It was Sunday. When I arrived at the parking lot at 11AM, I discovered my co-worker wasn’t there and hadn’t been there all morning. Since he hadn’t been there to clean the parking lot restrooms, I had to do it. Having to clean those restrooms does not make me happy. Being surprised by having to clean those restroom makes me really unhappy, grumpy even.
I was bustling around, just trying to be efficient and get everything done as quickly as possible. While I was cleaning the restroom on the left, a man entered the restroom on the right. He stayed in the restroom a normal amount of time, then exited. A boy, probably his son, went in after him, also stayed a normal amount of time, then came out.
I was out of the restroom I had been cleaning and was sweeping the sidewalk when the man spoke to me. He had an accent, maybe French. He asked me if I knew there was a mouse in the restroom he and the boy had used.
I expressed my displeasure mildly. I did not scream or curse. I was thinking Why? Why? Why? I should not have been required to deal with a mouse. That mouse should have been my co-worker’s Sunday morning problem, not mine.
I heard the boy say, She’s scared.
How does he know I’m afraid of mice? I wondered at the moment. Am I acting afraid?
(Now I wonder why he was speaking English.)
Then I realized he meant the mouse was afraid.
Before I went into the restroom, I heard the boy say something something feeding. I didn’t know what in the world he was talking about until I walked into the restroom and saw in the front corner not just a mouse, but a mamma mouse nursing three babies.
I don’t like mice (or rats or gerbils or hamsters), but what was once nearly a phobia is now an aversion. I don’t think those rodents are cute or sweet or precious. I think they are vile and disease-ridden. They shit everywhere and make people sick. I worry that one is going to run up the leg of my pants in a moment of panic. (The critter’s panic would quickly become my panic if it ran up the leg of my pants.)
So when I saw the nursing mouse, my thoughts were more Ewwwww than Awwwww. The babies were not tiny and transparent as I once read baby mice described. They were big, probably one-third the size of their mother. Their eyes were still closed. and they seemed to just hang limply from their mother’s side.
The boy was right; the mamma mouse did look scared. Her eyes were huge. She looked resigned to bad things happening, as if these big children suckling from her were not only getting milk from her body, but also stripping away all of her hope. I could almost feel sorry for her, almost admit she was kind of cute, in a sad sort of way, but then I saw the mouse shit all over the floor and the shredded toilet paper they’d probably slept in the night before. I knew I was the one who was going to have to clean it up. I wondered if I’d get workers comp if I caught plague (http://www.cdc.gov/plague/) or hantavirus (http://www.cdc.gov/hantavirus/) from the little mousy family.
As I swooped in to pick up the shredded toilet paper, a tourist lady came over with her cameraphone to photograph the mouse family. She couldn’t stop exclaiming over how cute they were.
Oh sure, they’re cute, I said, until they give you the plague.
That thought seemed to sober up the tourist lady pretty fast.
I decided I should get my camera out of the van and take a photo of the mice too. I knew I’d write about them, so why not post a photo as well?
My van was nearby, so I wasn’t gone long. As I was returning to the building housing the restrooms, an new guy was walking up.
Don’t go in the one on the right, I screeched at the young man. There’s a mouse in there!
(I don’t know why I didn’t let him go in there and run them off.)
He said he’d heard about the mice. He wanted to take a photo too.
(Is any animal exotic if it lives in the National Forest?)
He said, Oh, they’re so cute.
Oh, sure, I said, until they defecate all over the place.
I sounded as bitter as I felt. I should get hazard pay for dealing with rodents.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to remove the mice from the corner. I had a broom and a large, blue dustpan. Should I use the broom to sweep them into the dustpan? Should I try to push the edge of the dustpan under them and scoop them up? While I didn’t like them, I didn’t want to hurt them. I’m not keen on hurting living creatures, although I will defend myself. Removing mice from a building hardly seemed like self-defense.
Because the door to the restroom was propped open, there was a large gap near the floor between the door and the wall When I moved toward the mice with the dustpan extended, the mamma mouse fled through the gap, babies still attached to her nipples. It looked unnatural and grotesque. I guess I’ve never seen a mother run with suckling infants hanging on to her with their mouths.
I was relieved to see them go.
(I know the title of this post is misleading because the post is actually about four mice in a restroom. I opted for poetic license, since “Mouse in the House” sounds better than “Mice in a Restroom.”)