For days she scratched her head and wondered, “Why? Why so itchy?”
Dandruff ruled out, she was flummoxed, but laid it to rest and quickly grew accustomed to waking up at four in the morning to scratch the scalp til the itch was replaced by pain and she could finally sleep.
Later she would find out she was being awakened at feeding time. Most active in the dark, the lice would latch on and conduct one of their five daily feedings in the night.
This is the account of my battle with head lice and the resounding question I am left with—-is budget travel worth it?
All summer I’ve been here, there, and everywhere across the US of A. Quite pleased with myself as a budgeteering superstar, I purchased most of my bus fares for under ten U.S. dollars. I walked when I could have taken cabs. I stayed with kind family and friends who offered up their guest rooms, beds, couches, and homes to me.
But in the end, my penny pinching ways came back to bite me. Literally. All signs point to the Nashville—Chicago bus I boarded a few weeks ago. Honestly, it could have happened anywhere. But the facts are, it happened on that bus. Somebody’s infested head laid close enough to mine at some point during or before that ride, and a fresh batch of head lice squealed with joy when they crawled over to my head full of blood to suck on.
For an entire week, I stupidly ignored the signs, thinking maybe I’d gotten a sudden and serious case of dandruff, that I’d mysteriously sunburnt my scalp and it was peeling… odd theories that never quite added up. But I decided I’d just keep scratching away until I got home to Dr. Mom for a solution.
I gave the louse full reign in my house. They laid their little eggs, called nits, all over my precious noggin, and I gave them proper time to hatch and get on suckin’ my blood. I discovered two adults when I was washing my hair yesterday morning (I only wash it every few days. Brush it… sometimes. I’m a low maintenance girl), and freaked out.
I hadn’t recognized them as lice at first, because my fingers were coming away with red and brown residue. The red was my blood! They turn red when fattened with the blood of its host. This host wasn’t having it anymore.
So yesterday involved, besides stomaching a miserable and infuriating nine hour ride on a Greyhound bus that lost my luggage, scourging my head of these tiny red menaces. I’d already tried an Equate brand lice killing shampoo, but it proved ineffective. Apparently these little suckers have built up an immunity to such treatments.
So if you ever find yourself infected with head lice, don’t waste time with the shampoos and lotions at the store, stick to home remedies. My mother washed my hair with Listerine (actually we used a generic brand) mouthwash and wrapped my head with plastic to let it soak in and kill them (sorry vegans, I have no sympathy for the jerks).
I sat on the front porch while my mother patiently and lovingly nit-picked my scalp. I’ve never been so grateful for someone’s nit-pickiness. Finding that there was still something keeping me up at night scratching my head, we discovered some stray nits that I hadn’t shaken. So a second mouthwash treatment this morning, and I’m feeling minty fresh, and hopeful that the pests are gone.
So will I take the bus again? Probably… I’m a lowly scribe with just enough pittance to feed, clothe, house myself, and travel. I can’t afford the clean, safe, sterilized travel options that would protect me against such afflictions as lice and loud mouthed miscreant seat mates.
But I scratch my head as I ask myself, is it worth it in the end?