Politics

A bedbug’s tale – POLITICO


YOUR BED, PARIS — The French capital is wonderful. That’s if you can get used to the rats … and the smell … and the locals.

I moved to Paris in mid-September, having heard great things about the place from my thousands of cousins who already made the journey there. They were right. The conditions are perfect for me and there are amazing opportunities to put down roots and do what we bedbugs do best — get plenty of rest during the day and suck your blood at night. I feel so at home that I’ve even started using a French name, Benoît. People seem to struggle with my birth name, Cimex Lectularius.

At first, I had to find temporary accommodation but Paris hotel prices are extraordinary. So I moved into a rental apartment in Montmartre. It’s touristy, of course, and I have to cohabitate with humans but most of them are friendly. We even share a bed. Well, it is France! Sometimes in the morning, my human bed buddies seem annoyed, though, and there’s been a lot of complaining about itchiness.

As any migrant will tell you, the reception isn’t always friendly. No one from my immediate family has been to Paris since the 1950s (I had a niece who paid a quick visit in the 1990s but she didn’t settle). Politicians are the worst and some have been up in arms about us. Paris Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Grégoire called us a “public health problem” and said our presence was “a national emergency.” How rude!

And then an MP called Mathilde Panot actually kidnapped some of my friends, put them in a bottle and waved them about in the National Assembly. I shall be complaining to the authorities about this (I hear French police are very understanding when it comes to foreigners’ concerns) and will never vote for the far-left again.

Not everyone is as rash (pun very much intended). Clément Beaune, the transport minister, called for calm saying we aren’t a big problem. I like that guy, he’ll go far.

But that’s enough complaining. How about I tell you my favorite things about Paris? Maybe you’ll want to move here too, especially if you are an invasive species.

The transport system is wonderful. I’ve been using the metro a lot. There are plenty of interesting characters around, although they have started cleaning the carriages more regularly with chemicals in the last couple of weeks, which, judging by the stains, I’m guessing hasn’t always been the case. Now my gaze is wandering further afield and I’m thinking of hopping on a Thalys soon. I hear Brussels is quite nice at this time of year.

Bedbugs and ballyhoo!

Despite what you may have heard, bedbugs are not attracted to dirt and grime. That is fake news! We like warmth and, er, blood. So the dirtiness of Paris has come as something of a shock. There are rats everywhere. It’s before my time but I was told that in the summer, the Paris authorities announced they were giving up on trying to get rid of the rats and were instead focusing on “the question of cohabitation.”

Paris does of course have a complicated relationship with rats (at least according to a documentary I saw called “Ratatouille“).

The rodents were responsible for the spread of the bubonic plague that wiped out nearly half the city’s population in the 14th century but those same rats were a godsend during the 1870-71 Siege of Paris, during which they became an important food staple for starving locals (probably tastes better than escargots!).

Then there’s the river. The Seine is so dirty that a swimming event had to be canceled. You see, heavy rain causes the Parisian sewage system to overflow and be discharged into the river, polluting it with fecal bacteria. That’s why bathing in the Seine has been banned for a century.

But apart from being so filthy, Paris is starting to feel like home. I might even stay for the Olympics!

Benoît Bedbug was talking to POLITICO’s Paul Dallison.





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