“YEEP!” I text my oldest daughter at college.
“What? I’m in class.”
“The rat exterminator — the one who thought all rats were girls — just called to ask me out! AACH!!”
“Bahahahahah!” Paige texts back. “I just passed that around my class.”
I thought back to what could have possessed the rat exterminator to think that I might have been open to this, that this was somehow in the bounds of appropriate.
A few weeks earlier, I’d noticed the peaches in the fruit bowl had been inhumanly gnawed. I saw droppings on the counter.
“We have a rat,” I say to my youngest daughter, Marissa.
She looks at the decimated fruit. We make the same grossed-out face.
I clean, sanitize, feel violated, and toss the fruit bowl.
Next day, the nut bowl is empty, but not by us. We make the face. I call our pest control service.
That afternoon, Marissa sees the rat run under the door into the garage. “It’s big!” she says.
“Bigger than an avocado?”
Showing her how a grown-up handles these matters, I scream.
Next morning, the Rat Man arrives. I show him where I’d found evidence. “She might be getting in here,” he says looking at the holes around the sink pipes.
“How do you know it’s a she?” I ask, thinking maybe female rats nest this time of year. What do I know. “All rats are shes,” he says.
He must have noticed a strange look cross my face, because he asked, “Aren’t they?”
Because I do not want to discuss rat reproduction with this man, I simply nod.
He sets out three sticky traps the size of shoebox lids. As he’s leaving, I ask what I’m supposed to do when the rat gets caught.
“We just set the traps,” he says. “Have your husband take it out.”
I say something (I now regret) about my husband only being here weekends. He says he’ll check back in a couple days.
That evening, Marissa and I come home to the trapped rat. We scream. I call my best friend. She says I needed to be brave and show my daughter how to handle this stoically. I call my husband. He tries to coach me, suggests I put the whole bit on a shovel. No way.
I look out onto my street, and see a lovely young couple on an evening stroll. I dash out, extend my hand, and, while trying to keep my desperation at bay, say, “Maybe you can help me.”
Valiantly, the tall, strong man armed with nothing more than two paper towels, picks up the trap, and swiftly disposes of it all. I say to the woman, “You are in possession of one wonderful man.”
Next day Rat Man calls. I share the good news. He says he should come over and do a thorough inspection to see if he can find where the rat (she) had been getting in.
“No need. I’m pretty sure it was under the door to the garage. I’ll get that weather stripped.”
And that was that. I thought.
A few days later, he calls again. “I’m not having any more critter problems, thank you,” I say, and hang up.
He calls again. “Are you busy?” he asks.
“Yes. Thank you. All my critter problems are solved.” Click.
He calls right back. “I was just wondering if you would like to have coffee some time?” “Look, I am really busy. I have two jobs, two kids, and no time for a new friend.”
“I’m really busy, too, but I would still make time for a new friend.”
“Well, I can’t.” Click.
I text my daughter. “YEEP!”
That night during a family conference call my husband says, “Report him.”
“I don’t want him to lose his job,” I say.
“Don’t rat him out,” says Marissa.
“Punny,” says Paige.
Rats are creepy enough, but what they drag with them is worse. “Rats carry diseases, which they can spread through bites, feces and urine. If they get in your food they’ll contaminate it,” says Stoy Hedges, an entomologist for Terminix, the world’s largest pest control provider.
Big storms, like Sandy, which hit the East Coast last month, often displace rats and cause them to look for new homes, Hedges said. “Rats are born-survivors and will readily move to better conditions to find food and a place to live. In cities, that’s provided by homes and businesses.”
Maybe that’s all the guy wanted.
To keep rats — and other pests — from taking up residence in your home or business, Terminix offers these tips:
• Look for and seal gaps around pipes, especially under sinks. Cover openings with duct tape.
• Weather strip doors and windows. I’m pretty sure our furry intruder came in under the door from the garage. It now has tight weather stripping.
• Don’t invite them for lunch. Open food sources beckon unwanted visitors. Keep food put away, and lids on trash cans.
•Line all attic and foundation vents with tight-fitting, quarter-inch hardware cloth. A regular insect screen will not deter rodents, which can chew through the material.
• Move piles of debris away from your home. These provide welcome shelter for critters.
• Keep tree branches trimmed so they stay 6 feet away from roofs and walls. Rodents are great climbers and acrobats, and can use the branches as bridges to access the roof and attic vents.
• If you see or suspect a rat, clean and disinfect. Throw away all food that may have come into contact with the rat. Use strong cleaners to sanitize all surfaces.
• Call a professional pest control service and ask if they handle rodents. (Some only handle bugs.) Or, if you have the stomach, set out your own traps.
Syndicated columnist and speaker Marni Jameson is the author of “House of Havoc” and “The House Always Wins” (Da Capo Press). Contact her through marnijameson.com.