Tuesday, April 09, 2002


The siege towers are encircling me, and the food and water are running low. I may have to start eating the horses to survive. The independent life that has been 95% satisfactory is now only about 40% endurable, and it's worsening. Living alone, which can be such a pleasure, is definitely sucking now. Why the "siege" analogy? Because the catapults are hurling difficulties and frustrations over my walls as fast and furious as they can.

It started with my car… my darling, cute little Honda Civic 1993 hatchback with the rear window windshield wiper that was only made for a 6 month period (then discontinued); that dearly loves to kick off its grease boots so the axle can be chewed up with roadway grit; with the sticker of Charlie Brown & Snoopy on a sled in the window so I can find it easily in a parking lot. It started overheating. I know better than to drive it like that, so I popped into my local repair shop, and they could find nothing wrong. I drove it home, and it overheated on the way. I drove it back. This time they found the thermostat (which they had replaced 3 months earlier) was toast, so they replaced it. Next day, it overheated again, so I took it back. They bled air out of the system, and then it was fine… for a week.

My life became a nightmare of taking my car in, them finding nothing wrong, picking it up, it overheating, and taking it back. I was reluctant to go anywhere else because so far I hadn't needed to pay for it since they were responsible for the initial repair job. But after 1 month of this, they exhausted their ideas of what to do, and I took it to the dealer. Turns out it was a head gasket which needed replacing - over $1000 to fix.

Perhaps I was really sick the day I dropped it off, (I had actually had a fever the night before) but as Elder Sister took me to work that morning, I fainted. My mom is convinced it was a panic attack, and in the weeks since I suspect she was right. There was something about having to deal with this ongoing nightmare of seemingly unfixable car repairs all on my own that just melted my independence away. I had to find rides to work and to pick up my car; and when you live alone it's going to be inconvenient for SOMEONE, no matter how willing they may seem to help.

Elder Sister and Elder Brother-in-law were sympathetic and helpful… but not always available. I live a half-hour from work - so practically no-one from work could drive me. But even having had loads of available assistance wouldn't have removed the essential worm in the heart of this apple - that I live alone, and have no boyfriend or husband for support. Roommates wouldn't have altered the picture much either - they may live with you, but they are not bound to you intimately; at least, none of mine have ever been. Both the financial and inconvenience issues were mine to deal with, with no help in sharing the burden. My mom ended up paying for the car repair (for which I am paying her back) but by her unseen shaking finger it's obvious that she thinks I should be more financially prepared to take care of problems like this.

Then the mice assaulted my citadel. A few days after the car debacle was finally concluded, mouse droppings appeared in my kitchen. Everywhere. The following evening as I was getting into bed, one skittered in front of me. Too freaked out to sleep in the same room as a mouse, I went to stay at Elder Sister's house. In the days that followed, a pattern emerged. Wake up, get ready for work, vacuum up the droppings, wipe down the counters with anti-bacterial spray, fix breakfast, go to work. Then upon arriving home, repeat the cycle, including vacuuming the furniture and floors.

I should mention that I am in a state of extreme ambivalence regarding mice. I think they are adorable, and when I wasn't screaming when they darted in front of me, I thought they were awfully cute, sticking their little heads out from under the dresser to see if it was safe to come out. All I wanted was for them to be GONE - I didn't want to have to deal with dead or alive mice. The thought of picking up a trap with a mouse in it makes my skin crawl. Even nudging the traps with my foot to see if they were "occupied" requires a herculean effort. But even more did I want them to stop littering my apartment!

It took my landlord 5 days to finally get pest control in, so in the meantime I went and got one of those ultra-sonic plug-in units that emits a high-pitched sound that makes the mice go away. It worked so well that the mice left more droppings than ever right under the socket where it was plugged in. Finally pest control came and put down a couple of glue traps. Having carefully checked the traps for several days now, I can confidently say that GLUE TRAPS ARE WORTHLESS. They've escaped every time so far. Apparently for glue traps to work, you need to 1) hear the mouse getting caught and flailing about, and then 2) press down on top of the trap to completely envelop them in glue. It should be obvious by now that I DON'T WANT TO GO ANYWHERE NEAR A TRAP WITH A MOUSE IN IT, DEAD OR ALIVE. Do you know what a mouse completely caught in a glue trap does? It has a heart attack - that's how it dies. I'm not sure an old-fashioned snap-trap isn't more humane than that.

In a state of extreme frustration, I went and bought mouse poison and put it down in my kitchen. I should start finding dead mice in 4-5 days, or so the box tells me. Pest control has returned and put down more pointless glue traps, I still vacuum and disinfect every day after work, and I think I smell mice in my ventilation system. This past weekend I stayed at Elder Sister's again, just so I could avoid 2 days of having cocky mice jump out from behind the microwave or Kleenex box, giving me heart palpitations.

It's amusing when related like this; but the essential fact remains that once again I have to take care of the problem by myself. I've made jokes before that everyone (especially women) should be single for a good long stretch at least once in their life so they can learn to "squish their own bugs." Well, I've graduated from bugs to mice, and I can assure you that the same saying does not apply here. I am thoroughly tired of independence and want to embrace my inner fragile Victorian woman who faints at the sight of mice.

The most recent attack on my independence came this past weekend. Either I read somewhere (or I dreamt it) that a mouse infestation means death is imminent. Well, my 2nd cousin Wallace and my friend Denise's aunt and uncle (not married) all died Saturday, my boss's good friend died Friday, and on Monday morning we found that a co-worker had had a stroke Friday night and lain unconscious all weekend long, until we called her son when she didn't show up at work. It's the quintessential single person's fear, as far as I'm concerned… to be hurt or incapacitated and no-one is aware you're in trouble until days have passed. Bridget Jones said it best "… and you're half-eaten by an Alsatian," or words to that effect. I told Elder Sister that she had better remember to make sure she'd spoken to me at least once each weekend, and my mom will be told the same.

I think I am quite ready to give up the citadel - I'd throw open the gates, but in peeking through the crenellations I can see that there is no army outside to accept my terms for surrender. This is the cruelest kind of war - where your strength and fighting ability are undermined, yet your foe cannot be seen or identified and you are given no opportunity to surrender and be given terms of peace.