Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Martha Does The Bedbug Dance

I was looking forward to this week's topic of dance.

I wanted to blog about my youthful disappointment at being cast as a rat in a small production of Nutcracker and thinking I absolutely would *not* twitch my nose accordingly.

Or my lame attempts at hip hop (including shameful video!) and how I won't quit no matter how awful I am at it.

Or my husband learning salsa so he could take me dancing on my 30th birthday.

So many stories..but instead.... I attended the wonderful Romantic Times Convention this past week, and through no fault of the organizers, who were wonderful, my room had bed bugs.

I can't think of anything else. This bed bug situation has consumed me since that weekend.

I've never been paranoid about bed bugs. The first I even heard of this phenomena was December 2010 when my roommate at a lodge in Big Sur insisted we check our beds, and I did it to humor her. Even when my RT roommate mentioned we should check our room for bed bugs, I did a mattress check just to humor her and went on enjoying the first day of a wonderful convention with awesome attendees and panels. (Really - great convention - go.)

The next morning, my RT roomie and I ordered room service. We gleefully sat on our beds, the cart between us with chorizo breakfast burritos. Then, during our meal, my roomie slapped something on the bed and wiped a bloody trail on the tablecloth.

She asked, "Do you think it was a bedbug?"

Well....I didn't know so I looked up a picture on the internet. She said that was what the bug looked like. She ran into the shower as I called down to the front desk who said they would send someone "from security" and were looking into moving us to another room.

I was really pleased with the response! Within the hour, a security guy arrived to take a picture of the blood streak on the tablecloth and we were ushered into another room. My roommate asked for a breakfast comp since our meal had been interrupted and the hotel complied by sending up breakfast buffet certificates to be used during our stay.

We went on our way. I attended panels. I visited friends in their rooms. I networked at the bar. To be honest, I figured the drama was done.

But it wasn't. I was back in my new room when there was a knock on the door. The gentleman from security was there with a man in a pest uniform. "We're here to check the room," he said. I let them in, thinking thanks, and sure. Then a voice came in from the security guy's walkie talkie which mentioned inspections in other rooms - the ones adjoining ours, and I commented that was very proactive and then the pest guy said, "Well, we found the colony in the headboard."

He pointed to the side of the room my roommate had taken, and I felt awful that I was relieved it was in her headboard. I asked what we should do, and the pest guy, who was checking our room, said he didn't see any bed bugs and they left.

So I figured we were fine, right? Wrong!

Sure, there were no bed bugs in the current room which we had been in for a grand total of six hours, but who knew what was lurking in the bags we had brought from the other infected room.

My roommie began to fill me in on what she was fast learning about bed bugs - that they are virulent, that they hide and lay eggs in suitcases and fabric seams. That all our things were likely just as infected as our old room had been and we were doing no more than infecting our new room and possibly the rooms of other people since we were wearing the clothes from our suitcases when visiting other suites.

Gross - just gross.

I tried to tell myself it was no biggie, that we had done our best.

The next day, my roommie woke up with bites. The day after, we both had bites, more of them. To be honest, we felt defeated. My roommie actually said the words, "I've been defeated." She had it far worse than I. I had two sets of bites, three bites each, running up my forearm and encircling my ankle. Hers set off a rash on her face.

We had one more day in our stay and hoped we'd received the bites the first night and they were only now becoming irritated. But it became clear if we wanted to avoid the possibility of infecting other people and our home environments, measures needed to be taken. I had driven my car and would need to put my suitcase and goods in it.

Was it worth the possibility of bringing an infestation home? My roommate asked for our room to be comped. We were met with some resistance at checkout. Told we were moved and ergo the situation must have been fixed but bringing up another manager's name got our rooms (but not incidental meals and internet) comped.

I made the decision to leave my suitcases and clothes behind. I couldn't chance bringing them into my home. I picked out some select items of emotional value and placed them in plastic bags I lifted off a cleaning cart but left everything else behind - goods far more than quintuple the price of the room.

I understand the situation is frustrating for the hotel. My family works in hotel management, and I know the struggles and challenges, and I have never before asked for a comped room. Trust me, I've had my share of hotel annoyances, but figure whatever, I'm just looking for a place to sleep. My roomie and I were reasonable. We were downright pleasant during the first call. We were firm but not loud during checkout as she said, "I would like my room comped to make up for the inconvenience we're going to face related to these bed bugs."

We also asked that they check our new room. The response? "Well, did you file a report with security?" No, we did not file a report - do it anyway!

At no time did the hotel admit culpability or that there were bed bugs - remember, it was the independent pest inspector who told me about the colony. When a friend told the hotel she heard there were bugs, they said, ""Guests call about bed bugs but when we inspect, it's another kind of bug." They also said things to us like, "The hotel doesn't have bed bugs - guests bring them in."

What do I wish? After all - the room was comped, right? Here's the thing - I don't care about the free room.

I wish the hotel had helped us by telling us what we needed to do to minimize the chance of spreading bed bugs or bringing them into the next room, even if it meant admitting culpability. I wish they had been proactive about producing us with plastic bags or access to a heated clothes dryer.

I am not only paranoid about myself, but about my friends. I had been in their hotel rooms. I had borrowed their party clothes. Another friend had brought her one year old baby into our room for a visit.

I literally drove home having left most of my things behind, stripped naked in my garage, threw out that outfit, and ran into the house to take a shower then wiped down my leather car seats with alcohol. I admit a consumer responsibility as well, but it wasn't for a few days where I had been able to fully research bed bugs. Now I feel like I could lead a class on it.

I've woken up the past few days paranoid to find new bites on me or my husband. The other two sets of bites itch like the devil and have rashed. I'll never be casual about bed bugs again.


Rachael Herron said...

Oh mah god.
I think this is an appropriate response, and the one thing we noticed about that hotel was a COMPLETE lack of ability to say, "I'm sorry. We wish we'd done better." I worked in a small boutique hotel for YEARS and that was the first thing I'd say, no matter whose fault it was. Sheesh.
Also, this is sooooo terrifying. Ickickick.

Mysti said...

I'm so sorry you had to do the beg bug dance! It totally sucks to be on the bleeding edge of a "new" problem :(

Stephanie said...

A couple of years ago, I had bedbugs for an entire YEAR. They weren't in my apartment; they lived in the walls of the building. I had to live out of plastic tubs and bags for the year and deal with getting my whole apt sprayed w poison every three weeks, doing laundry every couple of days, AND always having bites. I turned out to be supersensitive to them -- they were the size of a nickel, dark red, hot to the touch, itchy beyond imagining, and hard, like I had an m+m under the skin. It was unbelievably stressful. I cried a LOT that year. So, hugs and empathy and reassurance that you did the right thing going to whatever lengths you had to in order to avoid an infestation. xoxo

Martha Flynn said...

ARGH Stephanie that is going to give me nightmares!! I'm assuming you got rid of them eventually? Thank goodness!

Unknown said...

Ugh. :(

stephanie said...

My skin is crawling and itching and I don't have bedbugs. Ugh. Awful.

Dani In NC said...

I'm another person who has had to deal with a protracted bed bug infestation. My kids spent the night at another person's house who then discovered a week later that they had bed bugs and let us know. Considering how long it took us to stop waking up with bites every morning, I don't think there is such a thing as an extreme reaction to bed bugs. I would honestly rather deal with ants or roaches than bed bugs again.

Stephanie said...

I moved when my lease was up. I assume that building is still infested. :(

Jeanne said...

Eeuuuggghhhh. Haven't been privy to this malady (I'll say "yet", to keep it at bay) but when I lived in Hollywood, my apartment became infested with fleas (that was fun) and once I had to change rooms in a motel.

The first room smelled like vomit. In the second one, when I turned down the sheet, I found a cluster of hairs from the previous guest. Not the kind from the head, either. I probably should have just changed motels but it was late and I was exhausted so I pulled the covers back up and slept on top of them. Then I wrote a letter to the hotel's corporate office. They sent me a refund.

Now I feel all itchy and gross.

Randy Philip said...

I hate those creepy crawlies.
bed bug extermination

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