I work in a beautiful old Georgian building. Key word: old. Old buildings are full of secret nooks and crannies and hiding spaces for little mice.
I’m OK with mice. If I see a cockroach or a rat in a house I’m in, I want to move country (there’s a reason I left Vietnam), but if there’s a mouse, I just shudder briefly as it scurries by and then gets on with my life. Mice are OK by me. Or at least they were OK by me.
Mice usually avoid people and light. But not mice that have been driven crazy by poison. The pest exterminator had been on Friday, so on Monday, the building’s mice had supped the poison and had clearly lost their minds, and were not behaving as they’re expected to, much like me backstage at a One Direction concert.
It started early on Monday. A mouse scurried across the floor in the middle of the office where I work at about ten o’clock. But then it stopped scurrying. It had a little break and just sat in the middle of the floor, sunning itself. Then it scurried on.
It ran under a sofa. Ten minutes later, it came out again, ran under a shelf, ran back again and ran out into the corridor.
I was a little jumpy at this stage. The way a mouse scurries is deeply creepy and to have a mouse unafraid to keep on scurrying and to appear completely at ease with just hanging out in the middle of a bright floor in a noisy office was terrifying. It was like the scene in the science fiction film when they discover that the robots have been programmed to no longer obey the instructions of humans. What was the strange new world? Were the mice in charge now? Was humanity done for? Would we just have to serve the mice, like the Apes in Planet of the Apes?
The mice didn’t stop. For the next hour or so, a mouse interrupted our work every ten minutes or so. There were at least two different mice, one was quite fat, with longer legs and another was tiny, a baby mouse.
The teachers came out on their morning breaks, reporting drama. Students had screamed. Students had fled to the back yard. A teacher, who is a former sexual health nurse and is just as no nonsense and unafraid of mice as you’d imagine, chased a mouse from her classroom into the hallway closet and barricaded it in there, stuffing all the gaps with bin bags.
My shoes were in that cupboard. Just like Melanie Griffith in Working Girl, I wear trainers to work and change into sensible shoes when I arrive. Oh no! Now my shoes were stuck in a mouse cemetery.
I dispatched emails to my various bosses and to the janitorial team in the main branch of the school down the road. Mice on the loose! Connor couldn’t cope! My first few messages didn’t get much of a response. Later, as different staff members visited our branch they almost all encountered a mouse.
Eventually, the janitorial team arrived. They couldn’t really do much more than we could. One of the brightest moments of my bleak mouse-ridden day was watching our stocky Polish janitor run down the hallway after a mouse, carrying a mop, while being followed by his short Colombian colleague. I have no idea what they were going to do with the mop if they did catch the mouse.
They didn’t catch the mouse.
I’m always tired on a Monday. I never sleep more than two or three hours on a Sunday night. So my nerves are quite raw on a Monday no matter what. And being interrupted by a creepy scurrying mouse every ten minutes started to send me literally crazy. A colleague of mine thought it would be funny to surprise me a regular intervals by putting her hand on my leg and pretending to be a mouse. It was not funny.
Late that afternoon I was phoning someone about their application for a course. Let’s say his name was John. He didn’t answer his phone so I left a message on his voicemail. I meant to say “Hello John. This is Connor calling about your CELTA course.” Instead I said “Hello John. This (I suddenly gasped and screeched the next two words) is Connor (I paused and my voice returned to a normal volume) calling about your CELTA course. (I paused again. Should I explain the screech?) I’m sorry. I had a little fright. Anyway, please get in touch and let me know if…”
An hour later I got an email from John. He had decided not to do a CELTA course after all.
There have been no mouse sightings for a week now.
I’ve more or less recovered.