Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Of Mice & Men

One day recently while I was at work, one of our staff called to say that Gerald the dayporter had cornered a mouse. What did we want to do about it? At that moment, what I wanted to do was eat my lunch which I'd just bought across the street and placed on my desk. At 2 p.m., my stomach was quite happy to consider lunch. I pretended all was fine. Surely someone else would deal with the mouse.

Instead, I heard myself asking, "Did Gerald ask Mike (our engineer) what to do?"

"Mike said to get rid of it," came the answer.

Now things often get horrible in fairytales. That's what keeps them interesting. At this point, my imagination took over and gave me several dreadful scenarios. Most of them involved the mouse meeting a slow and messy demise.

Time seemed to stand still as I considered my lunch, waiting to be eaten... and the fate of the mouse. Soon I found myself walking out the door, down the hall, and into the elevator to ride several floors down and find the cornered mouse. When I arrived, Blake the security guard stood on one side and Gerald the dayporter on the other side of a door propped open against the wall.

"He's behind the door!" Gerald said. He looked at me nervously, holding a broom at the ready with one hand, and propping open the door of a nearby closet with the other. If the mouse made a dash for it, Gerald was ready to push him into the closet. But I got the feeling that's as far as Gerald wanted to go. He didn't look enthused at the idea of being elected to cause the mouse's untimely death.

"What do you want to do?" Gerald asked.

Blake took this opportunity to make a quick departure. He didn't want to be that involved with this situation. Mike stayed on another floor, despite his sentiments. Or maybe because of them?

"We should trap the mouse and release it!" I declared.

Gerald visibly relaxed.

"Yes," he agreed, "That's what they say is the best way!"

"We need a container," I said, remembering how I would sometimes trap flies or spiders I found indoors under a glass, to release them outside. But a glass would be too small for a mouse. What would work?

It occurred to me that rather than "what", the right answer might be "who". Our other engineer, William, liked animals; he had two companion dogs. William seemed like a kind, caring and compassionate soul. So I phoned him.

"We have a mouse cornered. We need a container to capture it in and take it outside. Would you be able to help us? Would you have a container?"

Sure enough, a few minutes later, William appeared with a large box. He carefully pulled the door away from the wall, swiftly lowering the box over the mouse. Then he went in search of a piece of cardboard to slide under the mouse. Meanwhile, Gerald held the box tightly against the carpet. We could hear desperate scratching from inside.

At that moment, two women returning from lunch approached the other side of the half-shut door where we stood with the trapped mouse.

"Oh, just a minute, please," I asked. I could just imagine letting the ladies walk through, the box bouncing up and the mouse streaking across their feet to parts unknown.

"Is everything all right?" one asked.

"Oh, yes," I said, "We'll just be a minute."

Just then William returned with the flat piece of cardboard, slid it underneath, and lifted the box with mouse inside out of the way. I pulled the door fully open so the women could pass. They glanced at us quizzically. But.... they didn't ask, and we didn't tell.

William and I then formed a little procession. I led the way, opening doors as we went so he could use both hands to continue to hold the piece of cardboard firmly against the box with the little mouse inside.

"I don't know if this mouse is going to make it," William said as we walked. "He might have been poisoned. He looked dazed."

We reached the final door and went into the vacant lot next door.

"I'll release him next to that lumber over there, so he has something to crawl under,"
William said.

William walked over to the wood and bent down to gently release the captive.

Little brown mouse hopped out into the bright sunshine, looking all sleek and preened. He took one look at the lumber, and hopped like a joyful soul, hop, hop, hippity hop he went, taking great, determined bouncing leaps in his ecstatic release to freedom. This mouse knew exactly where he wanted to go, but it was not the neighborhood wood pile! I took a step back as the mouse ran in my direction. I hoped he wasn't heading back towards the stairs where I stood... I got prepared to slam the door shut, just in case. But no... little brown mouse stopped when he was safely hidden in the shadows of an old air conditioning unit sitting by the bottom of the steps.

I breathed a sigh of relief. One mouse, gently escorted out. A different form of "getting rid".