Of Mice and Women
I saw a mouse. Well, the movement of something and one dropping. I did not grow up in places that had mice, so I am guessing that "little brown thing" is mouse poop and I am guessing that "movement" was a mouse. This is not my first visitation. When my friend Eric was here helping me move in, we saw a little something moving around. I am not going to lie—I had a little meltdown. Eric asked me if I was going to be one of those women who jumped up on a chair and screamed. I said no and proceeded to walk up my stairs and cry.
I do not want to live with mice. I do not know what to do with mice. And the exterminator who visited me on the day I closed on the house (the first person I scheduled to meet me) told me I didn't have mice. So why do I have one?
I am angry because Eric isn't here and I am alone (except for the mouse). I am frustrated because I have to figure out what to do all by myself, and grappling with a mouse was not on my extensive and long list of tasks. Plus, it's the weekend and I am guessing this doesn't fall under the category of "extermination emergencies."
This house thing is a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. I still have 36 boxes to unpack. What if the mouse crawls in one of them? How could something that could fit in the palm of my hand (perish the thought) be so upsetting to me?
The Good News:
I'm lying. In this moment, I don't feel like there is any good news.
I'm now searching for eco-friendly ways to do away with this mouse instead of enjoying a leisurely evening of unpacking. Even though I am a very green girl, right now I don't really care about the kindest, gentlest way to remove this little creature. I just want it out of my house. And there's the lesson. In moments of crisis, we panic and want problems solved as quickly as possible. We let our values soften as we try to regain our safety.
I know this is a bit audacious, but the way I figure it, my mouse drama parallels some people's reaction to the climate crisis. In the face of something scary and overwhelming, we just want the challenge to disappear—or pretend that it doesn't exist in the first place. (Trust me, were it not for a little turd on my stove, a mother who keeps telling me mice have an appetite for electrical wiring and a host of websites detailing how quickly mice can breed, I would try to pretend the little movement I sensed was a figment of my imagination.) But whether it's the mouse or the warming of the planet, we have to act...and there are a continuum of ways in which we can engage.
Here it goes: My first order of business will be to call Eric and whine. Once I've gotten that out of my system, I'll leave a message for the exterminator and see if he can schedule an appointment for Monday. Then, I have to make unpacking the kitchen and sealing up all of my food a priority. I will likely stick everything in the fridge until I have a better storage system figured out. After that, I'll be forced to scrape all the snow off my car and head to the eco-friendly pet store to pick up humane mousetraps that will keep the furry one (ones?!) alive. This is not because I actually care about the mouse (my apologies to lovers of all creatures great and small) but because it's easy to make this choice. Because I have no desire to deal with this mouse (dead or alive), I will have to figure out how to bribe my new neighbor Tony into retrieving said mouse and releasing it into a field far, far away. (If there is more than one, I am going to flip out.) Those with ovaries of steel can opt for a DIY mousetrap that lets you get cozy with the rodents.
In the long-term, I have yet another compelling reason to seal up cracks with steel wool (mice can allegedly squeeze through spaces less than 1/4-inch thick) and make sure all food and trash are impenetrable. It is a complete contradiction for me to put poison in my home, but I am also going to wipe down everything with a bleach solution because the Centers for Disease Control have introduced into my life the fear of hantavirus. I talked about bleach in my last post on cleaning supplies. Though I am unhappy to be using something that conflicts with my values, I know that bleach serves a good purpose in small concentrations. I will be re-cleaning surfaces with eco-friendly cleaner once the bleach is applied so the toxins don't linger on my kitchen surfaces.
I guess the good news is I now have a very good reason to get a cat. I'll tweet eco-friendly pet information @SimranSethi once I have her.
Your disgruntled—but determined—homeowner,
P.S. Read how this situation was resolved in Part 2.
Simran Sethi is an award-winning journalist and associate professor at the University of Kansas School of Journalism and Mass Communications. For more information on Sethi, visit www.simransethi.com.