“Stop! Don’t sit down!” The sheer panic
and alarm in Connor’s voice made Sylvia’s heart pound as she leapt from the bed, frantically looking around the hotel room.
“Sweetheart,” said Connor, “that bed could be swarming with insects.”
While Sylvia tried to catch her breath and regain her composure, Connor threw away the paper towel he had used to open the hotel door, carefully avoiding any contact with the wastepaper basket. They had just checked in for a much needed weekend getaway. Connor was, by all accounts, a tad “high strung,” but this was not the idyllic, peaceful beginning Sylvia had envisioned.
“I’ll need to check the bed for blood stains,” he said. “Bugs, eggs, exoskeletons, that sort of thing.”
• Bedbugs are tiny parasites that live off the blood of unsuspecting hotel guests. The head of the bed is their favorite location, so peel back the sheets and look for red-brown bugs, eggs, or shells. They are not going to check out, so if spotted, you should do so immediately.
Connor placed his overnight bag on the luggage rack and unzipped it. Sylvia was dismayed to see that his bag was primarily filled with disinfectant sprays, wipes, latex gloves, clear plastic bags, and hand sanitizer. So. Much. Hand sanitizer.
• To rid your room of germs, pack a few essentials. Disinfectant wipes and sprays, slippers, hand sanitizer, and even your own cup and pillowcase can come in handy.
“Stand back,” said Connor, heroically donning latex gloves. He gingerly removed the folded bedspread and throw pillows, tossing them as far away from the bed as possible, and then adjusted the duvet and bed sheets.
• Head lice are not typically a problem for hotel rooms because they survive for only a matter of hours without human contact. However, as bedspreads and throw pillows are rarely washed, these are often riddled with other repulsive pathogens. Since duvets tend to be more sanitary, peel down the upper sheet and tuck it on top so that your skin doesn’t come in direct contact with the comforter. Sheets are actually the cleanest item in the room because they are washed frequently.
“You can’t be too careful,” said Connor, noting the incredulous expression on Sylvia’s face. “Hotels are notoriously germy. Who knows what kind of contagion the last guest could have been carrying? This whole place might be teeming with infectious, toxic microorganisms.”
Connor retrieved more cleaning supplies from his bag. “You should probably go wash your hands,” he told her.
• If you’ve handled money, touched a door handle, or pushed an elevator button, washing your hands immediately upon entering your room is advisable.
Beginning to resent their picturesque abode being portrayed as some parasite-laden swamp of unspecified diseases, Sylvia glared at Connor before stomping towards the bathroom.
“Honey, wait,” said Connor. “Could you wipe down the toilet seat while you’re in there?” He handed her some disinfecting spray.
• Even if it looks clean, spray both sides of the toilet seat with disinfectant. Put a little soap or shampoo in the shower and run hot water for at least a minute before stepping inside. Baths are not recommended unless you first scrub the entire tub with strong soap and an abrasive sponge.
While this was not exactly the harmonious holiday she had planned, Sylvia was determined to make it work. Now, after swabbing down the toilet, she devised a plan to get the passion back on track. Grabbing a half-bottle of sparkling wine from the mini-fridge and two hotel glasses, she winked at Connor, who was busy using antibacterial wipes on the bedside lamps. The expression of utter repugnance that passed across his face made Sylvia take a step backward.
“What?” she stammered. “I know it’s a little overpriced, but we are on vacation and …”
Connor cut her off. “It’s not the wine,” he said slowly as if English was not her first language. “Do you have any idea how filthy those glasses are?”
• There is no guarantee that hotel mugs and glasses have been recently washed. Even worse, they may have been cleaned with the same rag used to swab other hotel fixtures you would never dream of letting near your mouth. Disinfect the glasses yourself or forgo them altogether.
Exasperated, Sylvia chucked the wine and questionable stemware on top of the mini-fridge. She was not about to sit on the bed again and was thus mid-drop to the carpet when Connor flung a hotel towel under her.
• Tan colors and asymmetrical patterns are commonly used in hotel carpets because they camouflage dirt, but they can still be brimming with bacteria. Drapes are equally cringeworthy. Hotel towels, however, are washed frequently and are largely germ free.
Realizing that they weren’t going to have a bit of fun until Connor had finished his macrobiotic critter crusade, Sylvia decided to watch some TV and was just reaching for the remote when …
“NOOOO!” Connor hurled himself across the room, knocking the remote away with one latex covered hand and pushing her backward with the other.
“That was so close! You didn’t touch it, did you?”
“The remote!” Connor stared at the discarded gadget as if it were some venomous snake about to bite them both. “It never gets cleaned, and with all those crevices, it’s the most dangerous thing in this room.”
• Hotel remote controls are handled by hundreds of hands and are rarely wiped down, making them extraordinarily, grossly grimy. By placing the remote in a Ziploc bag, you can still enjoy in-room movies while protecting yourself from high levels of breeding bacteria.
Sylvia had reached the end of her pestilence-pursuing patience. Jumping up from the towel, she stormed across the room and, throwing caution to the wind, grabbed the door handle with her bare hands.
“Where are you going?” asked Connor.
“To the bar. I’m not sticking around while you hold up an infrared light looking for Dexter-like blood splatters plastered across the walls. When you are quite finished, come join me.”
“Sweetie, you need to be careful.”
“Of what?” Sylvia was really angry now. “Losing my room key? Don’t worry — all of our private information will stay right in my pocket.”
Connor chuckled. “You know that’s not really a thing, right? Honesty, Sylvia, sometimes you are just a wee bit neurotic.”
• Sensitive information — such as name, address, and credit card numbers — are not stored on hotel key cards. That urban legend was started in Pasadena, California, 16 years ago and has since been debunked.
After Sylvia slammed the door behind her, Connor cheerfully continued to wipe down the light switches, faucets, and telephones. It was going so well, so unlike the outing they’d recently had to a nearby water park. For some reason, Sylvia had seemed annoyed by his warnings of possible diarrhea-causing parasites and brain-eating amoebas in the water.
Now that trip had been a disaster.