Pardon My Bed Bugs

December 1, 2011 | By | Comments (3)

What if you’re about to host a big family gathering and a few days before the event, one of the guests sends this email: “GUESS WHAT?!  We discovered bed bugs in our apartment this morning.”

Happy holidays, indeed.  There I was the other day, setting the dining room table for 16, when I got the news that two guests were potentially….contagious! (Here in New York, bed bug infestations are so feared that people who catch sight of one of those scurrying critters that the city health department once dubbed “the brown peril” will willingly pay an exterminator as much as $5,000.)

The email continued: “We wanted to give you a heads up in case you’d rather we don’t come over on Thursday.”

So, what’s a host to do?

It was a very considerate gesture on the guest’s part to give advance warning. Now the ball was in my court.

My first instinctive reaction was to feel itchy all over (this also happens every time I hear the word “lice,” by the way).

I scratched away for awhile. But beyond that, I don’t get worked up about bugs or germs. My reaction tends to be: What’s the big deal? Tenacious as bed bugs are, they don’t transmit disease and are rarely passed along by human-to-human contact.

On the other hand, some of my other guests were definitely of a more squeamish persuasion. I know from experience that a few of them fell into that category of guests given to shrieking “Eeww, BUGS!” and running from the room to douse themselves in chemical dips.

As a host, I could have written back, “Please don’t come. It will make some people uncomfortable.”

Instead, I replied to the email like this: “So sorry to hear about the bed bugs! Terrible for you, but not an issue for us. I imagine it could make for spirited dinner conversation at the table, if you care to bring it up. See you Thursday.”

Did I make the right decision?

What would you say? After reading this, are you feeling….itchy? Would you tell a guest with bed bugs to stay home? If not, would you alert the other guests… or would you consider bed bugs none of anyone else’s business?

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