and Democrats voted for Giuliani. The best part of the article I read this morning in the Times, though, is the doe-eyed puggle (Pug + Beagle = Puggle!) named Cruiser, an able detection dog who spends his days traveling the boroughs of New York and identifying bed bug lairs in hysterical New Yorkers' well upholstered homes. Go ahead and read the article—though if you are squeamish, you might want to skip the part about how Cruiser's handlers feed the bed bugs he needs for his training. Otherwise, it's so satisfying. "Gosh, NYC, do you feel itchy?" Then, go out and hug a fire ant or say howdy to a tree roach or kiss a mosquito, and thank your lucky stars you live in Texas.
Photo credit: Chad Batka for the NYT

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