Mouse in the House

July 2, 2010 § 6 Comments

I would like to share with you a thoroughly embarrassing story from about 6 years ago.  This is the story of The Mouse in the House.

I used to live in China Town, right next to the fish market.  It was a god-awful place; smelly, crowded, dirty, and, well, full of fish.  I hate fish.  I hate the taste.  I hate the smell.  I hate that everyone in the world is completely convinced that all I need to do is just try their version of [insert fish name here] and I’ll totally love it.  I hate fish so much that I actually get a little bit angry that the best buff food in World of Warcraft is [Fish Feast].  But I digress.

The apartment was a 5 bedroom place occupying the 5th and 6th floors at the back end of a 6 floor walk up.  I’m willing to bet that the guy who invented the elevator lived in a 6 floor walk up.  In fact, he may have lived in a 3 floor walk up.  There were some days that I would come home and seriously consider just sleeping in the lobby.  Well, technically there wasn’t really a lobby.  Just a stair well.  See, you would enter the building on street level and be at a set of stairs.  From there you would go up one flight and go through another big, heavy, self locking door, and then you would finally be in the building proper.  Then you could get to all the apartments.

Now I have never, thank god, had any trouble with roaches during my tenure in New York City. *knock on wood*  But about once every winter I have to put up at least one mouse in my house.  That China Town apartment was the worst though.  It seemed like every other week I saw a mouse.  I set up humane traps and caught a few, but there was one crafty little bugger that always seemed to escape my clutches.  I knew it was the same mouse because he had a very distinctive white spot on his back, not to mention the smug attitude he carried with him whenever our eyes locked.

I’d managed to chase him out of my apartment once, but he just ran right across the hall into another apartment.  And then a few days later had returned to pilfer the fresh batch of cookies I had laying out to cool.

I hated this mouse.  And I was determined to get rid of him.  Not by killing him–but by banishing him from my building.  I wanted the satisfaction of knowing I had outwitted him, rather than just knowing I steamrolled him with brute force.

One night, as I lay passed out on the couch, the TV test pattern flickering through the room, I heard a *scritch scritch scritch*.  At fist, it didn’t really register in my semi-conscious dream state.  But then I heard it again, *scritch scritch scritch*, and I had a jarring flash of realization.  “Mouse in the house!” I yelled as I bolted straight up and clicked on the light.  I paused for a moment, as I noticed the clock that read 2:34 am and hoped that I hadn’t woken my roommates.

I slowly scanned the room, peering in every crack and crevice.  Suddenly I saw a shadow dart from the kitchen to the bookshelf by the front door.

“Ah-ha!” I thought, “You’re mine now!”  There was no way out of the corner this mouse had run to.  I had recently plugged up the hole over there with a copper mesh so I knew his escape route had been cut off.  I decided the best course of action would be to set up some barriers around the bookshelf that would force him to run in only one direction: straight out the door.

I began to set up a mouse-proof barrier that I was sure would do the trick.  I grabbed anything I could get that was nearby, as I didn’t want to take my eyes of the bookshelf.  I was afraid that if I let down my vigil that the mouse would seize upon the opportunity to vanish once again into the night.  As I was nearing the completion of my mish-mash wall I opened the door in anticipation of scaring the mouse out into the hallway.  I propped open the door and was about to grab my shoes when I saw the little bugger make a mad dash out into the hall.

Despite being ill-prepared for it, the chase was on.  There was no way I was going to let this mouse win this fight.  Still holding a cup that I was going to use to fill the last small gap in the anti-mouse wall, I took off after him.  I think he was as surprised as I was that I had actually given chase that rather than try and get under the doors of another apartment, he just continued on down the stairs.  Flight after flight I chased him, periodically trying to catch him with the cup I was holding.

Eventually we got to the 2nd floor of the building, to the secondary door I mentioned earlier.  He wriggled his way under it and I flung the door wide and lumbered my way forward.  I was halfway down the stairs when I heard the door slam shut behind me.

The sound of that door slamming was deafening.  The screech of the hinges, the rushing sound of wind as it cut through the air, and the heavy thud as it locked into place–the sound rang throughout the building and shook me to my core.

Then came the awful realization.

‘My keys,’ I thought, ‘I forgot my keys!’

Because that mouse had bolted before I was ready for it I had forgotten to grab my keys.  And my shoes.  And my robe.   So there I was, running down the stairs in my underpants with no way of getting back into my apartment, chasing a little mouse who, in a way, had outwitted me rather than the other way around like I’d hoped..  But, by damn, I was going to get rid of that mouse!  I followed through and chased him the rest of the way down the stairs, opened the door, and let him run off into the cold February night.

That did leave me with a pretty big problem though.  The building I lived in didn’t have an intercom system or doorbells at the entrance.  It was the middle of the night so it was incredibly unlikely that anyone would be passing through anytime soon.

I banged on the door for a solid twenty minutes.  I banged on the walls.  I even banged on the exposed water pipe that snaked its way past the door frame.  But it was a futile effort.

I wasn’t quite sure what to do at this point.  I really didn’t want to wait 4 hours for someone to finally come through on their way to work.  Besides, what would I do?  I sure as hell wasn’t going to sleep.  And being in my underpants and sans shoes, walking around the city was out of the question as well.

For about twenty minutes I sat there on the steps trying to figure out what to do.  Then I had a thought.  If I could someone get to my window, I could get in as it wasn’t locked.  All I needed to do was get to the rear of the building.  It did mean that I had to go outside though.  I psyched myself up, got my blood pumping to stay warm, and headed outside.  I used the cup that I had brought with me to prop open the door so that I didn’t get stuck in a worse predicament.  I walked up and down the block, looking for a pathway to the back of the building.  I even checked to see if the cellar was open.  But no dice.  Then I tried the fire escape.

It was a little tricky, as fire escapes don’t go down to ground level except by way of an extendable ladder that was juuuuust out of my reach.  I had to drag over a trash can to even have a remote hope of reaching it.

So there I was, 3 in the morning, February, China Town, NYC, in my underpants, standing on an overturned garbage can, with no shoes on, jumping up and down trying to reach a fire escape.  Thank God in Heaven nobody walked by.  I’m really not sure how I would have explained myself. (‘um….I’m just doing a routine fire escape safety check?’)

Eventually I managed to grab hold of the ladder and pull myself up.  I crawled my way up the rickety contraption, using all the mental energy I had to keep it from ripping out away from the building.  (Can’t you just picture the headline? “Nude prowler found dead in fire escape collapse in China Town”)  I got all the way to the top and discovered that the fire escape did not in fact go all the way to the roof.  I guess I just hadn’t realized it while I was still on the ground.  It’s not that parts were missing or that it was supposed to go all the way to the roof.  It only needed to service the top floor apartment and that’s exactly what it did.

Standing there on the ricketiest fire escape known to man, 6 stories up, in the freezing cold as the snow began to fall around me I have to admit I started to crack ever so slightly.  I contemplated just scaling the side of the building to the roof.  I was at the end of my rope and was cold, angry, and desperate.

After seriously considering imitating spider man, I decided on an equal ridiculous, but decidedly less insane solution.  On the 3rd floor of the building there lived a set of missionaries.  As luck would have it, they were from my same church, and I had met them once or twice.  Out of other options, and starting to develop hypothermia I decided that I would go down to their apartment and knock.  I took a deep breath and headed down the fire escape, and hoped with all I had that I found the right window.  I wasn’t quite sure which floor was which because I was so disoriented.  But I started at the top and worked my way down.  The 6th floor was out–that was the cranky old lady with the annoying dog.   The 5th floor was out because that’s where the sister missionaries lived, and it was already awkward enough without dragging what were essentially nuns into the mix.  I didn’t know who lived in the 4th floor.  The third floor was the one I was aiming for.

When I got there I stood outside the window and said a silent prayer, hoping I was at the right window.  I took a deep breath and knocked.  And waited.  And nothing.  I knocked again, louder this time.  Suddenly I saw the blinds open a slit, and immediately snap shut.  Then ever so slowly open again–just a teeeny bit–and then snap shut.  Then it opened again, as did another teeny slit in the window next to it–and snap shut.  Then nothing.  I knocked again.  Then four slits (there were four guys living in the apartment).  I was beginning to loose patience.

“It’s me from across the hall. I’m cold, I’m in my underpants, and it’s snowing.  LET ME IN!”

After deliberating amongst themselves as to whether or not I was who I said I was they opened their window and let me in.  I don’t know if they believed I was who I said I was or if they just decided that a dude in his underwear freezing to deal on their fire escape was too crazy to ignore.  Either way, I climbed in and without a word I walked through their apartment and out the front door.

I walked up to my apartment, put on some clothes and shoes, grabbed my keys and went downstairs to get the cup still propping open the front door.  After I retrieved it I went back upstairs and cleaned up the mess that I made.  Two hours had passed and I was exhausted.  I turned off the light, splayed out on the couch, took a deep breath, and tried my best to forget the entire evening.

Sleep was just about to grab hold of me when I heard the worst sound I’ve ever heard in my life.

*scritch scritch scritch*

“[Insert clever sign off phrase here]”


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