Thursday, September 2, 2010

Infestation: Part 3

Well, here we are at the third and (hopefully) final installment of the Infestation series. I hope that you have found my stories thus far to be entertaining and perhaps a tad educational. A lot of what I know in a practical sense I have gained through blind experience, which I imagine is pretty common. However, if you have not had the joy of destroying a wasp nest or battling the oncoming ant horde, perhaps these stories will give you some assistance in the future.

First of all, today’s story does not concern insects, spiders or anything slimy. From that information, you can perhaps guess where this is going, but instead of just stating the obvious, I’m going to build up a little anticipation.

Two years ago in November, I woke up one morning and went through my normal workday preparations. I have a tendency to move slowly in the morning, which leads to my final moments in the house being rather rushed as I strive to be on the road at a decent time to allow for morning rush hour backups.

On this particular morning, I was running behind and looking for my glasses. I was having a difficult time of it and in my searching, I happened to stop over at the vanity dresser in my bedroom to scan the contents of the counter. In the corner of the crowded surface, my eyes slid over a small yet strange item.

To elaborate, one month prior, my best friend and her then fiancé had partaken in a Disney Cruise on the Caribbean Sea. As she is a very generous friend, she made sure to bring me back some nice souvenirs: a bracelet, some lotions from the ship’s spa, and a small piece of chocolate in a gold wrapper.

While I was grateful to receive these items, I had yet to relocate them from my dresser countertop after bringing them home. It was one of these items that caught my eye that morning. Can you guess what it was? Probably not, so I’ll tell you.

As I searched for my glasses, I noticed the gold paper of the chocolate square sitting alone in the corner. This would not have struck me as odd, except that there appeared to be a small bite mark taken out of one corner. It looked as if someone (or something) had simply chomped right through the wrapper to consume a small part of my chocolate.

I was puzzled momentarily. I could not recall doing this myself, and I knew that I would not have bitten right through the wrapper. I tried to remember if I had left it in the presence of my parent’s dog, but then I realized that she would not have left such a dainty bite mark. She would have chewed and swallowed it whole.

As my brain worked through this mystery, I happened to notice some debris next to the ravaged candy. It appeared that there were tiny pieces of gold paper scattered about along with some black/grey objects. About two seconds later, my brain clicked over and I knew what it was: a mouse.

To clarify, I am not afraid of mice. They do not disgust me and I would not run from one if I saw it in public. However, the thought of one mouse (and possibly its family) running around my house and destroying my food supply was so shocking that I nearly passed out.

Before I could truly start to hyperventilate, I looked at my watch and realized that I would not have time to properly address this problem immediately. I turned on my heel and took off for work.

When I arrived in the office, I immediately consulted my brain trust of several different people to find out how to handle this unforeseen calamity. I was surprised to find that most people were quite nonchalant about the problem. In fact, most people I spoke to had quite a bit of experience in the area. I had briefly wondered if I should be embarrassed about the presence of mice as a reflection on my abilities as a housekeeper, but apparently it was not.

It is common (so I have been told) for mice to try and find their way indoors when the outdoor temperature begins to drop in the fall and early winter. They could get in through a variety of means, but the most common way to address the problem was by laying traps.

There are many different opinions on the spectrum of mousetraps. Some prefer the more humane “no kill” method and some get downright nasty. I spent some time on the internet researching my options and after reading reviews and speaking with my coworkers, I decided to go with a more traditional mousetrap: the spring-loaded kind with bait.

I made it through most of the morning at work, but I was so agitated about the thought of hundreds of mice destroying my kitchen that I was given permission to take personal time to purchase traps and go home to tear apart and sanitize my house.

In my rush, I decided to go to the closest local hardware store and conferred with the elderly man on staff as to the most efficient models. He recommended the plastic covered traps and said that peanut butter worked as very effective bait.

Armed with my six new traps, I drove home and set to work pulling apart my entire house to look for mouse droppings. For about four hours, I cleaned, vacuumed and scrutinized every piece of dust or debris, but I didn’t find much. There was absolutely nothing else in my bedroom, which probably shouldn’t have been surprising as the chocolate was the lone piece of food on my second floor.

In my kitchen, the only thing I found were some droppings behind my microwave, so I promptly sanitized along with every other surface. I was just getting ready to start pulling apart my living room when I decided to take a quick bathroom break.

Now, I have to pause for a moment and explain some logistics. My house has one full bathroom on the second floor that I use the most. There is a half bath on the first floor, but I don’t use it much and if I don’t have guests over, no one really goes in there. I do have to check on the toilet from time to time in order to make sure that the water level is OK and to do a regular cleaning. If I don’t, the water level drops and a grayish dusty film forms on the top. Gross, I know, but it’s important that you know this.

Back to the scene of battle. As I approached the bathroom, my brain registered that there appeared to be a grey film in the toilet, and I mentally calculated the last time I had been in there to clean. Once I got close enough to bring the toilet into better focus, I quickly realized that I was wrong. There was not dust in my toilet bowl. Can you guess what I saw? Probably.

I will tell you anyway. It was a mouse. Floating. Dead. In my toilet. In retrospect, I now wish that I had been able to get over my shock enough to take a picture, because it was really quite amazing. The mouse was perfectly suspended upright in the water looking as if he were about to pounce. Beneath him (at the bottom of the toilet bowl) were some small droppings. It was almost as if he had purposely tried to be polite.

After my initial shock wore off, I started to ponder my options. I was pretty sure that it wouldn’t be acceptable to leave him there, but extraction would be an issue. I did have a pair of kitchen gloves, but I wasn’t sure if disposal of an item of this nature would require biohazard suits and masks.

When in doubt, I usually consult my mother. After I relayed my bizarre discovery, I asked her for advice as to how to proceed. She instructed me to flush it. My reaction to this statement was initially to doubt it. I use the flushing disposal method for much smaller items such as spiders, ticks, beetles, etc.

When I relayed this thought to my mother, she responded with a very simple question: “Is it bigger or smaller than a poop?” This may seem like a vulgar question, but given the fact that we were already working with a toilet, it made sense. Once I concluded that it definitely would fall under average size for fecal matter, I bit the bullet and flushed the toilet.

To my surprise, the suggestion worked. The system didn’t back up and my mouse problem was instantly gone. Of course, I flushed several more times just to be sure.

Even though I suspected that the toilet mouse was the lone culprit in my mouse escapade, I still baited and laid all of my traps around the house. Thankfully, they were not tested any more that year and I found no more evidence of a mousy presence except for the shredded remains of my cork wine stopper. As this discovery was made around the same time as my chocolate discovery, I chalked it up to the same mouse.

All of my traps remain in place to this day, and most of the time, I forget that they are there and what purpose they serve. Unfortunately, this past winter I received another reminder of why they may be necessary. The trap that I put in the little bathroom (the sight of the previous mouse disposal) was set off. I won’t go into too much detail, but let’s just say that these traps are indeed quite effective.

With the conclusion of this entry, I think that I have now publicly explained the extent of my home protection knowledge. I can replace smoke detectors and get rid of ants, wasps and mice. There might be one or two other things such as replacing furnace filters and replenishing softener salt, but those aren’t too heroic.

On a side note, I would like to apologize for not adding pictures for this entry. I seriously considered it, but aside from an attempt to draw a mouse in a toilet, I couldn’t come up with any truly humorous and easily represented illustrations. Honestly, it was one of those episodes where I really kick myself now for not being a bit more camera-happy.

To all my friends who are seeking a reason to laugh, I hope this helped a little. I know how important it is to be able to laugh even while you are crying, and I hope that my stories can be at least a small source of that laughter.

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