Wednesday, October 13, 2010

“Good night. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite.”

Good night. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite.”

My mama used to say that to me almost every night as she tucked me in — right after my litany of “Now I lay me down to sleep,” which was followed, of course, by asking God to bless everybody I knew from “Mama, Daddy, Myron, Mama Ellis and Granny Huckaby” to Buck, the one-armed janitor who lived in the boiler room at Porterdale School.

I never gave much thought to bed bugs, though, and certainly never had to worry about getting bitten by one. My mama kept a clean house and washed my sheets every week — whether they needed it or not — and hung them out on the clothes line to dry. We were ahead of our time in Porterdale. We had solar clothes dryers before Al Gore even invented global warming or the Internet.

But nowadays the little critters are all over the news — not to mention a lot of very wealthy and very famous people. Bed bugs are not just for the poor and slovenly anymore!

In case your knowledge of bed bugs is limited, as mine was, to a cute little nighty-night rhyme, I have gone above and beyond the call of duty to learn all about them and, as always, I am more than willing to share my new-found knowledge with you, my faithful readers.

Bed bugs (Climex lectularious in formal circles) are blood-sucking little parasites from the family Cimicide. I will resist the urge to make a political joke here, but with the mid-term elections coming up in 20 days, feel free to make up your own. They are a lot like University of Georgia football players in that they are very active late at night.

They tend to attack people where they sleep — thus the name — and just typing these words is making my scalp itch. I bet you are wanting to scratch, too.

Ironically, a lot of luxury hotels, most notably many of those in New York City, have become infested with bed bugs. Imagine that! You can now pay upwards of $500 a night for the privilege of waking up with welts all over your body — just like the folks who pay $29.99 a night for a room at the Abide Awhile Motor Court or $19 an hour at the “Come and Go.”

Obviously these establishments aren’t publicizing the fact that they are offering close encounters of the nocturnal kind and are, in fact, doing their best to keep their battles with the bed bugs a deep, dark secret. But word has a way of getting out when folks like Oscar-winner Renee Zellweger and pop star Lauren Hildebrandt show up with little red bumps all over their pampered bodies. And just last week the venerable old institution the Waldorf Astoria has been fingered by a New York woman as a nesting place for the dastardly little varmints.

Do tell.

Now I hate to be this way, but it kind of tickles me to know that not even the rich and famous are safe from itching where they can’t scratch in public — and it does seem that bed bugs prefer those nooks and crannies and crevices of our bodies that offer the most, shall we say, inconvenient inconveniences.

Yankees, in other words, now have bed bugs. Welcome to the real world! If it keeps getting warmer up North perhaps knowing how to drive on snow will become a distant memory for most of our Northern brethren. Before you know it they might even abandon “pop” in favor of “Co-Cola” and find themselves with kudzu growing in their ditches — assuming they have ditches up north.

Of course this bed bug scare has created a bit of inconvenience for me, even though I have never spent the night at the Waldorf Astoria. (I’ve never spent the night at the Abide Awhile or an hour at the Come and Go, either — just for the record). I have slept at an awful lot of Holiday Inns and Best Westerns — not to mention the Marion Earl Hotel in North Myrtle Beach, S.C. — and my lovely wife, Lisa, figures that if bed bugs can find their way into the Waldorf they can certainly find their way into any establishment we can afford to frequent.

On a recent weekend out of town she wanted me to inspect the bed covers with a black light and suspend our suitcases from the ceiling. I did, too, because what Lisa wants, Lisa generally gets. She still wasn’t satisfied and insisted on sleeping fully clothed on top of the covers — although honesty compels me to admit that I am pretty sure she had other motives for this madness.

Oh, well. I will be pretty much homebound for the next few weeks, and I am virtually certain that we don’t have bed bugs. The Granddaddy Long Legs that have taken over our house would devour them.

Meanwhile, sleep tight and please excuse me — I have to go pour sulfur powder around my bed and pick up a bottle or two of Calamine lotion.

Sourced By: Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author.