Tiny packages of beady-eyed chaos

There was a time when I thought that about the worst thing that could happen to the newspaper was a major press breakdown. Then it was a computer crash. Or, perhaps, a regional power failure.

That was before the mice…

Located on the edge of what was once wide open pastureland, the newspaper building has attracted a variety of transient wildlife over the years, everything from lethargic rattlesnakes to bustling bats and the occasional bluejay looking for a handout in our breakroom.

For the most part they’ve been nothing more than passing, and relatively benevolent, curiosities.

That was before the mice…

Trouble started a few years ago when a droopy-eyed copy editor spotted one of the lively rodents hopping across the newsroom shortly before midnight one dreary evening.

Being a happy idiot, he thought the compact package of beady-eyed chaos was cute. Then another genius named the furry nocturnal troublemaker “Ed.”

No big deal, right? Just a mouse.

But where there’s one mouse, there are usually two, and where there are two, there’s a potential population explosion. So then there was Edwina, Ed Jr., Ed II, Edelvardia, Eddie and Edlizabeth – to name a few.

Before long (about three weeks, I think) Ed was a great-great grandfather and his offspring were popping up between desks, inside drawers, behind telephones and in our precious newsroom junk food supply.

And that was the final straw – no more Mr. Nice Guy. You can skip across our keyboards, dance across our desktops and hop from the sports desk to the darkroom, but nibble our Chee-tos and you’ve gone way too far, no matter how cute you and your 456 grandchildren may be.

Unfortunately, by the time we realized we had a mouse problem, they outnumbered us roughly 90-to-1.

Worse, your average mouse views the whole world as his restroom and our snack bowl wasn’t exempt.

Uh-oh…

We tried yelling at Ed and his whiskery cohorts. We tried throwing dictionaries at them. We purchased “humane” traps. We purchased less-than-humane “Squish the Lil’ Feller” traps. We considered shotguns, but the newspaper’s human resources department discourages gunfire in the workplace.

And the mice played on…

At one point a single mouse had three of us stymied. Trying to corner the tiny troublemaker, one woman was lying on her stomach under a desk while two gentlemen crouched over her, voicing encouragement. Then the business editor strolled by, saw the minuscule malefactor and proceeded to go airborne, vaulting over all three of her co-workers with an ear-piercing shriek.

As luck would have it, the newspaper’s owner was passing by at that precise moment. He kept going, repeating a mantra he’d learned long ago: “I don’t know what they’re doing. I don’t want to know. I don’t know what they’re doing. I don’t…”

So far, we’ve managed to repatriate six of the rascally rodents to the wild, carrying them gently across the road to a nearby field and wishing them good luck.

Apparently our good wishes are being heeded by some benevolent cosmic power, because the mice are usually back in our newsroom snack bowl within 48 hours…

Originally published February 17, 2002

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