De Vants*

*The bedbugs
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 them back.

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 Fox.

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 spots

. are brown unless engorged with a meal, when they turn a mahogany red

. can hide in furniture, under floorboards, in picture frames, even inside electrical equipment

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 feet!"

"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.)

e-mail Marge e-mail me! Go back to:
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