Jon Kennedy
Jon Kennedy

Jon Kennedy's 'Postcards from
the Nanty Glo in My Mind

Don't let the bedbugs bite

In my preschool days my Mom always tucked me in with a kiss on the cheek. Then as she walked down the stairs, she always said:
     Good night, sleep tight,
     Don't let the bedbugs bite.

I suppose these days she would be charged with child abuse for such a scary recitation, but that's a topic for another essay. The fact was that I wouldn't let her get away in the evening without being told that nursery rhyme.

Eventually and inevitably our conversation got around to whether bedbugs are real and whether she had ever seen any. Mom assured me that they were real and she and Dad (and maybe my two eldest brothers, but I'm not sure of that) once moved into a house that was infested with them. If I remember right, the house was in Robertsdale, in Huntingdon County, a place they had lived before coming to Vintondale, the town where I was born and where the family lived four years earlier when my brother Gary was born in a Johnstown hospital.

Thankfully, after nearly 65 years, I've still never seen bedbugs and hope that if I ever do they're in a display case in a natural museum. Once on a cross-country trip the wife and kids and I checked in late at night to a motel in Nevada where we found some bugs we couldn't identify in the furniture and we feared they might be bedbugs, but since we got away from there the next day with no infestations, apparently they were not.

I was reminded of this topic last week by an episode of 30 Rock, an NBC sitcom I don't think I'd ever watched before, in which the network executive played by Alex Baldwin is depicted as being infested by bedbugs. His only symptom seems to be that he's itchy all over, a condition that could be caused, I suppose, by lots of other things, like poison ivy. But probably bedbugs are more likely in a life lived largely, at least during daytime, in Manhattan's Rockefeller Center. Whether he or anyone close to him could actually see any bugs was never made clear, but he is shown being refused a ride in a taxicab when the driver sees him scratching, and a subway car is shown as being vacated when he announced to all what was bugging him. I don't believe the sitcom suggested a source of the Baldwin character's infestation or why none of his coworkers had shared that fate.

Apparently bedbugs, though not normally seen in the daytime, are visible to the naked eye and a little larger than a louse, which most of us have probably seen, if not in our public school classrooms, in a chicken coop.

I've been seeing articles for five or ten years now saying that "bedbugs are back," back in American hotels, motels, and homes, that is, after decades when they had been thought of as eradicated. Many speculate that the increase of international travel has brought them back into the United States, but the fact that DDT is no longer used as a pesticide must surely be a contributor if not a cause—perhaps the main cause—of our national reinfestation. The articles I've read indicate that it's not always the cheap hotels and motels that are infested, but some of the country's most expensive have been found to be infested.

Have you ever had a bedbug problem or do you have an anecdote to share about them?

— Webmaster Jon Kennedy


We had that same saying...Good night etc.

I never saw a bedbug either. We did know a song that spoke of bedbugs. "I was standing on a corner doing no harm, along came a cop and took me by the arm. He took me to the station and rang a lil bell, along came a cop car to take me to my cell...I woke up in the morning,and looked upon the wall, the bed bugs and the cooties were playing a game of ball. The score was 1-0 the the cooties were ahead, A bedbug knocked a home run, and knocked me out of bed!" etc.

Sallie Covolo



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— Mark Twain

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The kind of people we are is more important than what we can do to improve the world; indeed being the kind of people we should and can be is the best, and sometimes the only way to improve the world.

C. S. Lewis (1898 - 1963)

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Jon Kennedy's latest book is The Everything Guide to C.S. Lewis and Narnia, now in stores, from Adams Media, F&W Publications. From May 9, 2007 through July 2, 2008 his blog entries or "Jonals" were articles inspired by readings in Lewis's work that didn't fit into the book. Click here for a list of all articles in the C.S. Lewis Overflow series. The book is available for purchase in support of the Liberty Museum in Nanty Glo and is also available on Amazon.



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