“The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.” – Lily Tomlin
Act II: The Master Rat-teteer
I’m going to spoil the ending of this post for you right now. I know this is a terrible way to build suspense but I’m the kind of gal who reads Wikipedia synopses before going to see a movie. Honestly though, I feel like once I share with you what happens at the end of this chapter, you’ll have no choice but to keep reading anyways.
At the end of ACT II, I will have just spent the night with a rat in my bed.
Now that you know the cliffhanger ending, let’s jump back a couple of months. If you can recall my last post, you’ll remember I had almost squashed a mouse after believing I had taken care of the issue.
“Ghost mouse!! There’s a ghost mouse in the house!” I scream as I run to find all my housemates.
Unfortunately, it was not a ghost mouse. It was an actual, real life mouse that was most likely living in my room at the moment. We decide this is no longer a problem we could handle on our own and call an exterminator.
The exterminator will quickly become your favorite character. We’re pretty sure his name is Bill and I would describe him as a middle-aged Shaggy from Scooby-Doo. He is tall and a little squirmy but very kind. From the first visit, he immediately takes a liking to us.
“Well ladies, I am awfully sorry this is happening to you.” Bill has just crawled out from underneath the house. He tells us that the “doors” under the house need to be fixed. Apparently that’s how the mice are getting under the house and then they are getting inside of the house through holes near the kitchen sink.
“I’ll do as much as I can right now, but this is really a job for a handyman. Right now it’s just mice, but as it gets colder you could have bigger rodents, rats, possums, raccoons-”
“I’m sorry, did you say raccoons?”
“I know, I know. It’s a scary thought. Just ask your landlord about fixing these doors and I’ll set up some traps and spray around the house.”
I’ve mentioned previously the language barrier combined with the generational divide that makes communicating with my elderly landlord quite difficult. Still, I call him immediately to relay what the exterminator told me.
“He said the doors under the house need to be fixed by a handyman.”
“Okay. But tell me when there are no more mice. I’m paying for them to come out every month until the mice are gone.”
“Oh no, there are definitely still mice. And he said the problem won’t go away unless the bottom of the house is repaired.”
“But I’m paying for them every month.”
This continues for a while.
I give up trying to get my landlord to fix the “doors” under the house. I haven’t even a clue what the exterminator means by “doors.” I realize my only hope is catching the mice currently in the house and praying the temporary fixes put in place by the exterminator will hold until I am long out of this hell hole.
But we don’t catch anything.
Every morning I wake up to find more cereal, rice and pasta boxes nibbled through. We begin keeping all of our food in the refrigerator and pick up every last crumb. I don’t want to give these mice any reason to think they are wanted.
And every morning I have no choice but to clean up the droppings our pesky, dirty house guests with IBS have left behind. More disturbing than mouse poop though (if there could be such a thing) is the streams of mouse pee left behind. You have no idea where exactly they’ve peed but mice are incontinent so it’s probably everywhere. And mouse urine attracts more mice. It’s an endless pee cycle.
It’s early November and I’ve stopped sleeping peacefully at night. I know the mice are in my room because I hear them gnawing away at the walls. I discover they had even chewed through my Tide-Pod bag, probably just to screw with me. They know I’m the one who placed a target on their good friend’s head and now they’re seeking their revenge. I sleep with every light on in my room and with my iPad blasting Scrubs Season 9 Med School. During my intense research on mice, I discovered they are nocturnal and scared of loud noises so I foolishly believed if my room was bright and loud, they would stay hidden while I slept. My search history is filled with variations of the question “Will a mouse get into my bed?” The internet assured me that mice are more afraid of me than I am of them and they will not get into my bed.
This is the point where you laugh because we all know how this is going to end.
One night I find myself having a particularly hard time falling asleep. After a while of tossing and turning in my brightly lit room, I find myself finally drifting off. Almost immediately, I am awakened by the feeling of something small, raking through my hair. I panic and hear loud chomping noises coming from my closet. As I turn to look, a small creature scurries off of my dresser into the darkness of my closet.
But it was no mouse. It was definitely a rat.
(Also, this isn’t the time when the rat was in my bed, so we still have a bit to go.)
You may be wondering, how was I so sure it was a rat? I only caught a quick glimpse of it and up until this point I had been using “mouse” and “rat” interchangeably. Every time I referred to the rodents as “rats” Colleen was quick to chime in, “You don’t have rats! Rats are much worse than mice!” She would soon eat those words just as the rats ate all of my Cheetos.
Even though all of my knowledge of rats came from Pixar’s Ratatouille I was incredibly confident I had seen a rat. That explains why we haven’t caught anything. The rats are too smart for the traps. I convinced myself that now we knew who the real culprits were, we would be able to swiftly resolve this problem.
Our friendly, neighborhood exterminator was back on the scene. He replaced the cartoon-esque mouse traps with big, menacing rat traps that were almost five times as large as the mouse traps.
“Be careful to not step on these ones. They’ll definitely break your foot!” The exterminator chuckles while baiting the traps with a dark brown goo. Delicious.
In addition to the new rat development, I had started to discover
mouse rat holes in both mine and Sarah’s closets. The exterminator plugged these up with some chicken wire and told to call if anything happened. And then he was gone.
For the next few weeks, we have more of the same. More droppings, more food being eaten, more sleepless nights. As finals approach, I am at my wit’s end. I call my mother practically everyday, crying, sleep-deprived and just generally on edge. In retrospect, it seems ridiculously to think a couple of rats could make me so miserable. But I cannot describe to you how terrified I am of rodents and their dirty little bodies, crawling over everything I love (mainly my makeup and food).
Finally, it is the Saturday of Finals Weeks. I was finished with the semester and had planned to head back to the OC on Sunday morning. I’m waiting for my housemates to get ready to go to dinner. As I lie in my bed, which is a little crumpled as I hadn’t had the energy to make it that morning, I notice something that sends a shiver down my spine.
A tiny little rat turd.
My body goes cold. But only for a moment. I think back to the many Yahoo! Answers questions I read, assuring me that rodents would never crawl into bed with a human. I safely discard the poopy, promise myself to wash my sheets and forget about it. However, before I crawl into bed that night I make sure to check for any more droppings, but find none.
The next morning I awake refreshed and ready to head home to celebrate Christmas with my family. I roll onto my side and again a chill runs through my body. There’s a new dropping. In my bed. That was placed….while I slept….
Stay tuned for the next (and probably final) installment: Act III: The Final Rat-tier.