• Cimex lectularius

Rise of the Bedbug

So there I am, going over the bell work assignment at the beginning of class when the table of drama llamas in the back starts squealing like a posse of excited piglets.

"There's a bedbug on our table!" one of them shouts. Then, predictably, they take pictures of it to post on Instagram and Twitter. I grab a piece of packing tape (because I figure I can catch the thing on the tape so that it can be identified later-really CSI of me, I know). I run to the table and catch the bug (heretofore referred to as "Steve"). I fold the tape over on itself so that poor Steve is stuck, like Han Solo frozen in carbonite.

One of my llamas snatches Steve out of my hand and snaps another picture. I quickly snatch it back and hand it to another llama to take to the office. Before the bug even reaches the office, the pictures and comments have already been shared and retweeted multiple times.

For those of you who have never seen a bed bug, here is what one looks like.

They are tiny. So, how did my llamas see such a tiny bug on their table? Well, my lab tables are black, so the tiny red/brown bug stuck out like a blemish on their teenage noses. I am actually glad they saw it because that means that Steve didn't hitch a ride to another student's home, causing that family to have a thousand dollar pest problem.

Meanwhile, back in my classroom, I tried to pull the class back together using the peaceful and unifying concept of ionic and covalent bonding....without success. I managed to calm them down and get them back in their seats. But at this point, psychosomatic behaviors have already started. As I look out over my class, most of them are scratching subconsciously, or wiggling like something is crawling up their back. Everyone has checked out.

Thus begins my slow descent into the seventh circle of hell. By the next period, parents have started calling the school and asking if the school had bedbugs. Students have shared and retweeted, modified and exaggerated the incident to a point that parents are arriving at the school to pick up their children and are sending the tweets to the local news networks. My name was attached to several of the tweets and posts: "Bed bug we found in Mrs. Griffith's room!" or "Mrs. Griffith says we have them."

Now, let me be clear that the incident involved one single solitary bed bug; Steve, the lone ranger, if you will. I swept my classroom floor and looked through the dirt and detritus, went through the drawers and cabinets, and checked every nook and cranny for Steve's friends. There were none, not one. I told the kids that one bug does not equal an infestation. I told them this repeatedly.

But, the teenage mind is a funny, sometimes confusing place; so, social media frenzy had turned one bug into scores of them, herds of bedbugs stampeding through the school like wildebeests across the African savanna. According to twitter, they were crawling on students like a scene from the mummy. Memes began appearing (ok, they were funny and had nothing to do with ME, but still...a complete exaggeration).

The student body was, of course, hoping that this incident will get them out of school for a few days. What they did not know is that the health department does not feel that head lice OR bedbugs pose any sort of health risk. I mean, they are gross, sure; but they do not carry disease and are really just a pest. So even if we had had an infestation, there would be no cause to close the school. They would merely spray for bedbugs after school every day for 7-10 days (or something like that).

So at this point, my anxiety meds cannot fight the oncoming storm. I am in full on panic mode: racing heart, shaking, near hyperventilation...and I am just trying to hold it together until the end of the day. I knew that I was in a bad spot. I mean, none of it was effectively my fault. I didn't put the bedbug in my room, I didn't put in on the table most likely to win an Emmy for best drama. I did not take pictures of it and put it on social media. If I had found it myself, I would have taped it and taken it to the office later in the day and no one would have been the wiser. But that is not how it went down and it effectively became a public relations nightmare for the school.

I still feel sick with guilt. A bug, found in my room, had caused all of this. It really has defeated the whole "stay out of peoples way and don't make waves" mentality that I had developed in order to survive in the uber political world of education.

But, I guess I am not laying low any more and this was a tsunami, not just a small wave.

Here's to not losing my job or my sanity.


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