Monday, September 13, 2010

Homebody or Rolling Stone?

ROBERTA: Confession: Ever since reading a review on Tripadvisor that announced the Los Angeles hotel where I had a reservation was infested with bed bugs, I've been obsessed with the darn things. If you read the recent feature in the New York Times Science section, you would have seen that the scientists who study them are obsessed with them too. One of them leaves his luggage in the bathroom when he's traveling--the other only on hard surfaces. Both of them strip beds and inspect the seams of the mattresses in the rooms where they're staying, looking for evidence of infestation. Here's a link to an interview on Fresh Air about how to look for them in your hotel room.

And what does this have to do with anything? It's this kind of obsession that makes a trip seem like a lousy idea the closer I get to the date. Oh I can do the same thing thinking about air travel or leaving the pets, etc. I think at the core, I'm a homebody. How about you guys, does upcoming travel make you quiver with dread or excitement?

HALLIE: I didn't think they allowed bed bugs in Los Angeles... A dear friend had bed bugs in her Brooklyn apartment awhile back. It was awful. Which, with the start of school again, reminds me of lice. Any of us with kids have been through the awfulness of lice. My head itches just thinking about it. We had to cut my daughters long luxurious hair when she got was like something about of a 19th-century novel. (My husband, who my daughter once described to a friend as having a "very big forehead" (he's bald) was the only one who didn't get it.)

The bed bug paranoia comes just in time - we'd almost forgotten about obsessively washing our hands so we don't catch flu. On the horizon: the everything-resistant bacteria that's being brought back from India and Japan where folks go for elective cosmetic surgery. It always seems like these things can be interpreted as some deity's revenge for people indulging themselves.

ROBERTA: Oh no no Hallie, I haven't forgotten about the hand sanitizer, just adding this latest neurotic concern on to that older one!

JAN: Because I had a plane phobia for so long, I trained myself to never think of travel before I go. That eliminates a lot of the excitement and pleasure most people have in anticipating travel. But it also eliminates the anxiety.

That bed bug thing is pretty compelling Roberta, I understand your obsession and I AM NOT going to follow that link because I'm going to say in a NYC hotel next weekend and I don't want to be likewise obsessed. Which I will be if I read it.

HANK: Oh, the bedbug story. I SAW that! Think about what it's like to be a reporter and have to say: Fires, crimes, violence, car accidents, drama, fine, all in a day's work...but I am NOT going anywhere that there might be bedbugs. I get itchy even thinking about it. And didn't the article say that the bedbugs--which were once thought to be eradicated--came back because DDT was banned?

We were in a hotel in New Jersey this weekend--Thanks so much, Liberty States Fiction Writers!--and I'm not scratching. So, hurray. But trust me, we looked. And then we washed our hands. But yeah, remember when there was Purell EVERYWHERE? And now there isn't. Just don't eat any eggs. Or is that over, too?Is spinach okay yet?

ROSEMARY: I'm flying, staying in a hotel AND going to India next month. Should I just shoot myself now? I do think the media has to come up with something to scare us every once in a while and this is a particularly creepy one. I live (most of the time) in Connecticut, where every little itch is a tick bite and every time you're tired it's Lyme disease. Makes you want to pour a few fingers of scotch and light a Camel.

RHYS: Did we have to post on this subject when I'm in the middle of a book tour? I have to confess that I saw a segment on bed bugs on TV and they suggested we leave luggage on the stand, away from the walls. Well, I'm doing that. I'm staying in very fancy-schmanzy hotels but I gather they are not imune so I may just strip my bed and examine the mattress tonight. Oh dear!

ROBERTA: Oh you Jungle Reds are so sensible! I agree with you Jan, don't look at the link. But do like Rhys and put your luggage on something hard! And Ro, India sounds fantastic. Can't wait to hear about that adventure. How about you guys? does the latest news make you want to stay home or throw caution to the wind and launch yourself into the world?


  1. Once while traveling in France with my daughter I discovered she had acquired lice from a school friend before we left. They do not teach the vocabulary for that in high school French classes! But I managed to explain the problem to a nice pharmacist--and I still save the bottle of anti-lice stuff as a souvenir.

  2. You got rid of it with ONE application, Sheila? We were tortured with it for weeks.

    Oh, and I read somewhere that bringing back DDT will not solve the bedbug problem - new generations of bugs are impervious to it.

  3. Oh I would hate to see them bring back DDT. But the bedbugs are see, this is the problem with traveling...

    Hallie did you admire the photo of hand sanitizers? every one of them came out of my purse:). But Sheila, I think you could throw out the French lice medicine now!

  4. Ha ha! Roberta, in an homage to you, a character in my new book has a handbag with two quart-sized bottls of hand-sanitizer in it!

  5. Two years ago my son and his wife got married, she had brain surgery (with attendant fights with their insurer), he got laid off, she got laid off, they had a bed bug infestation in their Brooklyn apartment and they moved. My son said by far the most stressful thing about ALL of that was the bed bugs. He said, "It is just awful not to feel comfortable in your own home."

    Young colleagues in NYC have told me horror stories about people walking away from all their possessions. Bed bugs have about killed the furniture sales part of Craig's List in New York because no one will buy used furniture and no one will take furniture off the curb (once a time honored form of furnishing your first apartment.)

  6. How interesting, Barb -- How are your son and his wife doing? We all wish them well - what an ordeal!

    My daughter bought her sofa 2 years ago off Craigslist; and I picked up MANY wonderful items on the streets of Manhattan when I was living there - many of which are here with me in Boston.

  7. They're well, thanks, for asking. Both working (though she is a 'contract employee' and moving from Derby, CT to Middleton, CT at the end of this month. They keep creeping closer to us, though I have vowed not to point that out!

    When they moved to Derby, all their stuff was loaded into special trucks and fumigated before it was delivered to their new home. It's been a year and no sign of bed bugs since.

  8. I remember being young and poor (more so than now) and hating used appliances because they always had roaches. But I did get lice recently. The only places I could think of I'd laid my head back, besides my own pillow, were the dentist ofice and the gynecologist--scary thought. But my haircut person said they can jump from head to head, usually go to the back of the head, and are prone to return once you've had them.She also said there is an epidemic of lice now. So far, my scalp doesn't itch, though jut thinking about it makes me want to scratch.

  9. NO no no, never EVER take an item from the stret now. Really. Bad idea.

    Roberta, you are making me itch already. :-0 I just read that if you get a bedbug bite, it may not show up for several days.

    Judy--oh, please!! NOw I'm going to dream about this..but forewarned is forearmed.

    Barb!Congratulations on your new book. It is--on the record here--quite wonderful. Death of An Ambitious Woman. Look for it, everyone!