14 October 2010

The Mouse I Took to Starbucks

The Mouse I Took to Starbucks

It was a hard day in technical support and I had to stay late at the office to do a couple of employee reviews. I stopped by Trader Joe's on the way home to pick up some miscellaneous groceries and didn't get home until about 8:45 pm. I heated up a bowl of chili and curled up on the couch to watch Criminal Minds. I turned off the television at ten and a bit later settled into bed feeling tired and drained.

As I lay there on my side with my arm under my head, I felt my cat Shadow prodding my hand with her sharp pointy claws trying to get my attention. I had just fed her and I didn't understand why she was being so persistent, usually she just curls up next to me and goes to sleep. Finally it got to be so annoying that I rolled over to say something. I didn't see her right away, but I figured that the fur ball had leaped from the bed and dashed into the hallway ahead of me hoping I was on the way to her food dish. I thought, well that is a good place for her. I shut the bedroom door and headed back to bed.

About five minutes later Shadow was back, prickling my hand and pulling on my hair. Annoyed I rolled over and flicked on the light. It took a minute or two for my brain to work out that the door was closed, that the cat was locked out of the bedroom, and the logical consequence of this is that it was not my cat that was pawing my hand. A quick survey of the room revealed no cats in the house that I was unaware of. My brain sometimes works a little slowly, but by now it has worked out that if it wasn't my cat and it wasn't some cat that wandered into my house, then it probably wasn't a cat at all.

Okay, at this point I am completely awake.

I ran the possibilities through in my mind, squirrel, mouse, rat, or worse? I was not thrilled as I pondered the possibilities. I grabbed my flashlight and started looking around the room. I peered under the nightstand, under the bed, under the desk, behind the desk, and bingo! Shining the light down behind the desk I saw a large mouse looking up at me.

I realized that I was standing there barefoot clad only in cotton red plaid boxers. What does one do in this situation? I decided that the next right thing would be to put on some jeans and a pair of sneakers. After dressing I paused and considered my next move. Just going to bed and ignoring the situation didn't really seem like a valid option. The mouse might devour me completely before dawn rolled around. If I just went out and sleep on the couch, who was to say the mouse wouldn't follow.

I considered the matter. How does one trap a mouse in one's bedroom? I could throw my cat in the room, close the door, and let gladiatorial combat commence, but that seemed a little blood thirsty for such a late hour. I looked around the house for answers. I wandered in the kitchen and grabbed two large clean empty yogurt containers from the dish rack then put them back. I decide they were not quite what I was looking for. I wandered into the guest bedroom and perused its shelves of random objects.

I spotted the vacuum cleaner and went so far as to drag it into the bedroom and plug it in. As I stared at the nozzle I thought to myself, not exactly the most humane way to do battle. But then again, I was not down with spending the night with a mouse loose in the house. I wandered back into the guest bedroom and noticed some empty plastic shoeboxes. I thought maybe I could catch it with the vacuum and get it into a shoebox without causing it too much damage.

I headed back into the bedroom where I started to plug in the vacuum. As I leaned over to plug it in I noticed the cover on the heating pad on the floor by the bed moved. I saw a nose peaking out of the cover. I quickly covered the lump inside the heating pad cover with the shoebox and carefully slipped the lid under. I had captured the mouse.

Now I couldn't figure out the etiquette of the situation. Here was an invader of my home that had crept into my house, in my bed, and had been nibbling on me! But safely encased in a clear plastic shoebox my uninvited guest seemed a good deal less threatening. In fact, as it sat there nonchalantly grooming itself, it was kind of cute.

With the culprit safely apprehended, Shadow wandered in to see what was going on. I am going to have to talk to that cat about exactly what her role is around the house and let her know that this incident will show up on her next evaluation.

I taped the lid on the shoebox and stowed my prisoner in the linen closet for the night. It was at least a couple of hours before I settled down enough to go to sleep and admit to a bit of restlessness as I lay there in the dark listening to every little sound. I wondered if mice ran in pairs, if there was a whole gang of other mice that were hiding in the closet just waiting for me to fall asleep before they could fall on me like the Lilliputians fell upon Gulliver. Eventually with only a few scant hours to go before the alarm would wake me, I fell asleep.

This morning I awoke and left the house with my plastic shoebox in tow and my guest none the worse for wear. I had to ponder a bit about where to leave my furry guest. The parking lot at work didn't seem ideal and as amusing as it might have been to set it loose inside the call center, that didn't seem the humane or prudent course of action.

I remembered that next to a Starbucks I frequent there is a fenced and wooded gully. It is a pretty substantial bit of greenery in an area that is mostly concrete and asphalt. And should I happen to be dropping a mouse off then perhaps it would not be such an inexcusable thing to stop in for a latte.

And that is the story of the mouse I took to Starbucks.

09 October 2010

The Sweet Sound

The Sweet Sound

So I come home and it's already been a day, I mean it has been one of those daily grinds where nothing in particular has gone right or wrong and there is nothing really to make it an easy day or a difficult day or even to distinguish it from any other day. The only quality of the day that comes to mind is of what I call grindiness. That is the grind of daily life that has made the hours between pulling in and out of the driveway seem so long and at times tedious.

I turn off the ignition, get out the car [buzzing] and walk down the drive to check the mail. [buzzing] I hear this continuous buzzing sound like a leaf blower, but [buzzing] cannot quite identify where it is coming from. Okay, part of my brain clearly knows exactly where it's coming from because I am looking everywhere it's not coming from. I don't want it to be coming from my car so that's the last thing I check. [buzzing] I peak over the fence into the backyard, realize the noise is behind me, look across the street, and finally give in, lower my head close to the engine compartment and sure enough the cooling fan is buzzing right along in there.

At first, I am not overly concerned. Don't car fans always run for a bit once you turn the engine off? Well in point of fact my Honda is close to fifteen years old and I have never known that fan to run after the engine has been turned off, but it speaks to my complete terror and distaste for car repairs that I am willing to say to myself that perhaps I've just never noticed it, that the fan [buzzing] has probably been doing this for years without my noticing. On some level I know better, but this idea is an easy sell to me because it's one that will let me go inside my house and eat a bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough ice-cream while [buzzing] I give the situation a chance to resolve itself.

Thus once again I have failed to live up to that uber-male ideal in my head who knows the mysteries of yard work, work politics, electrical work, plumbing, talking to women, and car repair. The uber-male would change out of his nice work clothes, come outside in jeans, roll up his sleeves, hang his shop light from the hood over the engine compartment, and with a magician's flourish, reach in, check and adjust ten or eleven things, [buzzing] then walk into the garage, pull out a high temperature thermo sensor fan switch off the shelf where it's grow dusty since the day uber-male picked it up "just in case." It would take uber-male five minutes to replace the part, a good two or three minutes of which would be devoted to him wiping his hands and putting away his tools after he's finished. "There!" uber-man would say as he closes the hood and wipes a spot on the car's gleaming finish, "That should fix her!"

In point of fact, I don't dress as snappily as I should, I don't have a garage, I don't know all that much about cars, and as for that gleaming finish… well it doesn't describe my car because whatever gene allows uber-man to devote the time and energy necessary to keeping his car meticulously detailed, I don't have. Nor have I hit such a point in life or in the lottery to allow me the ability to delegate such tasks to others. My solution to the probleme du jour is to try denial and hope the problem will just go away on its own. [buzzing] I decide to give it a half-hour and then come back outside and reassess the situation.

I enter my domicile, turn off the alarm, [beep] stash groceries in the kitchen, and prepare the aforementioned bowl of ice-cream. I settle on the couch to ponder the matter and to give my car's engine a chance to cool. [beep]

So I sit on the [beep] couch eating ice-cream and feeling no small amount of self-loathing at the calories I am downing (uber-man wouldn't, he's naturally thin and looks a lot like Charles Atlas did in those ads in the back pages of comics or Boy's Life) when I realize that ever since I have entered my house I have been [beep] hearing one of those damn beeping sound. I look for the obvious source, a smoke detector. Most of them are lying fairly near where they normally mount to the ceiling and none of them currently have batteries. Evidently, prompt replacement of batteries is not something I have yet to achieve judging from the layer of dust I find on these wonderful devices that could save my house and potentially even my life if I could just be bothered to put batteries in them. I will have to go out of my way to avoid firemen, rescue workers, my insurance agent, and more practical minded friends until I get this situation resolved. I cannot stand disapproval.

I my search for the source of the beeping I come up empty. In fact [beep] I am having a terrible time identifying what room the sound is coming from. So I begin to circumnavigate the house trying to triangulate the source that is beeping about once every sixty seconds. It doesn't sound like a harsh interrogation technique, but after only five minutes I am ready to start giving up my secrets. [beep] I stand in the hallway sixty seconds [beep] stick my head in the hall closet for sixty seconds eyeing the burglar alarm suspiciously[beep] then I try the living room [beep] master bedroom [beep] hall again [beep] kitchen to refill ice cream bowl [beep] study [beep] guest room [beep] hallway again [beep] coat closet [beep] guest bedroom [beep] guest bedroom closet [beep] guest bedroom [beep] hallway again [beep] guest bedroom again [beep] guest bedroom [beep] guest bedroom closet [beep. I open the lid and look inside a large plastic bin containing a large wooden antique telephone and one combination smoke alarm carbon dioxide detector from my old apartment. I remove the batteries, and wait and… [_____].

I return my ice-cream bowl to the kitchen, find a flashlight, and venture out into the darkness to see if the fan is still running on my car. Oh please let it not be running. [buzz] Still going. It has been a long day and I am not at my best. I don't want to deal with this, but clearly something must be done or the battery on my car is going to run down. It cannot power the fan forever. I scratch my head and wander inside to consult the modern day oracle for all questions, the Internet. The Internet is a marvelous tool, but diagnosing obscure car problems isn't something it's particularly good at. I leave my computer confused, befuddled, and annoyed, but I know that I need to stop that fan from running at least for the night. So I drive the car down the interstate for a bit, turn around and come back to the house just to see if that resets anything. It doesn't. I realize that it's time to disconnect the battery, get some sleep, and reconsider the entire matter in the morning.

By now it's gotten dark. I don't have any working lights on the driveway. [buzz] That's one of the home repairs that uber-man does without breaking a sweat. So I am standing in the dark with a Maglite jammed into my armpit going through every possible socket in my collection of tools trying to find the size that will allow me to unclamp the terminal and disconnect the battery. Uber-man would take a look at the bolt, reach into his carefully organized set of tools, and pluck the correct size from its resting place on the first try. But in the dark after a particularly grindy day, it seemed like I had a plastic file box of sockets that were all the same wrong size I had to try about twenty of them [buzz] and was seriously beginning to wonder if I was going to be standing out there all night trying to disconnect the battery and listening to the fan get slower and slower as the battery died when on or about try number twenty one I found the right socket, loosened the battery cable, and disconnected it. The fan fell silent. [_____] I reconnected it. [buzz] I disconnected it. [_____]

The next morning after much debate, I decided to take the car to the shop rather than to try to follow the long list of possibilities pointed to by the Internet. I think multiple parts, multiple junk yards, many multiple hours driving around disconnecting and reconnecting the battery every time I stop might make it worth paying a professional to figure it out. I call the shop, make an appointment. I gather my things. I go outside. I connect the battery. [buzz] The fan starts buzzing away again. At least it seems to be consistent and reproducible.

I drive to the repair shop about fifteen minutes away and worry about how late I am going to be to work. Can I really afford to be late? I park in the repair yard at Summit Automotive. I turn the engine off and get out of the car.


It's been a few days now. I have been carrying around the wrench in the glove box needed to disconnect the battery. The problem has not yet reoccurred.