The rat house

I USED TO LIVE in a rat house. Next to an open sewer. Let me tell you about it.

There were mice too, far more mice, but rats make a greater impression.

When I arrived on the mountaintop from the nearby capital city in September of 2000, I rented a two-story, haphazardly furnished house in a walled compound that included four other residences, but mine was the largest and the only one of two flights.

The compound, and my house specifically, abutted a large open sewer that flowed through a very deep ravine from downtown where it also was fed offal discarded directly from the municipal slaughterhouse. As you can guess, this was a smelly affair although the rainy season keep the ravine flowing much of the year, reducing aromas.

The sewage did, and still does, flow into our mountain lake because there is no sewage-treatment plant in our town.

New ImageThe dry season, about seven months, could bring smells over the wall easily. And, of course, rats love sewers. Think Washington D.C.

The owner of the compound was an interesting Gringo, quite likable, who had moved to the mountaintop just after the Second World War, the story goes, and married a local woman. Both have long since died. The point of mentioning that he was a Gringo is that I paid rent in dollars, not pesos, and it was $350, if memory serves.

Now, let’s address the issue of rats and mice, and the fun times they provided during the 1.5 years I lived there solo. I lived there an additional year after marrying, but the rodent problem had been resolved by then. Had it not, my child bride would have run screaming back to Mexico City from where I had brought her.

Rats only appeared twice. And they were both dead. I found them in the toilet on two separate mornings. Luckily, I glanced down before sitting, immediately shut the lid and flushed them back where they came.

Here’s where they came from: The toilet pipe simply went under the floor, over thataway through the wall abutting the sewer and flushed everything into the ravine far below. The pipe was wide open for visitors to enter at will. Mostly, it was a one-way street, but those two rats were adventurous. Too bad for them.

They got into the toilet bowl, couldn’t get out, and drowned. At times, it does not pay to be brave and bold, especially for rats of all forms. But enough about those rats. Let’s move on to the mice, a far worse problem.

My bedroom was downstairs abutting a small interior courtyard that was walled off with glass. There were floor-to-ceiling draperies in that bedroom, and that’s an element in my worse encounter with mice. One evening I was lying in bed reading when I heard scurrying up the draperies, lots of scurrying, on the far side, lots of mice. And then a couple of heads popped over the top of the draperies, looking down at me.

I got up, shut the door tight, and climbed to the bedroom upstairs to spend the night. But I had encountered mice before, running around the living room, for instance, in the daytime. I purchased that sticky paper and put it out nights, and I always captured mice who would be squirming on the sticky paper every morning when I picked up the paper, took it outside and heaved it over the wall into the ravine.

This continued for weeks. I went through lots of sticky-paper traps. I don’t recall now, two decades on, how the rodent problem ended, but it did.

Had any of this happened after my new bride arrived, I would have lost her, and I would be single to this day or married to someone less qualified. That would’ve been bad.