Bernie had a room that he liked to keep open for people in special circumstances, but he wanted M to look at it first so she wouldn’t blame him. The television was smaller, but we still liked it better than the room we’d just abandoned. It was bigger and in a better location. M gave the bed a thorough inspection, and when I had the all-clear I brought in the luggage. We’d just figured out that it was better to inspect the room before you unload the car. I hadn’t bathed in about four days, so I took a quick rinsing. M uncorked a bottle of Charles Shaw and let it breathe.
The Knight’s Inn on Ventura Boulevard was only the second hotel we saw after our retreat. The first was a Best Western half a block away at Ventura and Topanga Canyon Boulevard, but it’s really best that it was full because even though M said she was prepared to pay any price for an un-infested room, it looked well out of our price range.
We’d booked a room, while we were in Mexico, at a hotel in Calabasas, California. The first sign that we’d made a bad choice was that they charged for wireless. You can’t trust hotels that charge extra for Internet.
We spent a week in Ensenada, Mexico, at the home of some friends. The whole time we were down there M didn’t worry about bedbugs at all. She didn’t even inspect the mattress. M checks the beds and couches and chairs and any other potential bedbug-havens everywhere we go, even the homes of people who would be offended by the implication that their homes could possibly contain bedbugs. She’s uncomfortable in movie theaters, winces at the mention of bedbugs, and was nervous about setting her coat down at a Christmas party we went to in Brooklyn. I don’t know what it is about Mexico that makes her feel so at ease, but I’m ready to move there.
The first thing M does when she goes into a hotel room is mess up the bed. First she pulls off the bedspread, then the sheets. If these things happen without turning up any insects, she inspects the top and sides of the mattress, after which I’m usually enlisted to lift up the mattress so she can examine its underside. I didn’t have to lift the mattress in Calabasas because the bedbug was hiding, albeit not very well, in the crease between the ticking and the border of the mattress.
“Where?” said the clerk when M told him we’d found a bedbug and would not stay at his hotel.
We’d made a prison for the bug out of two plastic cups. First we put the bug in a cup, then we put a second cup inside the cup, and the bug had the little gap between the cups’ bottoms to call his own. M had thrust this cup-qua-bug-motel over the counter, but she drew it back toward her body to look at it again. She whispered, “Whatever,” and re-thrust the cup toward the clerk and pointed at the bug.
“What? That little dot?”
“It’s a bedbug.”
“Oh, I believe you,” he said.
At first I thought he was going to be obstinate and deny that it was a bedbug, but I got the feeling after he said he believed us that this wasn’t his first go-round with bedbugs. He couldn’t give us a refund because we’d booked the room through Hotels.com. (M spent a lot of time on the phone the next day while we were driving to Griffith Park to look at the Hollywood sign, and they eventually gave us the refund.) We left. The bug in the cup stayed on the counter.
As we were driving away we noticed six mattresses laid up against the Dumpster. M took photos. I’m not sure why.
We were certain that we checked The Bedbug Registry before we booked the room, but we must have looked at the wrong place because when we got home we found out there were three entries for our hotel, two of them from June. Now, actually, there are four.