A public service announcement from Pink Slip: what’s bugging you these days.
Niketown in New York was shut down last week because of them. The other evening, Brian Williams reported on the scourge on NBC Nightly News. If you subscribe to The New Yorker, you’ll see that a pair of them are a cartoon cover couple this week. And if you’re a Pink Slip reader, you’ll know that – ever the trend-spotter – I’ve been on the story since ought-eight.
I write, of course, about the common bed bug, and today’s post is a public service announcement reminding you that they can happen to you.
Yes, indeed. Bed bugs are now personal. Very personal.
Here’s how it happened to us.
We spent Labor Day weekend in New York City – the country’s leading city in so many ways, and a big, fat “We’re Number One!” in bed bugs.
At first, we didn’t know what to make of the bite on the front of Jim’s leg. He noticed it in Central Park.
We were traveling sans computer, so weren’t able to google our way into insect identification.
Then, I, too, got a bite - on the back of my leg.
First thing when we got home, we did our research and had our aha! (or was it our aaarrrggghhhh) moment. Sure enough, what had started out as a single bite mark had blossomed into the unholy trinity through which bed bugs manifest themselves: 3 little red marks in a row, often referred to (gag) as breakfast, lunch and dinner.
We had met the enemy.
Before leaving the hotel, we had given our suitcases a cursory examination, and hadn’t seen anything, but when Jim shook out his dirty laundry from the trip, we found a bedbug (just one) in one of his shirts.
No further signs, and we have been vigilant about looking for them. We even bought a couple of new, high intensity flashlights to assist us in our hunt. But the price of peace is going to be eternal vigilance, at least for a while.
Me, I wake up a couple of times in the night dreaming of infestation. Not only does the back of my leg – where, a few weeks on, the bite mark is still in evidence – itch. But my back itches. My scalp itches. My stomach itches.
I read somewhere that once you’ve bitten by a bed bug, you can experience ongoing fear and anxiety for a while, a kind of small scale PTSD. Which I apparently have a small scale case of. (Blogger pauses to scratch head.)
The hotel where we stayed in NY, by the way, was no flea bag. We’ve stayed at this place, a nice, boutiquish hotel on Lex and 38th, a couple of times before. I would stay there again. I think. Just not in Room 211. (By the way, we didn’t mention the bites on the way out the door, because we weren’t certain what they were. I have since sent them an e-mail, but have received a response saying that they inspected the room and found nothing, but that they were going to do an additional, formal inspection, and would be sending me a Certificate of Inspection after that. If it wasn’t the hotel, then where the heck did we get those bites? Was it that Indian restaurant? That little French bistro that we really enjoy?)
So, here’s my public service announcement:
- If you stay in a hotel, don’t rest your suitcase on the bed or on upholstered furniture. Leave it on the luggage stand, or the closet shelf. Maybe you should even consider swaddling it in a plastic bag. Ditto your clothing. (I’m thinking of getting some sort of encasement to leave my clothing in while I’m in a hotel. I’ll let you know if i find anything good.)
- Before you accept a room, you may want to be paranoid – which will be my new mode – and flip the mattress up and check for signs of bed bugs. You probably won’t see any bugs, but you may see shed skins, dots of (gag) fecal matter, or smears of (gag) blood on the box spring. If you see anything, it goes without saying: demand another room. But you may not see anything at all. And still get nipped. And the telltale 3 red dot bite might not emerge until a few days after. So you never know.
- So, before returning home, examine your suitcase and clothing carefully – shake everything out, even the stuff in your dirty laundry bag.
I’m not saying be afraid, be very afraid. I’m saying be careful, be very careful.
By the way, the other night on the news, Brian Williams said that the average cost of professionally eradicating bed bugs from your home could run in the $3-4K range. And, of course, if you live in a condo or apartment, you can get reinfested from neighboring apartments or condos.
He also reported on a convention that was held last week outside of Chicago, exclusively focused on vendors with anti-bed bug products and services. Nice to know that there’s one healthily growing sector in the economy. (I also read that shipments of bed bug proof mattress covers are way up.)
Interesting, while we were in NYC – even pre-bed-bug-bites – bed bugs were a topic of conversation, as I guess it is wherever two of more New Yorkers gather. We were out with friends who live in The City, and they were telling us about a colleague who paid quite a bit of money to have her apartment inspected by a bed bug sniffing dog, only to have the results come back as “inconclusive.”
Boston, by the way, doesn’t even make it into the Top 10 list of American cities plagued by bed bugs.
I just hope we don’t end up being the Typhoid Marys of the bed bug world.
So far, so good.
But my head still itches.
Consider yourself warned.
You can also go to the Bed Bug Registry to see if there are any reports on a hotel your planning on staying at. Won’t provide conclusive info, but will let you know places you might want to avoid.
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