NY and CA
As a New Yorker born and raised in Brooklyn, I’m no stranger to the occasional household pest. That’ll happen to you in a city as old as Gotham—even when you implement the best cleaning methods. There’s just so much underground infrastructure where a little critter can hide. That’s why it was a welcome change when I spent two years doing volunteer work in the relatively pubescent city of Los Angeles.
Little did I know that, in addition to a few black widow spiders every now and then, L.A. also hosted its own formidable array of rodents, especially when you moved away from the coast and closer to the picturesque mountains and hills.
During one hot summer, I was transferred to the town of Whittier, California, at the base of some beautiful hills in southeast Los Angeles County. I shared the apartment with three roommates. For four guys in their late teens/early twenties, I would say we did an all-right job keeping the place clean. We didn’t have much in the personal belongings, so there wasn’t much to organize anyway.
One quirk about our apartment was a seldom-used balcony where we stored bicycles. It had a wire-mesh covering, presumably to keep out wildlife. But, after many years, the nearby trees had made their way through the wiring and created a few nice holes. We were so busy, we didn’t think much of this anomaly. Until, one day, the wildlife made its way in…
Now, I’m not sure about the taxonomical designation of this critter, but all I know is that it was in the rodent family – big, hairy, and quick. Let’s just call it a rat. One of my roommates saw it hanging out on the balcony one day, but we shrugged it off.
Then, one night, it made its way into the apartment. No one is sure how it did, but—next thing we knew—it was scurrying along the kitchen floor, with the four of us doing our best to try to kill it/catch it/avoid it. After less than a minute, it found refuge in the warm space behind our fridge.
We slowly pulled the fridge out, and each took a turn checking. There it was, clinging for dear life to the wiring on the back of fridge, undaunted in the face of our persistent efforts to make it run by shaking the fridge. So we devised a plan. We flipped one of our study tables on its side and positioned it so that it created a makeshift three-foot high wall between our kitchen area and living room. That way, when we scared the rat from its hiding place, it would have nowhere to run. We each took blunt objects in our hands – broomstick, mop stick, bat, whatever was in our reach – and prepared for the only thing we could think of. One of us, I forget who, bravely stuck his blunt object behind the fridge and began poking the wiring, and the rat, to make it move. Finally, it did.
The rat jumped off its wire-tree and landed on the floor. Disoriented, but realizing it was in trouble, it began running circles in the kitchen again just as it had previously done. We each took turns trying to swat at it with our blunt objects, but it proved too quick. Then, it noticed the relatively open area where the study table had been flipped on its side. It made a dash for that area. Our group was ready to celebrate our victory. Surely our rodent friend would find that it couldn’t make it past the table and would have to revert back to the center of the kitchen, where we were all ready to deliver its fate. What happened next shocked us all…
The rat saw that the table was high and unpassable, so it doubled back to get some extra momentum, turned back to face the table again, and made a death-defying leap, clearing the three-foot high barrier in one bound. Our jaws dropped as we saw its trajectory, out of the kitchen and into what would seem to be freedom. And we all let out a gasp when it finished its airborne escape, and landed… right in our un-strategically placed garbage bin.
You can all imagine what happened next. It tried desperately and fiercely to claw its way up and out of the bin. But it was too high for him. So I went up to our prisoner and put him out of his misery, much to the relief of my apartment compatriots, who like me, had never encountered such a villain before. I wish there had been another option at the moment when we had to think on our feet. Sadly, I felt I had no choice.
Paul Merchán is an Account Supervisor at Peppercomm, our strategic communications and marketing firm, in New York City