In the late '60s, I used to tell my three sons, "nighty, night, sleep tight,
don't let 'di vants' bite."
There's little humor in that nursery rhyme today! According to entomologist and
bedbug expert, Stephen Doggett, there's been a "400 percent increase in
outbreaks of bed bugs in the past four years."
Though bedbugs were virtually eradicated in America after World War II,
international travel (and, some say, not-so-new "new" mattresses) have brought
Now we've got to worry about bird flu, The Mango beetle, found for the first
time in the United States at the Port of Miami aboard a freighter, "der loyz"
(louse), "di milb" (mite), "di shpin" (spider), "der termit"
(termite), "di vesp" (wasp), "der tarakan" (cockroach), "der
floy" (flea), "di murashke" (ant), AND the bedbugs!
I recently had the pleasure of listening to Dr. Stephen Z. Cohen, a guest
lecturer at Florida Atlantic University's Lifelong Learning program. He explores
Jewish life in America with clean and "haimish" jokes and stories. He offers
more than a typical stand-up comedy routine; his jokes and stories are both
intellectual and entertaining.
Yes, his material covers stereotyping and self-criticism in Jewish humor. He
discusses the Jewish "muter," the "shvigger" (mother-in-law),
Jewish "gesheft" (business ), Kosher and treyf food, and
klezmer "muzik" (music).
At the end of the course, Dr. Cohen introduces his wife/booking agent, Leslie
If that name sounds familiar, that's because she and her husband are suing the
Nevele Hotel in Ellenville, New York, for $20 "milyon" dollars.
Ms. Fox charges that her body and mind were scarred after she suffered some 500
bedbug bites while staying at the hotel last "zumer" (summer). Dr. Cohen
was performing at the hotel and she accompanied him. She says, "My skin felt as
if it was on fire and I wanted to tear it off." The hotel lawyer, Joe O'Connor,
said that the hotel has ongoing treatment and inspection by pest control
companies and will certify that the Nevele is bug-free.
When questioned about the "bedbug problem" by the writer, Eric Atkins of the
Nevele e-mailed the following response:
"Thank you for inquiring about this issue. This event took place in July of 2005
and was addressed the day it occurred. We have had no other 'issues' since that
day. We have a regular program in place to help prevent this from occurring."
In 2003, a Mexican businessman sued the Helmsley Park Lane Hotel in New York
after he and a companion allegedly suffered numerous bedbug bites while staying
at the property. They settled the suit quietly.
"Vants" can be found in America's luxury hotels; they are not unique to
the Catskills, despite the headline which read,
From "Dirty Dancing" to "Dirty Beds."
Bedbugs are the stuff of B-list horror movies. Columnist, Lenore Skenazy
("Exterminators Are Evolving, Too") suggests that pest control operators should
call themselves the CIA--Certified Inspection Assassins.
What are "der fakts" (the facts) about bedbugs?
. are flat, oval, blood-sucking insects about half a centimeter long
. like to lay their eggs and deposit their feces on bed linen, leaving dark
. are brown unless engorged with a meal, when they turn a mahogany red
. can hide in furniture, under floorboards, in picture frames, even inside
To end this topic on a humorous note, did you hear the story about Dr. Schwartz?
The good doctor examined the cardiogram of a "patsyent" (patient) named
Cohen. Smiling at the "patsyent", Schwartz said,
"You're in 'perfekt' health--heart, lungs, blood pressure--everything.
Only you got some bedbug bites, Mr. Cohen. Buy a new mattress...and call an
exterminator. I'll see you next year."
Mr. Cohen examines the "telefon bukh" at the office and finds the address
of Duxiana, the high-end Swedish chain of mattress makers. (Their mattresses
sell for well over a thousand dollars.)
Doctor and "patsyent" shook hands. Mr. Cohen stepped out.
In a moment, Dr. Schwartz heard a loud crash. He leaped into the reception room.
There, flat on his back, lay Mr. Cohen.
Dr. Schwartz listened to his "harts" (heart) and announced, "He's dead." He put
his hands under the corpse's arms. "Shnel" (quick), nurse, take his
"What?" she gulped.
"For God's sake, let's turn him around--make it look like he was coming in!"
Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe's favorite popular expression?
"Az me redt tsu im, iz azoy vi me redt tsu a toyte vants." (Talking to
him is like talking to a dead bedbug.)