To Catch a Mouse

Or: “The Time I Almost Conquered My Fear of Critters”

I have only dealt with mice twice in my life before. The first was about a year ago in my aunt’s house. A mouse had climbed into the trash can and thoroughly surprised me when I went to throw something away. I ran away, screaming and hyperventilating. The second was this past June when I found a mouse in my closet in my old apartment. I jumped onto my bed, screaming and hyperventilating. My current roommate at the time (a boy) was delegated to “do something!” about it. He tried to calm me down by telling me that the little mouse is just as scared of me as I am of it. Did not really help. He managed to scoop it up into a shopping bag and (I’m pretty sure) threw it off the balcony. I do not know for sure, because I did not want to know the details of how he got rid of it. I just cared that it was gone.

It is not just mice that give me the heebie-jeebies. Spiders, centipedes, cockroaches…I have a paralyzing fear of them all. Picture this…during Summer 2010 I was a sailing instructor. During lessons one day (with a handful of kids on the boat), a spider crawled out of the boom about a foot away from me. I had a complete conniption, and fell into the water. The boat continued sailing off without me. Sorry, kids. I guess there is no better way to learn how to sail on your own than when your instructor falls off the boat? Even as a little girl whenever I saw a spider or centipede or any sort of insect, I would trap it under something like a bowl or cup (if I was feeling brave-ish) and run off screaming to find a parent to get rid of it. *I actually still do this.

So as you can see, I do not have much experience with little critters in general.

Three weeks ago, my roommate and I were getting ready for work, business as usual. As we were making coffee, we noticed that there were tiny dark things in a saucepan that we had left (clean) on the stove-top. Upon further inspection, we decided that these were not chocolate sprinkles but probably mouse droppings. Pretty simple conclusion, seeing as we did not have any chocolate sprinkles in our apartment at the time.

This is the worst feeling, because you have not actually found the mouse. It is just lurking in the shadows, leaving it’s mark in household items you use every day. C’mon, Mouse. At least show your face!

A few days pass, and no sign of the mouse (at this point, nicknamed Rocky after the mouse character Roquefort in The Aristocats). Then one day, as we were relaxing and watching TV, it darted out from the kitchen and into the living room where it just hung out by the TV. Neither Kim nor I moved, and I am not sure it knew we were there. One of us stomped our foot down off the couch and Rocky scurried back to the kitchen as quick as Speedy Gonzales. I swear that I saw it bump into the lamp in a frenzy, but I could be exaggerating. This mouse clearly had serious balls, so it was time to do something. While we did our research on the best way to get rid of a mouse, Kim sprinkled Cayenne pepper all around the apartment (apparently an all-natural solution).

Cayenne Pepper. Everywhere.

Cayenne Pepper. Everywhere.

Even More Cayenne Pepper.

Even More Cayenne Pepper.

After consulting with various employees of Home Depot over my lunch break, I left newly outfitted with: steel wool (grade #2), plaster, gloves, face masks, and the good old-fashioned traps. The steel wool and plaster was to fill and cover up the holes under the sink, in the hallway, etc. Face masks were because one Home Depot employee scared the shit out of me and went on and on about what mice like Rocky might be carrying in it’s droppings – this was for our own health. Gloves are smart to use when setting the old-fashioned mouse traps, so that the mouse does not smell you on the trap and avoid it (*pro tip).

Two Handy Girls. In Action.

Two Handy Girls. In Action.

A Job (Kinda) Well-Done.

A Job (Kinda) Well-Done.

We experimented with all of the above, and found out that plaster does not so easily cover up giant wads of steel wool, and I was thankful that we had duct tape – a simple substitution. Once all of the holes were somewhat sealed, in the jankiest way possible, we set the traps. Research shows that mice apparently like peanut butter. Well, I am allergic to peanut butter and Kim does not buy it, so Almond Butter would have to do. For our second trap, why not use cheese? Well, the only type we had was Brie. To be able to have his last meal be of Almond Butter and Brie? This lucky mouse picked one classy Upper East Side apartment.

Post-Gym. Don't Judge Me.

Post-Gym. Ready to Kill.

I will not describe to you what we woke up to the next morning, but I can tell you that there was no question in our minds that Rocky was no longer. And how to dispose of the crime scene? Don’t do it yourself, that’s gross. Call your Super, and have him do it for you with his bare, glove-less hands.

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Putting Up Walls

Kim and I found our apartment. It is a perfect, cozy, newly remodeled one-bedroom on the Upper East Side. Yes I said it, it is a one-bedroom. That means we have to put up a wall to make the living room into a bedroom. This of course didn’t phase us when we were picking places. It’s just typical NYC.

We were lucky enough to have picked an apartment with enough space to convert a full bedroom with room still to spare for an actual living room. We had seen some apartments where the living room – deemed “easily convertible” – was simply not. They were just too small and both the living room and bedroom would turn into closets. Our standards are a little bit higher than the Cupboard Under the Stairs (Harry Potter reference…anyone?).

Room to be converted is off to the right.

Room to be converted is off to the right.

Putting up a wall is commonplace in the city. Literally everyone does it. You’ve probably been in apartments that you didn’t even realize had a wall put up. It is safe to say that you would think it would be a piece of cake, right? Wrong.

First of all, there are about 29483 pressurized wall companies in NYC, all of which have so-so reviews. How do you choose? They are all the same! We requested quotes from at least 16 companies, all of which had the same price range of $1,000 – 1,100. Word of warning: always look at their photo galleries. They tell you a lot about the company. My company shares space with an architecture firm, so I even asked them for cheap alternatives, but to no avail. We asked our friends and bosses and finally picked the one that popped up the most.

Second of all, it’s illegal. Illegal. Apparently a few years ago, wall-building became illegal due to fire hazard reasons. That clearly doesn’t stop anyone, it just creates yet one more hurdle. We had to tell company after company little white lies like “Yes, our Management Company totally knows” and “Our lease says it’s alright.” Our lease does not say we can have a wall, but also technically does not say we can’t have a wall. When our broker asked our Super he said “what I don’t see, I don’t know about”. Translation: “Go for it, I don’t give a shit”. 

Third of all, walls can only be built during business hours on the week days. We all have work, so that’s a whole other issue. And how do we sneak in a man with tools and paint and plaster to build a wall without anyone seeing or hearing?

Through all of the stress, we did end up with a wall we love and are excited about, which officially makes it a habitable two-bedroom.

The wall

The wall

A few words of wisdom:

  • If the company only sends one lonely person, expect to be there for at least 9 hours. If they send two people, it may be about 5.
  • Prepare a plan of payment before they show up. It’s a little stressful when the wall is done and you have to figure out how to connect via ChaseQuickPay or eventually run to the bank.
  • Send them a photo of the space that the wall will go in. Our wall needed to be shaped to fit in an archway, so this helped them see what they were up against.
  • They might be 1.5 hours early. Plan accordingly.
  • Slip the Super some $$$ or cookies ahead of time, just to get on his good side. He doesn’t need to know what this is for.
Dear Raul...

Dear Raul…