Friday, July 06, 2007

The Tinkerer and the mice

I always enjoyed putting crap together. Having a kid brother who wasn't very patient was fabulous in this aspect, since it meant I could show him how his transforming robots came together (when he was too frustrated after trying to insert an arm into a leghole or the chest plate wouldn't collapse properly making the robot look like a hunchback), piecing together his Erector sets (when he got annoyed with all the twisting and turning required for the nuts and bolts), snapping together Lego sets (that he wanted to look exactly like on the box but didn't feel like going through the instructions), and being ad hoc mechanic for his numerous mini cars (which he just wanted to flip on and race but didn't want to figure out why the motor was running and the wheels wouldn't turn). I wouldn't go as far to say I'm a fantastic mechanic or electrician, but I will say I'm like those crows in those scientific videos who figure out how to pull shit out of bottles with twigs and whatnot. Basically a bumbling instinctive tinkerer.

I contemplated on this fact as I found myself at my door this morning at 8:30 wearing nothing but a shirt and panties and armed with a screwdriver. My doorknob had been worryingly loose the past three days and I was scared that it would fall off at the most inopportune time. The worry finally catching up with me so that it interrupted my getting ready for work and put me in the awkward position of trying to tighten the screws to the doorknobs whilst bracing the outside of the door against one knee to hold it steady and praying no one was going to come walking down the hall to catch me straddling my door bottomless. It was all worth it when on a test twist the door knob failed to wobble ominously and I actually could twist it and not have it futilely spin around more than necessary. Boy, was I glad I bought that ridiculously large toolkit when it was on sale on Father's Day last year. What? I'm the head of my "household" now so I can give myself a Father's Day gift like a toolkit.

Living in an apartment out of school has given me too many random moments to tinker with things. More so than I would want to. Freaking out because your toilet won't stop flushing at 2 am is entirely different from putting together an Erector set. Luckily, after looking under the hood I figured out what the problem was and luckily it wasn't an issue that required me to pull out all everything and replace it. It was just a bum flapper valve that needed replacing.

Not that I particularly relish having to put my hand down into my toilet's tank. Yes, I know the water that comes in is clean, but I'm pretty sure my toilet is around 10 years old and the inside of the tank proves it. For its own sake I was tempted to pull everything out and clean it so that it could go on chugging another 10 years, but considering the fact that I'm most probably moving out next year I wasn't cleaning out the weird gunk and mold that had accumulated in that thing. Especially when I have a pretty good feeling they're going to take a chunk out of my security deposit for some other random household mishaps that I haven't gotten around to fixing. Besides, that flapper valve shit was TOTALLY something the super should've been taking care of and since nobody was answering my calls or emails forget it.

My previous apartment living situation didn't require a whole lot of fixing up on my part, but we had an entirely different problem that made me and my roommate our own exterminators. We had mice. Quite a bit of them actually. We'd put out traps and catch probably 5 in a month's time. Then there'd be a lull when they'd all figure, "OK, you go in that apartment and you DIE," but they'd be back. They always came back.

The good thing was, I was never scared of mice, but it's still goddamn annoying. They were pooping, thieving bastards. I remember the last straw when I decided I couldn't put up with this bullshit anymore. It wasn't the drugs dealers in the lobby, it was the damn mice. One day I had bought a brand new loaf of bread, and being mice-conscious, my roommate and I always stashed our bread in the fridge. Unfortunately, I got pulled away to my room while putting the groceries away and left my bread on top of the fridge. The next morning, when I came out to the kitchen to make a sandwich I thought, "Oh shit, the bread."

It looked fine from my vantage point, but like in horror movies where the guy grabs the girl who has her back turned to him by the shoulder and spins her around only to have her had fall off, I picked up the loaf and flipped it over to open it, only then noticing the huge gaping hole right in the middle of the loaf. The poor loaf looked like a soldier who had thrown himself onto a landmine. I was seething.

"SON OF A BITCH! I DIDN'T EVEN GET TO HAVE A SINGLE GODDAMN SLICE, YOU FUCKING ASSHOLES!" I roared as I chucked the loaf into the trash. It wasn't even that they had gotten to my bread. Hell, I should've known better having lived with them so long, and I should've put that bread away that day. It was the fact that they had gotten to it before I did. That would not be tolerated. It just felt unjust.

My roommate and I were ruthless too, discussing best way to lay traps. None of that humane traps shit, there were too many of them for that. And they kept coming too because the whole building was a decrepit mess (I even looked it up, the building was built sometime during the 19th century). Our apartment was clean, it wasn't our fault the whole building was mouse mansion. They had to die.

I grew pretty hardened to mice death. I remember only freaking out one time. I heard the snap of a trap in the middle of the night and ambled into the kitchen where I saw a little pool of blood holding the exact amount of blood you think a tiny mouse body would contain. A little bit away from it was the trap. Not weird since depending on how small the mice were, the velocity of a snapping trap could flip it pretty far from where you set it. But where was the mouse?

In a split second I assumed that the trap had snapped off a leg and the three-legged mouse had limped away, but there was no blood leading away from the pool or the trap. So what? Did it fucking evaporate? Or maybe it was injured but hiding around the corner somewhere like Sigourney Weaver, ready to pounce on me like I was the alien and had somehow inadvertently stepped into a mouse horror movie that was actually being shown at some mouse theater somewhere (Loudass mouse audience member: "No, bitch! She right in front of you! Get the fuck out of that apartment! You already lost a goddamn leg in the trap!"). I calmed myself down enough to squint hard at the trap and noticed that the trap had actually flipped over and I was staring at the back of it. I sighed a sigh of relief, and gloving my hand in a turned inside-out plastic bag, I picked up the trap, noticing the tiny mouse underneath it. And in a swift flipping motion the mouse body and trap were bagged.

Watching "Ratatouille" last week was a way different experience for me than my friend. Rather than exclaim, "Oh, how cute," or even the other extreme of, "Oh, how gross," I ended up ruining the movie for my friend thanks to my overfamiliarity with rodents.

"Oh wow, how'd they get the pitter-patter of them running around the kitchen like that so well? You think they recorded them and stuff? Gee, you know, they look just like that when you catch in the traps. That's totally for reals. The mouth falls slightly open and you see a glimpse of the top teeth...OH HEY! They even got the quick breathing thing they do...such attention to detail."


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