So I was going to post a book review today, but that will have to wait until next week. Something funny – well, more like “traumatic” – happened to me on the way to the rink on Wednesday morning and I feel compelled to share this tale of woah. In last year’s post entitled, “Morning Madness,” (to read, click here), I detailed my extreme difficulty with the morning shift. While some people seem to coach at the crack of dawn with relative ease, for me, it’s practically torture.
It’s not just that it’s cold, or that it’s early, or that I have trouble pretending I’m human at that hour. It’s also that weird things seem to occur when it’s still dark, and there are less people around to witness you then lend a helping hand if you need one. There’s a creepy vibe in the air.
This is how I felt the time when I still lived in the suburbs and I had an early morning, pre-rink show-down with a skunk in my driveway: it was like an old western movie, except he was the only one with a weapon. This is how I felt the time a cop brought the entire highway to a stop and then singled me out to pull over. My heart skipped several beats and I squeezed the steering wheel wondering if I’d been weaving across lanes in a daze, or if I’d been going 1000 miles an hour, or if I’d accidentally robbed an ATM machine in my sleep. I guess they were looking for someone specific: maybe my car fit the description yet I did not because as soon as he shined his flashlight on frightened me, he waved me away with disappointed disgust.
Then there was the morning last year when I was on the Bruckner Expressway, minding my own business and a huge bag of trash appeared in my lane. The SUV ahead of me practically toppled sideways in an attempt to swerve around it. I made the split-second decision to instead align my wheels on either side so I could just sail over it. Well, it was too big: it grabbed onto the bottom of my car and held on so that within seconds my car filled with the noxious scent of burning trash. In my rearview mirror, I could see that sparks were flying and it looked like my car was pooping trash down the road. People alongside me were pointing in horror and indicating that I should stop, but I couldn’t figure out a safe place to do so.
When I was finally able to pull over, I saw that the bag was lodged in place and because it had started to melt on the bottom of my car, it just wouldn’t budge. There happened to be a sanitation worker parked nearby, but he responded to my damsel-in-distress request for help with a shrug of his shoulders and an unapologetic “sorry” before taking another bite of his Egg McMuffin. So I just laid down on the filthy ground, kicked at that bag angrily, and chiseled it away one nasty chunk at a time with my little ice scraper. When I finally got to the rink, I was practically in tears and, though I was already late, I washed my hands about 42 times. Later, my trusty mechanic put my car on the lift and removed gunk from its underbelly with the help of a blowtorch and a razorblade.
This leads me to my latest early morning misadventure. There I was at 5:45 AM last Wednesday, at a red light, waiting to turn onto 9A. I’d already been awake for an hour and in the car for 30 minutes. This is the time when I traditionally work up the nerve to look at myself in the rearview mirror. After wincing, I decide that maybe some lipstick will help. I reached into my purse and out jumped…A MOUSE.
It scurried right across my lap and disappeared in the darkness at my feet. I proceeded to scream at the top of my lungs and convulse with heebie jeebies violent to the point of whiplash. I turned on the interior lights in order to see better. Where was it? Would it crawl up my pant leg? Should I get out of the car and run for my life?
I noticed that my brother happened to be at the light right in front of me, as he was scheduled to start his lessons at the same ungodly time. If I could just get to the rink, which was only about 3 minutes away, surely he would save me from this unexpected invader. My brother would later report that he could see some woman freaking out in the car behind him, but couldn’t tell it was me. He claimed that either his “facial recognition software hadn’t yet fully booted up for the day” or that my face was so “twisted with terror” that I did not look like myself. He thought maybe “this lady” had spilled scalding coffee on her lap.
When the light changed, I sped out in front of him like a banshee, shrieking. I don’t think I ran any red lights but it’s all a blur. I still couldn’t see the little guy and I had no idea whether he was under my seat, under my tensed foot, or perched on the visor by my face. Now this was torture. It made the simple act of getting out of bed seem like a pleasure in comparison.
When I got to the rink, I jumped out of the car as if it was on fire and leapt from foot to foot spastically. “Mouse! Mouse!” I screeched, pointing to my car when my brother pulled up. “In purse,” I added, in a state of shock, as he started to laugh.
He swiftly took my bags out and sat them on the ground on their sides, as if to allow a whole family of rodents to exit. Then he slid the seats back and forth and peered under them, chuckling the whole time. It was evident that he was amused but I’m pretty sure he was also somewhat squeamish. We didn’t see the interloper, but it was pitch dark out, so he could have been burrowing anywhere or he could have made his escape right when I did.
Okay, so he was admittedly teeny, maybe two inches long. I’ve seen mice before and a few more, recently. The landlord is supposedly on the case. I live in New York, so, to a degree I’ve had to accept living in “close quarters” in many senses. For this reason, I keep my place clean, I keep all my food in the refrigerator (even dry goods), and I always leave my bags on a chair. But I guess the climbing talents of such critters cannot be underestimated.
After I taught my lessons, I approached my car as if it contained a bomb. I tiptoed around it and inspected the interior in the daylight. My brother helped me extract and inspect everything from my trunk, as my stockpile of scarves and mittens would certainly provide excellent nesting opportunities. We didn’t see any stowaways. Paranoid and positive it was going to scramble across me again at any moment, I nervously drove to the car wash and vacuumed. Still, I saw nothing. Maybe he’s still hiding in there somewhere, as one friend insists, or maybe he’s long gone. I’m just not sure I’ll ever be the same, in a psychological sense.
I keep replaying the morning: was he snoozing cozily while I ate my dry cereal and listened to the reports of the presidential election? Was he snooping around the car while I drove? Or was he, as my brother suggested, having a grand ol’ time in my bag, listening to my ipod, chewing my gum and putting on my make-up? (Lipstick on a mouse!) I don’t know. I’m just glad he didn’t scurry up my arm when I reached in there for the car keys. I’m also glad the “moment of discovery” happened while stopped at a light instead of on the highway.
In times of trauma such as these, I know it’s important to appreciate and acknowledge the support of friends and family.
So thank you to my brother for his prompt heroics. Thanks to my skating student who suggested I invite a cat to stroll around the inside of my car. And thanks to the same student who contended that mice, with their cute little pink bellies, soft fur, and tiny paws, are far more afraid of us than we are of them (though, in my case she is downright wrong). Thanks to the zamboni driver who offered, through laughter, to set a mousetrap. Thanks to everyone who humored me when I wondered aloud whether or not I should call in an exterminator.
Thanks to my mother who was appropriately dismayed by this tale/tail and admitted she would have gone equally berserk. Thanks to the friend who suggested that the mouse just wanted to help out by handing my lipstick to me. (Come to think of it, I’ve always thought it would be nice to have an assistant…)Thanks to the friend who suggested I set out some food in my car overnight to see if any nibble marks would show up in it the next day. When I was leaving her house, she provided a fancy Carr’s cracked pepper cracker (only the best) for this purpose.
Finally, thanks to the friend who posited that the mouse actually had amorous intentions and is now feeling low and rejected. This same friend insists that, having been dropped off at the rink, the mouse has very likely been inspired to become a skater. Maybe he’s working on his jumps right now in order to win my affection.
I am happy to report that I’m doing better. Those early morning freestyle sessions are so clear and productive that I just have to bounce back. There never were any nibbles on that cracker. But I now carry my purse over my shoulder at all times when I’m home, even while I’m cooking dinner, brushing my teeth, and going to bed. I think I’m going to get one with an industrial-strength zipper. And a padlock. Likewise, maybe I’ll get the interior lights of my car replaced with spotlights for improved visibility…
But surely nothing this crazy will ever happen again in the early morning, right? Right?
What about you? Anything weird ever happen to you on the way to work? Please share by leaving a comment below…
Truth be told, this unfortunately isn’t my first run-in with a rodent. If you didn’t already read about Ratgate 2008, click here.