Penguin offices infested with bed bugs. Are non-Bedbuggers worried yet?

by nobugsonme on August 21, 2009 · 12 comments

in bed bug paranoia, bed bugs, bed bugs in the workplace, bedbugs, Gawker, new york magazine, New York Observer, Penguin, workplace

Gawker broke the story today that Penguin’s offices are infested with bed bugs (see: We Know Which Publisher’s Office Has Bedbugs).

Gawker’s readers have apparently not learned much about bed bugs — even after the same blog broke the Marie Claire bed bug infestation story last year.

Instead of “Bed bugs at work?  It happens,” the Gawker commenters more often hit the same note as “Social Crimer,” who asks,

So you don’t need a bed to have bedbugs?

No, you certainly don’t!

The New York Observer picked up the Gawker story and ran with it, interviewing our friend Lou Sorkin (of the American Museum of Natural History) and Jennifer Erdogan of Bell Environmental (a New Jersey pest control firm) about the possibilities for the books present at the Penguin building being infested (it’s possible, but not a given, was the upshot of this discussion).

They also talked about possible and likely weekend procedures, since Penguin employees were told to vacate the building at 1 p.m. today and not return until Monday, as the Observer reported:

What exactly are the pest control people going to do when they take over 345 Hudson this weekend? We read our experts the staff memo, which asked everyone to leave their “office doors, files, and desks unlocked,” “leave in place any items that have not been recently used, rather than take them home,” and “make accessible the perimeter of your office/cubicle as much as possible.”

Sorkin and Erdogan speculated the weekend might include inspections using canine scent detection teams, and either targeted or extensive spray treatments.

Meanwhile, the New York Magazine Intelligencer also has a bed bug story today which does not reference the Penguin story.  The Intelligencer apparently moves in much more bed bug-aware circles than the Gawker commenters:

On a scale of one to ten, how much anxiety do you feel when you contemplate bedbug exposure? (You know, when you stay in a hotel, buy anything from a stoop sale or flea market, sit on a friend’s couch, or walk past a Salvation Army store?) Most New Yorkers are constantly at 8 or 9, sizing up even their most well-groomed friends with paranoid suspicion.

And here I was thinking that was just those of us who had had an encounter with Mr. Cimex Lectularius.

Is it really true that most New Yorkers are in a high state of fear and paranoia about bed bugs?

My own friends don’t seem to be.

I even have friends who have had bed bugs and still aren’t.

I am not one to encourage people to fear and paranoia.  Caution and a good dose of precautions is more my style.

For example, learning how to search a hotel room for bed bugs, avoiding stoop sales and trash picked items, having a good look at the theater seat in the light, and inspecting one’s purse carefully rather than plopping it down on the bed after visiting a friend.

I also try to strike a balance between educating others (“Can we just put our luggage in the bathtub while I quickly check the room for signs of bed bugs?  It just takes five minutes…”) and being discreet enough to not sound like I’m completely paranoid; between being cautious, and enjoying life to the fullest.

So that makes me wonder — for those of you post-bed bugs, or who never had them — how worried are your friends about bed bugs? What are they doing, if anything,  to avoid them?

And are they more worried about bed bugs, or are they more concerned about you being worried about bed bugs?

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1 Winston O. Buggy August 22, 2009 at 4:45 pm

Of all places Penguin home of the “classics” perhaps fitting as both Aristotle & Aristophanes made mention of bed bugs in their works, and are not some of our attempts and snake oil remedies an apt tribute to Erasmus and his work “In Praise of Folly”.

2 hu August 23, 2009 at 1:32 am

i am worried and want bloomberg to pay attention..

3 nobugsonme August 23, 2009 at 1:55 am

Winston — thanks for bringing the funny!

hu — I do hear you. New Yorkers have now at least gotten the attention of Mr. Bloomberg pointed towards the bed bug issue, thanks in great part to the work of New York vs. Bed Bugs, a group I was happy to play a small role in.

We await with baited breath the announcement of the appointees to the city’s Bed Bug Advisory Board (approved by the City Council last spring), and hope they are able to meet and commence their difficult work very soon. Because we sure do need some help here…

4 nobugsonme August 24, 2009 at 12:46 am

Observer link fixed… (thanks, Lou!)

5 mangycur August 24, 2009 at 10:18 am

in answer to the question in the post–despite my freaking out to my friends throughout my ordeal, only one of them ever does anything to prevent getting bed bugs. Everyone else just goes on about their lives as if nothing ever happened to one of their best friends. Their basic attitude is that it’s not their problem and they can’t control if fate bestows bugs upon them. In fact, I have shockingly discovered that they also don’t remember any of the information I passed onto them. They were either tuning me out or just not at all affected by what I was saying so it didn’t “stick.” Kind of p*sses me off but at the same time, why should they get freaked out about something that hasn’t happened yet? When it happens to them, they can freak out then.

6 NotSoSnug August 25, 2009 at 3:50 am

Hi NoBugs! Just stopping by…

All, yes all, friends and associates appear completely unconcerned about their risk and I always get the furrowed brow when I bring BBs and safety protocols up. But then they mostly know I’m obsessive generally so they assume my perspective is suspect.

I know of no one personally, even those who have lived in infested buildings that are rigorous in their BB hygiene let alone treating and storage/bagging protocols. Naturally there have been reinfestations for some of those folks, assuming they’re ones to notice in the first place. I avoid visiting folks where I know the building had been infested but they supposedly weren’t infested in their suite, even if their suite was ‘treated’. I’m not living in fear but I am still vigilant ~2 years post-BB.

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