Friday, November 5, 2010

Grodiness Avoidance System

The 2011 model auto show season is nigh and I must prepare myself for the onslaught of germs and filth brought forth by the teeming masses I encounter daily.

I truly have no idea how I have not yet contracted hepatitis, leprosy, flesh eating disease, TB, ebola, Coxsackie virus and diptheria. (Notice I said and, not or, because I am flabbergasted that no one has come down with all of them at once at the New York show - particularly with all the barefoot freaks and whatnot.)

At the height of the season I could be in six airports and two hotels in a week's time. That's a lot of exposure to utter grodiness. That's a lot of unwashed hands, coughs and sneezes into my hair and doorknob touching. Plus a new enemy has been thrown into the mix this year: bed bugs.

While I am still formulating my bedbug plan (I'm taking suggestions, please), for all other things I carry my travel/hotel survival kit.

For the airport:
- Always wear socks to the airport so you don't have to stand at security in bare feet and walk on that gross floor and get foot fungus from the other people who forgot socks. This might be a no brainer for dudes, but ladies have cute shoes that we often don't wear socks with, so I have to make a concerted effort to remember this one.
- My very own travel pillow/blanket. Never, ever, ever use the airline's stuff, even if they sell it to you, especially if it's free. Do you honestly think they ever wash those things? Do you want to know what happens under those blankets in redeyes?
- Cough drops to shovel into the mouths of anyone near me who is coughing their nastiness all over the plane.

For the hotel:
(I want to specify that I am fortunate to be put up in very nice hotels. I do this stuff anyway.)
- Antibacterial wet wipes. The minute I get in my room, before I touch anything I whip these out and wipe down every surface my hands are going to touch. Door knobs, cabinet pulls, curtain rods, light switches, bedside lights, the phone, the remote (what do guys reach for immediately after whacking off?), faucet handles, toilet handle, shower handle, closet door pulls, everything. This also gives me a great opportunity to see if anything is wrong with the room that would make me want to switch before I unpack.

- Slippers. I never walk around on hotel rugs barefoot if I can help it. Do you think they are ever shampooed unless someone is murdered in there in a particularly bloody fashion? They are not. There is all kinds of nastiness going on in those carpets. See airline blankets, remote control.

- Remove the bedspread and leave it in the furthest corner of the room that I won't go anywhere near. Do you ever see bedspreads on the maid's cart when you pass her in the hall? No. You only see sheets. That's because they only change the sheets. God only knows when the last time that bedspread was washed.

- Place the privacy sign on the door and don't remove it for my entire stay. When I need new towels I call down and request them. I leave the garbage pail and room service tray outside the door in the morning. I do not want a stranger in my room going through my stuff. It's not like the hotel cleaning staff is licensed, bonded and insured. I know too many people who have had things mysteriously go missing from their rooms, even in really nice hotels. I also know people who have come back to wet toothbrushes, misplaced panties and strange hair in strange places.

- Emergen-C. I start and end the day with it.

- But I never, ever, ever drink it or anything else from the glasses in the room. I saw Dirty Hotel Secrets Exposed on TV. Not happening. I either hoard the restaurant glasses brought up from room service or stick to the shrink-wrapped plastic coffee cups.

- And don't use the in-room coffee maker, either. Not ever cleaned ever.

- Never, ever, ever take a bath. Ugh. Just the thought makes me shudder. Showers only. I have not yet resorted to shower shoes like in college.

At the show:
- It's all about the hand sanitizer, once an hour or upon being touched by someone particularly smelly, or by someone I just saw come out of the bathroom, blow their nose, cough into their hand instead of doing the vampire cough, etc.

- More Emergen-C.

- Try really, really hard not to shake hands with anyone. There's just too many people. I'd rather a gentle touch on the arm of my suit jacket, please. Gentle. Not lingering. Don't be a creeper.

I am not a germaphobe -- I fully abide by the five second rule under reasonable circumstances. But I do not get paid sick days. If I get sick in the middle of the show, I can either suck it up, go to work and infect all my coworkers and visitors while being nearly incapacitated by illness, or I can lay shivering and miserable in my hotel room - probably being eaten by bedbugs - and miss out on a lot of money. Neither of these is a very appealing option.

What's really funny is that I'm not a clean freak at home. Far from it. I wait until the garbage smells to take it out. I have sour cream in the fridge that expired in August. My jack-o-lantern's face has caved in and I'm waiting for Special Man Friend to take care of it for me. Let's not even get into the laundry situation. But those are MY germs.

Not yours.

No offense dude, but I'll stick to mine.

PS - Is there any way to deal with bedbugs other than setting the bed on fire? While that may be effective, that still leaves me with nothing soft upon which to sleep.


  1. A good friend of mine had a recent bout with bedbugs. She managed to find a sort of powder chemical that works like tiny glass shards to bedbugs, effectively obliterating them. It's said to be safe for human skin contact, and she hasn't had any new troubles since she started using the stuff, so keeping some around might be a good idea...

  2. Oh man, bedbugs? You're better off drinking until you forget that bedbugs exist. Bedbugs have institutionalized stab rapes.

  3. Yup, hotels are disgusting. I guess that's one of your occupational hazards.

    As for bed bugs, it always reminds me of Isabella Rossallini's bizarre Green Porno. Very, uh, European. (Thanks, Jon Stewart.)

    Top American cities for bed bugs: 1. New York, 2. Philadelphia, 3. Detroit, 4. Cincinnati, 5. Chicago.

  4. I traveled for years and pretty much used the same precautions you note. Regarding bedbugs - the FIRST thing you do is walk in the door, go straight to the bed and look under the pillow, between the bed and the wall, and between the mattress and box springs for tiny brown spots. If you see any, take your bags and go straight to the front desk and tell them, then find another hotel and do the same thing there. If changing hotels is out of the question for you then at least don't accept another room anywhere within 2-3 rooms in any direction (including above & below) from the infested room.

    I learned this lesson the hard way last year in Dallas. VERY unpleasant experience. Also, before you make reservations check out these sites:

  5. some great tips here. The hotel stuff is very useful, and some stuff that I never thought about.

  6. Google dichotomous earth for the bed bugs. Although it might be a bit difficult to travel with.

  7. Correction "diatomaceous"

  8. for the bedbugs, consider leaving the bed and mattresses in the sun. its mostly not possible though, unless you own the bed, mattress and the sun-terrace.

  9. Cincinnati and Cleveland have now surpassed New York as top bedbug cities in the US...

    After our bout with bedbugs, my fiancée did extensive research on hotel safety. I travel a good amount (work in film), and she insisted that I do the following at every hotel:

    1.) Check the bed. Take off the sheets, look in the creases of the mattress, at corners, and lift it up to look at the box spring. You're looking for small brown spots. This is dried blood that the bedbugs poop out after they bite you. If you notice any, run away. Get a new room or possibly a new hotel, and see if you can't get a little money from the hotel to keep quiet about the whole thing.

    2.) Keep your luggage in the bathroom. Put it on the counter. Bedbugs live in soft things, like mattresses or wood furniture or carpets (not just beds, though), so they probably wouldn't live in the bathroom. And since what you're really trying to prevent is bringing one back home with you, keeping your luggage out of harm's way is top priority. A metal shelf high in a closet is a good bet too.

    3.) Bring something lavender-scented. Bedbugs hate the smell. Soap, cleaning spray, etc.

    4.) Take vitamin B1 pills or supplements. This is an extra measure; it's thought that it's secreted through your skin as you sleep, and masks the CO2 smell that bedbugs use to find you (they're blind, and usually bite between 2 and 5am). The alternative: party so hard that you're not there between 2 and 5am.

    We've been bedbug-free for a year now; no small feat when one lives in NYC. Hope this helps!


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