Bed Bugs & Bed Bug Etiquette for Home Holiday Entertaining: Keep Your Coat Off My Bed

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This post in Brick Underground got me thinking and of course, I’ve emailed it to my Manhattan-dwelling son who is coming home this weekend without, I sincerely hope, any critters in his luggage. He is upset that I bought him one of those canvas-cooker deals to kill off any bedbugs that might stick to his shoes or a backpack/briefcase. (Upset because he has no room in his studio apartment for it.) I’ve been freaking about bedbugs ever since he and I attended a movie near Times Square July 31 and the theater closed shortly thereafter due to bed bug infestation.  People in New York are being told to not use their beds to store guest coats or purses during holiday parties, even the minks!

You know how it is living in those old, cramped flats. What we call a Sam’s closet is basically the entire apartment in Manhattan. Come to think of it, I have a large home, and we don’t have room to hang up every guest’s coat in our hall closet. People usually stash them in our library on a leather chair, which I can vacuum and wash. But I am thinking of buying a coat rack that can be assembled just for parties.

Which is what they are encouraging in the bed bug-ridden cities. You are also to keep people off your sofas and encourage everyone to stand up. How inhospitable, but of course, I cannot blame any host who does this in the name of keeping a sofa critter-free. I love the idea of handing folks a large zip-lock baggie to store purses — I’d need a SpaceBag. But that got me thinking.

When I was growing up in suburban Chicago, I would go play at a neighbor’s house that I used to call the plastic house. Everything was always covered in plastic: the sofas, the chairs, the lampshades, even the tables. I found this a bit strange and asked my friend, Margaret-Ann, why her mother covered everything in plastic in their house.

She doesn’t want it to get dirty, my friend explained.

Oh. Does she cover you in plastic, too? I asked.

Sometimes, said Margaret-Ann, matter of factly.

I thought about Margaret-Ann many times after I started living on my own. Yes, my family make fun of her plastic-covered home, but sometimes, as I was scrubbing gross stuff off a sofa or a chair into the wee hours of the night, I would think of Margaret-Ann’s mother and admire her for covering everything in plastic.

Maybe it made her life easier; I’d wonder where she found those plastic covers for her sofas. They must have been custom made.

Maybe those would protect sofas from bedbugs. You could encase your entire sofa in a plastic slip-cover that was then sealed on the bottom, and zip it up. People could sit at your house, no bedbug worries. Hell, I may want some in my family room to keep the dog hair off my sofas.

I think we need them at the beach house, too. Our beach house is like a family time share and the sofas are so old, and so used by everyone, I sometimes spread out a towel to sit on because I am slightly OCD. You really are supposed to cover furniture at a second home — recall the movies where everyone walks into the summer home and everything is draped in sheets to protect from the dust?

In fact, I think we’ll be seeing a comeback in plastic slip covers thanks to this bedbug epidemic.

Which will just remind me more and more of Margaret-Ann. This is kind of a sad ending, though: she’s no longer with us. Her mother died of cancer, and then Margaret Ann died of cancer.

Please don’t tell me it was the plastic.