Saturday, April 26, 2008

Bed bugs in my hair

Here's something you might not know about me: I'm phobic of insects. This has improved markedly over my life, but these remain the only thing I could really say I have an irrational fear of...anyone who knows me well has seen it in action and knows that it remains an issue. The only recurring nightmare I've ever had is one about insects (the atmosphere being made of insects, actually). There were several times as a teenager when I saw a single cricket or beetle on the hall wall and proceeded to lock myself in my room, screaming and crying and unable to come out. There are parts of the world I feel sure I won't visit because of what I've heard about their insects. It's like that. That's why when I had a bed bug experience in my hotel in Nearest Metropolis last night, I really had to fight to not become completely, cart-her-off-to-the-hospital hysterical.

So I arrived at my hotel - a small budget hotel that I once stayed at years ago, that is well loved and gets fawning write-ups in travel guides for being so lovely and yet so miraculously inexpensive - at about 9 last night. I was checking email and things when I all of a sudden felt quite itchy in several different places. I wondered about bed bugs, and so googled them. Then I did a thorough search of the sheets and pillows and mattresses. I puzzled over some tiny rust-coloured pieces of somthing, squinting at them under the lamp and trying to determine whether they were bugs and deciding they were not. (They were, I realize in retrospect - given what I read on the Internet - actually bed bug shit.) I tried to figure out what to gut was telling me something was wrong, but I didn't know what I'd say to the hotel management (not realizing I had evidence in the form of bug shit!)

Anyway, I went out for an hour or so, and came back and felt decidedly itchy again. Debated what to do about it - ran through the conversation in my mind, and decided to just stay put, after having examined the bed pieces again. Put on my pyjamas and went to bed, feeling quite crawly but telling myself I was imagining it. It took me quite a while to fall asleep. Something woke me up when I'd just drifted off - gee, IT MUST HAVE BEEN THE LARGE BEDBUG THAT I SAW FALLING OUT OF MY HAIR ONTO THE PILLOW AND SCURRYING AROUND ON THE BED WHEN I RAISED MY HEAD, STARTLED AWAKE.)

This is when hysteria occurred. I don't quite know how I managed to pull myself together enough to get out of my pyjamas, into some clothes - it had to be in the dark, because I couldn't stand the thought of seeing the thing while I was actually "unguarded." Went downstairs to the front desk. The guy there moved me immediately - seriously upgraded me actually. I went back upstairs to get my stuff and was able to find the bed bug, on guard as I now was in proper clothes. It was a huge one. I took a very long shower, washing my hair three times. The front desk guy made chamomile tea for me. I put all the clothes that I'd worn on the bed in the hotel room in a tightly sealed plastic bag. I examined the bedding in my new room - it really seems fine - no shit this time. But I'm not sure what to do. I'm so tired I can't even think straight - this all happened at 1:15 and it took me hours to calm down enough to sleep for maybe three hours. While I was lying awake, I thought I'd just leave the city and go back home late this afternoon, after my meeting - instead of staying until Monday. The thought of making that ridiculously long and cramped bus ride again the very next day, though, makes me want to cry. I just wanted to have a little fun weekend here, after my meeting - and after what was actually a very long week!


Anyway, the major lesson here is to trust my gut!!

Update: I'm leaving tonight.


Sarah Williams said...

Oh my god, I'm so sorry! A word of advice, having dealt with bed bugs myself....don't even consider bringing your suitcase/bag into your home until you have washed everything in ridiculously hot water or chemically dry clean them. I'd even throw out your bag. They are insidious, smart little buggers.

Anonymous said...

Oh no!! I share your fear (hysteria actually on my part) of all things insect-y...and reptilian too (no snakes for me, not even pictures!). I would have probably left too...

Is there any way you could treat yourself to a nicer hotel and stay until Monday?


squadratomagico said...

Don't go to India. (I won't tell you the story.)

Brigindo said...

I'm so sorry. What a gruesome experience, made especially worse when you were looking forward to a weekend away.

I don't have a bug phobia but that would have grossed me out big time.

Pantagruelle said...

Oh no! I'm so sorry! That's just awful and gross!

I hear that it's becoming more and more common (because of international air travel), especially in major US cities, and even in a few places here in Canada.

I agree with Sarah. You must be absolutely 110% sure about your bag and clothes before you bring anything home. Putting the clothes you had on in a plastic bag was very smart, but you need to be very careful about your bag and other clothes too, just because they were in the same room and those critters are nasty and insiduous. Be very careful about what you bring home.

Sisyphus said...


So ... how big is a bedbug, anyway?

What Now? said...

Oh no! And there goes what sounded like a nice weekend -- I'm so sorry.

Psychgrad said...

Ew ew ew!

I've had a lot of experiences with bedbugs as a results of spending a fair bit of time in hostels. Probably about 7 different incidents. In Munich, it was so bad, I had to leave the hostel, opted to sleep in the train station and go to a different city rather than stay in my "highly recommended" hostel.

Bugs like me. Ever since I was a young child, bugs would be biting me and leaving everyone else alone.

I would agree that you should keep your clothes quarantined until you can give them a good washing. As far as the suitcase, I don't know. I've never done anything with my backpack after having the bedbug clothes in it. It's never been an issue. But you may want to follow the other commenters' advice to be on the safe side.

Hilaire said...

Thanks, all -

Deepa, I thought about looking at another hotel - or even staying in the nice room I was in. I spoke to the manager and she said that sometimes backpackers use the small, cheap rooms that I was in, and bring in bedbugs. I do think the fancier one I was moved to was fine. But I'm just kind of grouchy and freaked out. And my sweater - which was my warm jacket for this weekend - my jeans, and my pyjamas are out of commission. Rather than staying and trying to get them laundered, I'm just going to trek home. Home is seeming really appealing to me right now...who'd have thought I'd ever say that about Scary City over Nearest Metropolois.

I think I'm just kind of existentially shaken, which is really wimpy, but is true. I can't stop feeling crawly.

Thanks for the advice about the quarantine...what I'd imagined was that I'd put the suitcase on the deck until tomorrow, and then have everything washed. So, is the deal that I can't just wash them in the regular laundry? Should I maybe put them in a basin of boiling water...yes, that's what I'll do. As for the bag, I wondered about that, too. I don't want to throw it out, if possible - it's my nice bag. But is there something else I might be able to use that would work? I guess I could maybe pour boiling water in it, too?

Hilaire said...

Sisyphus - Apparently the adult ones range from 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch or thereabouts. This one was about 1/4 inch, for sure. That's how I saw it in the dark when it fell out of my hair!

Oh god, it was in my hair!!! Every time I think that I feel upset.

Bardiac said...


I have the itchies now, thanks to reading this. Grrr!

I wish I knew how to help get rid of them for you!

Belle said...


Ick. Just. ICK.

Anonymous said...

Hi all,

I got bed bug bites around my shin while staying at the Hyatt hotel. It's been a huge pain for me, and I still have major scars. I may have brought them back with me, as I found one crawling recently on my pillow. I squeezed it and there it was, my fresh blood that the nasty pest had just sucked out of my arm. Those buggers are quite evil. I inspected the mattress and it was all clear, but upon further careful inspection, found 2 hiding between the bed seams. How disgusting. Threw out the mattress...hopefully it hasn't spread. I'm quite paranoid and germ conscious as it is. I stay at upscales hotel because of my germ concsiouness. Who would of ever thought that the Hyatt would have them. Lo and behold, after the Hyatt experience, I found reviews on tripadvisor by recent guests that they TOOK a bed bug downstairs to the front desk, and still got denied. How terrible is this???

Itching and itching.

Anonymous said...

Bed bugs are absolutely horrible I'm unfortunately in the middle of a 'Bed Bug' incident at the moment. It all started with me staying at my boyfriends house (who due to his work frequently stays at hotels) and I was getting these weird bites, we assumed they were hives as I was the only one who had them weeks later we discovered it was actually bed bugs, I was always suspicious of this but no one wanted to admit it, now they are everywhere and have traveled to my room at my house! We have to put everything in plastic bags and containers wash all the clothes and linen in boiling hot water and have the rooms treated (costing me $300 not to mention countless nights of no sleep). This experience has scarred me for life I think I will be an absolute nervous wreck until I know they are gone!

Take every precaution to make sure they don't come home with you, they are absolutely horrid things!!!

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