Living with Mice

MiceA few months ago, a notice was put on the door of the building I’ve lived in since May.  It was titled ‘They’re baaaaaaack….’, and had an amusing little anecdote about the mice being back in the building.  Back?  I was surprised that apparently they’d had mice before, but no one had said anything.  I guess buyer beware, but still!

I’ve never had pests before.  I’ve been really lucky where I’ve lived.  I had a basement suite with my ex for awhile that kept getting spiders, but we figured out where they were coming from and stopped it.  So that’s as close as I got.  And I had a guy around at the time to deal with it for me.

At first, I didn’t see anything.  I had a quick look around my apartment, and didn’t see any evidence.  I breathed a sigh of relief, and thought I had lucked out.  Maybe it was the other end of the building and not mine.  But then it happened.  Slowly at first.  There was some ‘evidence’ on my counter.  I didn’t really know what it was at first.  I cleaned it up, but didn’t pay much attention.  The next day, a little more, over the stove.  A little concerned, it was still a little ‘out of site, out of mind’.  Then my sister came to spend a night with me.  We were chatting in the living room, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw it scurry across the kitchen counter.

It was a tiny little thing, but it made me feel sick to my stomach.  They were in my home!!

I spent the next few days clearing out my kitchen.  I vacuumed and disinfected every lower cupboard and beneath the stove and fridge.  I called my building manager, and he scheduled the pest guys to come in the following day.  After they came, the evidence stopped appearing.

I thought ‘great! They got rid of it!’. Proud of myself for dealing with it so quickly, I let myself relax.  I have a bad habit of not doing my dishes right away, but without the mice, I didn’t think it mattered.

And then we got a cold spell.  My city doesn’t do cold well.  Our winters are mild rainy temperatures, rarely snow.  So this negative ten degree weather threw us all few a loop.  And apparently, it drove all the mice inside, which hey, I can understand as a survival instinct.  All of a sudden there was evidence everywhere, and the noise at night was absurd!!!  I live in a bachelor suite, so when something is having fun in the kitchen, I can hear it in bed.   All of a sudden I would be watching TV on the couch, and one would streak across the room.  It was awful.  I mean truly, awful.  I was constantly on edge, afraid of seeing something.

I called my best friend.  I complained to her about the building, and how gross it was.  She listened, was sympathetic, and then started telling me stories of her youth.

She’s not from a wealthy family.  Her parents immigrated from Vietnam, and they work low income jobs.  The home she grew up in is old, and mice were a constant in her life.  I realized how selfish I was being.  I was acting like it was the worst thing in the world to deal with mice.  I was inadvertently insulting her!!  She was nice about it, but I felt awful.  I apologized, and she laughed, and said she’d act the same way if she had to deal with spiders or something.  It’s my first time, so of course I’m going to be freaked out about it.

After talking to her, I decided that I wasn’t going to stand on the table like a little girl and scream in fright.  I was going to attack the problem head on.  I called my building manager again, and he came in armed with gear, and together with searched out every hole or entry point and plugged them.  He helped me put out a few traps, and gave me some pointers.  I cleaned my place with a vengeance.  I read somewhere that they leave urine around to tell others it’s safe to travel through.  To hell with that!!  I made sure that there was no way in, and no welcoming smell if they did.  My place smelled like bleach and disinfectant for days!  I put all food in my fridge, even my cereal, and spent hours vacuuming up every spec of dust or dirt.  My lower cupboards are empty, and I got sealed plastic containers for all my cutlery and utensils.  I wash every dish I owned, and stored everything in higher cupboards.

Now came a hard part.  I was afraid to cook in my kitchen.  For awhile, I only ate take-out food.  I wouldn’t take it out of the container, eat carefully to drop no crumbs, and then quickly took everything down to the dumpster and disinfected before I was able to settle.  As you can imagine, my bank account took a hit, my health took a dive, and my paranoia began to take over huge parts of my life.  I suppose the good thing is I stopped snacking because I was afraid of crumbs, but I was eating big unhealthy meals.

I had to remind myself that I wasn’t going to be ruled by these little rodents.  It took a few weeks for me to feel comfortable in my own apartment again.  I haven’t seen any evidence in awhile, so I’m relaxing just slightly.  Slowly, I got into a system of cooking again.  I make food, wash up immediately (sometimes when the dishes are still hot), eat carefully over my plate, and throw everything away right away.  Sometimes I’m afraid that the smell alone will attract them.  Maybe it will, but they’ll learn that there is no food in my place.

You have to decide not to let them win.  They will not chase me out of the apartment that I love.  They will not cause me to be unhealthy or go broke.  I will beat them.  It’s a constant battle, and I imagine if my place was bigger or older, it would be harder.  But the good thing is that it’s teaching me good habits of cleanliness.  My place almost never gets dirty anymore.  I never have big cleaning days where I have to do start to finish like I used too.  As long as those pesky things know they’re not welcome in my home, eventually I’ll chase them out for good.

Some people deal with mice their whole lives.  Living in a city that is crowded, with old buildings, you’re bound to have something.  I’ve learned to stay calm about it, and deal with the problem the way I would deal with any other problem.  It’s not the end of the world.  We will survive this!!!

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