Friday, January 14, 2011

Mighty Mice

 Back home, our main critter problem seemed to be ants. They were everywhere. They’re just so darn tiny that they crawl in through windows and under doors and somehow always appear on the countertop when you’re trying to make peanut butter and jelly.

And every once in a very great while, a bat with a Santa Claus complex would stumble down the chimney and into my parents’ formal living room. While I screamed and hid, my mother would calmly close the pocket doors, sealing my father in the room with a pool net and steady hand.

In Manhattan, my main critter problem seems to be mice. Not rats, not roaches. Mice. And as much as I detest them, I must say that they're sometimes adorable, Jim Henson-style mice. When I’m not hating them for ruining my life, that is. I mean, they’re so cute I almost expect them to burst into song. Regardless, I obviously cannot live with mice, even if they’re of the singing variety, so they must be destroyed.

MOUSE #1: Die Hard Mouse
In my first NYC apartment, I lived with a lovely girl named Erica Kane. Seriously. She was even requested to attend the Rosie O’Donnell Show when Susan Lucci was a guest. Anyway, we saw a mouse in the apartment and set out glue traps accordingly. When I came home from work, I saw that the glue trap was now the home of a half-dead mouse.  Though squeaking, flailing, or just plain determination, that little guy had wiggled that glue trap into the middle of the kitchen floor on his way out of the apartment. (I use the word “kitchen” lightly. It was more of a short hallway with cupboards on one side.)

I wanted to vomit. I obviously did not want the mouse in the house, but I couldn’t think of a way to dispose of it without actually getting near it. So I fled. Like the coward I am. I stayed out of the apartment for hours, and when I returned, the mouse was nowhere to be seen. Erica never mentioned it. As the lease holder, I assume she was afraid that the sight of a mouse would freak me out (as it did), and she wanted to make sure I didn’t pick up and move out. Not because she liked me that much, you see. She just didn’t want to go through the hassle of finding a new non-psycho roommate. 

Yippee ki yay, little mousie!

MOUSE #2: The 40-Minute Mouse
Since I had so cleverly gotten away with shoving mouse disposal duty on poor Erica, I assumed I was in the clear. Wrong. We had set out a just-in-case glue trap, and I later found it in roughly the same position it had been in the first time. Luckily, this mouse wasn’t moving.

Since I was 24-years-old, and therefore a grown-up, I didn’t want to shirk my duty a second time. So I did what any grown-up would do. I called my dad to cry a little bit and beg for ideas for getting the mouse out of the house with a minimum of contact. Of course, my father wasn’t home. And neither was my Sicilian grandfather, who wastes nothing and probably would’ve told me 63 uses for a mouse carcass before disposing of the remains. Luckily, my Uncle Peter was home and suggested throwing a paper towel over the mouse to obscure it from sight. That helped immensely

My main goal was to remain as far away from the actual creature as possible, so I put the top of a large pizza box on the floor and used a broom to sweep the paper towel-covered glue trap onto the cardboard. That way I could pick up the cardboard, keeping my fingers far away from the glue trap and the mouse itself.

But it squeaked! IT’S ALIVE! THE MOUSE WAS ALIVE!!!

After squealing, dropping everything, and running to my room to hide, I took several calming breaths and returned to the kitchen to finish the job. After a couple more false starts, I was able to sweep the glue trap onto the cardboard and dump the whole thing in a garbage bag, which I brought down to the curb. The whole disposal process took 40 minutes.

Immediately following, I used at least half a bar of soap to rid my hands of mouse germs that I was certain must have traveled over the cardboard and on my skin.

MOUSE #3: Big Top Mouse
I thought mice were ground creatures. Not so. When I was calmly lying in bed, I watched a mouse run all the way up the doorjamb of my closet door, disappearing from view on the other side. Needless to say, I sealed the closet door and wore the same clothes for three days.

MOUSE #4: Poor, Unfortunate Mouse
I once had a super named Ray who had a silent sidekick whose name I can’t recall. It was kind of a Penn and Teller type situation, necessitated by Penn’s (or is it Teller’s?) lack of English vocabulary. But he was a sweet, sweet man who was always smiling.

One day, Penn was fixing something in my room while I was sitting on my bed and playing on the computer. I felt odd being in my bedroom with a strange man, but I would have felt odder leaving the room and giving a strange man free reign in my room. Suddenly, Penn sat up straight, looked at me, and said, “Mouse?”

I nodded to him, then proceeded to babble about the tiny baby mouse I had seen running down the hall before realizing that I was using so many unfamiliar words that his eyes glazed over and he had stopped listening.

“I kill?” he said.

“Yes, please,” I answered.

Everything went back to normal for a few moments, until—BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

I glanced over to see Penn thumping the floor with an upside-down broom. That’s right, folks. He was using the top end of the broom like a spear to squash the poor baby mouse into a pulp. But of course, you can't just spear a running mouse. Previous to that, he saw the little guy run by and swatted it back and forth between his hands to disorient it. I was watching a homicidal mouse murdering maniac at work. He stopped, bent down, and looked at me with pride shining in his eyes. I inadvertently began to lean over to see the damage. “No look,” he said, waving his hand in front of my face. “You no look.”

After hiding my eyes while he removed the flattened mouse, he came back in and said, “A’ home, I keeeell snake. 50 snake. In basement.” He held his hands open twice as wide as his stocky body. “Theeeees beeeg.”

My mouth dropped open. I’m not sure horror was the reaction he was going for. It seemed that some sort of admiring response was in order. So I gave him the damsel in distress act, thanked him for his help, ushered him out the door, washed the floor, and threw away the broom.

MOUSE #5: The WB Mouse
One cozy winter evening, I turned off the lights and settled into bed to watch an episode of Felicity. Which is the best college angsty show that ever was, in case you’re curious. Anyway, I was completely enjoying the romantic tension between Felicity, a sweater-loving do-gooder; Noel, the brainiac Boggle champ; and Ben, the broodingly hot slacker. Then, I glanced to my left…and saw a mouse sitting perfectly still on my other pillow, staring at the screen and enjoying the show with me!

I screamed and sat up, inadvertently flipping the mouse’s pillow over in the process. I suspected that the mouse was hiding under the pillow, and I knew I had just one chance to catch it. I stared at the pillow, plotting my next move. I didn’t have a next move. Before I knew it, my hand yanked the other pillow. I was hoping to come up with a brilliant last second plan, but brilliance escaped me. And so did the mouse. I had no idea where it went, so I did what anyone would do: I stripped all the sheets from my bed, laid on my mattress pad with every light blazing, watched two seasons of Felicity, and stared at the clock until morning.

By 2006, I had become somewhat accustomed to seeing the occasional mouse in my apartment. Seems like it’s just a hazard of living in New York. I am completely aware that people all over the country have mice in their homes, but I’m guessing their mouse problems don’t increase because the laundromat downstairs is being turned to a Thai restaurant.

My feelings about mice can be wrapped up in something my doctor said when she broke the news that I had a roach allergy. “But I’ve only lived here for a year,” I protested. “I’ve never even seen a roach!” She said, “Oh, they’re there. If you live in Manhattan, they’re in your walls. Even in the nicest building in the city. They’re there. They’re always there. They’re everywhere.”


  1. I can relate to your encounters with a mouse, but I am not as brave. You are one courageous girl!