Case 22

Location: Sydney, April 2004:

The apartment in downtown Sydney to which IPCS was called, located in the attic of a three story rental house, resembled an overflowing laundry storage. The inhabitant had archived pieces of fabric she had used to “dust” her neighbourhood. Over the years she had gone outside to wipe banisters, park benches, handrails, lamp-poles – the inventory of public spaces that people might have touched, or even just brushed against. Everything she had collected was labelled, inventoried in ruled composition books, and stowed away.

Apparently, she sometimes found bugs crawling on her dust cloths. A big yellow note on her kitchen wall showed a reminder, that she had obviously written to herself, about the treatment she would apply to such cases: “Smash each bug, catch it, and put onto the fabric, upside down. Cover with newspaper. Iron over it. Store in bedroom drawer.”

The landlord who called us in had seen this note, and imagined an infestation. In fact, we did not find any bugs, except for 278 sheets of cloth with ironed on bugs, dated from 1992 to 2004, stored in a dresser chest in the bedroom.