Annie's Mailbox for May 26, 2011: Worried about bedbug repeat with visiting friends

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Dear Annie: For the past 10 summers, "Dan and Kelly" have stopped at our house on the way to visit their relatives up north. It's a long trip, so they often need to stop at a motel before reaching our place. Sometimes they stay with us overnight, and other times, it can be as long as five days.

My husband and I sleep in different bedrooms. He gave up his bed for Dan and Kelly. Two weeks after their last visit, he was eaten up with bug bites, even though the sheets had been washed. We inspected and, sure enough, found bedbugs. We had to have a pest control company spray our entire house, and we took comforters, blankets and pillows to the local laundry since they were too big for my machines. Thankfully, we haven't had any repeats, but the bill was nearly $500.

Dan and Kelly are coming through again this summer. How can we make sure this won't happen again? We never mentioned the bugs to them (can you say "awkward"?), nor did they say a word to us, even though they must have taken those bugs with them to their relatives. I am not worried about the money, although I don't want a repeat of that bill. The main thing is, I don't want any more bedbugs. How can we approach this with them? Or do we?

— Itching in Ky.

Dear Itching: Your letter made us itch. Bedbugs have become an epidemic lately, and they are a particular problem in hotels, motels, apartment buildings, condominiums and anywhere large numbers of people share living space. Fortunately, most of these places have taken great pains to see that bedbugs are no longer an issue, but you should not assume that Dan and Kelly are bug free. When they call to say they're headed your way, tell them, "You know, we had a bedbug problem several months ago and just want to be sure you are careful when you travel." Also, be sure to inspect the bed after they leave (and before you sleep on it).

Dear Annie: I was friends with "Jill" until I heard her unkindly (and unjustly) gossip about one of our mutual friends. It made me wonder what sort of things she was saying about me when I wasn't around. I stopped trusting her and calling her.

When Jill phoned to ask what was going on, I told her the truth. We enjoy each other's company, so we patched things up. But then we attended a small dinner party, and she again started in on this mutual friend, telling me all about her facelift. I thought she was petty and inappropriate.

This friend doesn't know Jill gossips about her, and I would never hurt her feelings by telling her. The two of them are still friends. I have once again cut off contact with Jill, who seems to be turning into her mother -- a faultfinding gossip. Should I have handled this differently?

— Sherman Oaks, Calif.

Dear California: No. Choosing to distance yourself from a mean-spirited gossip is simply good sense, and you gave Jill the opportunity to watch her words. If she should try to mend fences again, feel free to explain your position. Jill can learn to modify her behavior if someone helps her be more aware of it.

Dear Annie: I have been following the discussion from those who have lost their spouses and their friends. I lost my husband last year and am only now 60, so not housebound.

I know people have their own lives and families, and I just don't fit in anymore. I know I need to build a new life. But old friends don't know how much their silence hurts. Friends of more than 30 years are just gone.

I hope anyone reading these letters who has a friend who is now alone will take a minute to call just to say hello. They have no idea how much that simple act of kindness would mean.

— Simi Valley, Calif.

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