Monday, March 20, 2006

The new immigrants

Given my forthcoming trip to Croatia, England and Ireland, it will be no surprise that I was riveted by a program on the telly last night about the upsurge in bed bugs at good hotels throughout the United States, especially in NYC. Indeed ivy league Columbia University has also had a problem and had to take remedial action in some of its dorms.

With nary a pause in the sensational urgency of her delivery, the anchor went on to remark bed bugs have always been regarded (in the US) as an incoming problem from Europe, the Middle East and other places abroad. They were at pains to say it is not a sign of bad hygiene to have bed bugs present in an establishment; bed bugs are indifferent to locale and will take up residence in top flight hotels with as much ease as they do in scuzzy rat holes. If what the media says is true, it would appear that these bugs may be as anxious to take in the imposing view of the Statue of Liberty and Empire State building as other foreign tourists and have been climbing
aboard the luggage of Americans as they quit their hotels and come back to the US.

I'm not sure I bought the argument that they've been a large European problem because I've stayed in many, many hotels in the UK and continental Europe and have not had anything feasting on my arms and legs...or stowaways. (The only thing I had happen was have my laptop nicked in London about six years ago at a small hotel called The Philbeach; it was an inside job and the management were very unsympathetic--indifferent, actually. They paid me 200 quid, which they were required to under the UK innkeeper laws, but they knew I would not return to sue them as it would have been too expensive. I must say it's been the only time in my life where I understood what exactly people mean when they say they've been violated. For the entire day, I could not concentrate on anything--not even on the splendor of HAmpton court where we went taht day--and I felt something had been taken from my psyche. It's a very strange and uncomfortable feeling.)

In any event, according to the program, the best way to check whether there are bed bugs in your hotel is to hoist up the bed's headboard (headboards are attached but apparantly the vast majority of them pop out) and check for molted insect skins and/or black patches of dried blood or fecal matter. You might even encounter the real thing because they hide in the cracks and crevices of headboards between feastings, as well as in the folds of matresses, pillows, curtains, and carpets. One poor woman visiting NYC woke up to find eight bugs dining on her legs; when she uncovered her sheets there were scores of the critters crawling about. And their bites leaves scars and bruises which last for weeks and months. Of course, she's suing the hotel for millions--which normally makes me skeptical, but I could tell by her speech and permanent scars that she was still traumatized.

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Trevor said...

Fleas leaving scars and bruises that last for months? Sounds more like rats to me. That or the bell boy.

Damian McNicholl said...

Hahaha--good one, Trevor