An Impossible Story, Chapter 3

June 24, 2014 11 Comments

 

I realize I owe you a story about my mother. But first, it is important that I introduce another character in this impossible story.

The PackTite Unit...

Morning came, and with it an exterminator named Dante who was toting something called the PackTite Unit.

You see, in the midst of the FULL DUMP MODE hysteria the night before, I’d spoken briefly (screamed briefly) with the pest control company to schedule the next morning’s extermination appointment. The coordinator I’d talked to sensed my vulnerability toward making bad decisions and seized an opportunity to make a few bucks. (or 700)

“And have you ordered your Packtite Unit?” she asked condescendingly

I did not know what a packtite unit was.

She scoffed at my ignorance, as if this lack of ownership of a Packtite was the reason for my infestation. She explained that it is a large collapsable oven that would safely heat up fabric, paper, leather and electronics to 140 degrees, which is the lethal temperature for bedbugs and their eggs*

*Please just re-read that last sentence and marvel at how far down the rabbit hole I was at this point. A woman was selling me a collapsable oven to cook my personal effects over the phone.

She went on to say that upstanding citizens who own Packtite Units use these magical contraptions to cook their belongings regularly to insure that they do not bring bugs into their homes and that without it, I’d spend weeks, months maybe, disinfecting each of my belongings by hand with rubbing alcohol.

I asked how much it cost, already feeling like I would buy it no matter what she said. She told me it cost $700, and even though that is highway robbery, in my state of misery it seemed reasonable and I could barely spit out my credit card number fast enough.

Well… flash forward again to the arrival of Dante. He handed me the five foot tall box containing PackTite, eyeing the giant PATENT PENDING sticker on the top dubiously. He told me most people do not invest in this thing after all.

“What was it like $500 right? Do you know if it works?” he quipped. I was starting to feel like I’d just ordered a fake Birkin Bag off ebay.

“it was seven hundred” I said under my breath as I opened the box and discovered inside the motor of an antique lawn mower and a giant, human-sized suitcase. Both of which should have a combined MSRP of about $50. It also appeared that they would require about three hours of assembly before becoming functional.

Dante made quick work of spraying chemicals on all of our floor boards and remaining furniture, deftly stepping over the mountain of black trash bags that lined our hall. When he had finished poisoning our home I set to work on the Packtite assembly. Getting more and more excited with every moment about how it was going to be such a great, effective way to manage this catastrophe, in complete denial, blissfully putting Dante’s skepticism out of my mind.

Fast forward several painstakingly misused hours.

I am crying again. The @#$%*&%$# seven hundred dollar collapsable oven is a nightmare. I am not naturally gifted at reading directions or assembling things. Especially highly flammable patent-pending clothing ovens with very vague instruction manuals that send you to youtube instructional videos that play warning notices before they begin about how this product was RECALLED in 2011.

It took the anticipated 3 hours to assemble, and then some.

And then, turns out, that blowing warm air into an only partially airtight suitcase does not create a 140 degree environment in the blink of an eye. Try 6-8 hours under ideal conditions.

As soon as I’d finished the grueling assembly process, I had filled the unit with a load of our bedding, cranked her up, and sat back to watch the temperature dial with rapt attention wondering how many minutes it would take to reach 140….

71 degrees and holding strong after 45 minutes…

72 degrees after an hour and a half and the entire apartment had taken on the dizzying smell of burning plastic.

After two and a half hours I was loosing my mind. The temperature had only risen three degrees and I was pretty sure I was dying of asphyxiation. Keep in mind that this evil contraption is now full of our bedding and it is approaching 9 pm. At the rate of temperature increase we were working with, our bedding would be sterilized and ready to be put back on our bed in four days.

Most sane people would have packed up the damned Packtite and called the company and demanded a refund. But, being the stubborn, competitive person I am I put my head down and pressed forward determined that my 700 dollars had not been spent in vain.

I decided I would abort tonight’s cooking mission and any hope of sleeping in our sterilized bedding and check into a hotel again and revisit the cooking conundrum in the morning.

I wish you could have seen the performance I gave at the check-in desk upon arrival back at the hotel that night. Determined to throw her off the scent of a bedbug emergency, I told the poor receptionist an elaborate lie about how crazy it was that our bathroom renovation was still taking forever forcing us out of our beautiful imaginary three bedroom, loft apartment yet another night. Can you believe it takes three days to install a rain shower?! I think she bought it…

The next morning, I returned to our real apartment with a plan. I would wash every single bag of clothing. Anything that couldn’t be washed would be dry-cleaned or put into the packtite. I would man that God forsaken oven like a hawk and as soon as I could get it up to 140 degrees, I’d start cranking out loads of sterilized personal belongings like hot cakes. Good plan, right?

After several hours of trips up and down our four flights of stairs every 15 minutes to a neighboring laundromat to wash what felt like 100 lb bags of our clothing, I felt like I was really hitting my stride. Meanwhile, the packtite was humming along filled with books and frames, finally inching up past 90 degrees to 100 and then 110 - both inside and outside of the packtite unit - meaning that our entire apartment was quickly becoming much like a bikram studio.

I was on a roll. I do my best work in hot yoga scenarios. I had stripped down to a bra and workout pants and was zipping around the apartment, organizing and repacking up our belongings in labeled bags this time, possessed with a fiendish sense of purpose. I had it down to a system, I was making marked progress on the behemoth pile of trash bags, feeling empowered by finally fixing this disaster…

And that is when, on my 11th run to the laundromat, as I was heading back to my apartment feeling refreshed by the shock of 30 degree outdoor temperature compared with my tropical fourth floor battle zone, I bounded up to our apartment building door only to discover I had left my keys inside the apartment.

Inside the apartment whose door cleverly locks behind you every time you leave automatically...

Inside the apartment with the running, patent-pending, recalled in 2011 Packtite...

The very Packtite that had now just finally reached about 134 degrees and climbing when I had last checked…

{to be continued}

Posted in an impossible story, Inslee By Design, The Sketch Book


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11 Responses
Mallory Thompson
Mallory Thompson

July 25, 2014

Your blog has got me CRACKING UP at work! This is gold!

Jemima Puddle-Duck
Jemima Puddle-Duck

July 25, 2014

i would have come SOONER if i had first read THIS!! xxo

Mariana Hodges
Mariana Hodges

July 25, 2014

Agreed with Mallory, I am cracking up reading this at work! I hope everything worked out.

Betty
Betty

July 25, 2014

Poor Inslee!

Anh
Anh

July 25, 2014

My goodness! What a cliffhanger!

Kimberly
Kimberly

July 25, 2014

well if this art career doesn’t work out…… clearly you have another option as an author

Katherine
Katherine

July 25, 2014

This is how hotels get bed bugs and literally hundreds of unsuspecting guests can pick up horrible infestations like yours from the bed bug eggs that would be on your clothing and other possessions. I really love your illustrations but I’m super sad you would handle the problem this way and risk making other people have to go through the same nightmare. Not really a fun story.

Megan
Megan

July 25, 2014

Having successfully fought the same battle as you this winter, I feel your pain! It’s so nice to know I wasn’t the only one going through such a horrible situation!

Karin
Karin

July 25, 2014

Omg!!! I’m crying for you.

Jana Bek
Jana Bek

July 25, 2014

I have had the most annoying morning and have been meaning to dive into this since last week. Reading everything in one sitting is a fantastic escape, cannot wait for chapter 4!! Also helps take the sting off not living in NY anymore, haha xo j

Inslee
Inslee

July 25, 2014

Katherine – I hear you! What I left out of that post was how long and hard we deliberated about whether or not it was safe to spend the night else where. We took every precaution and really did not put the hotel in any danger of infestation. Before leaving home, I took a change of clothes to a Laundromat and cleaned and dried them on the highest temperature for over an hour. I even cleaned and dried the suitcase I transported them in and the shoes we planned to wear (MZ Wallace makes the best washable luggage!) I then put the sterilized suitcase of clothes into a sealed plastic trash bag and brought it home. My fiancé and I removed our clothing we had been wearing while cleaning and put it in sealed trash bags, showered and then opened the sterilized bag inside our bathroom and changed into the clean clothes and then immediately left the apartment. So, literally everything we were wearing was perfectly pristine! I appreciate your concern though, thanks for keeping me an honest refugee ;)

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