October 30, 2020

Vermin, crickets and mice — Oh my!

Illustration by Keryn Brenzel

If you live in a house usually rented to students, it’s likely that you don’t live in a palace. And your house probably isn’t well insulated, which will likely translate to one horrible discovery: You are not alone.

No, I don’t mean anything of the paranormal variety.

Even if you are a conscientious cleaner, pests can become a problem. If you are slightly less careful, things may get out of control.

Your mom was right. Leaving food out is an invitation for vermin (or varmint if your mom watched too many Looney Toons). You think you’re more clever than a mouse? You think that hiding food in elevated locations makes it safe? Nothing is safe. Boxes and bags aren’t actually barriers. Mice are crafty. If you have food anywhere, they will find it. Invest in Tupperware and bins to store unrefrigerated food.

For a temporary solution, buy traps to put in particularly troublesome areas. Selecting the right traps is somewhat counterintuitive: the more low-tech the better. The secret chamber, no mess, out-of-sight-the-mouse-might-as-well-not-exist traps simply don’t work. Yes, it’s gruesome, but the simple wooden-plank and metal of death combination works best. And don’t use cheese. Peanut butter is far more alluring. Of course, the process is somewhat psychologically damaging. So it goes.

Alien bugs, bugs that appear more dinosaur or lobster than insect, will creep from crevices in the wall, trap you in the bathroom, evade capture with their cunning. Cave crickets are perhaps the worst of these critters. They tend to dwell in cool, damp locations, according to the Orkin website. And my bathroom. They aren’t lucky but are impossible to kill. Find someone in your house to designate as cave cricket/other ridiculously horrible insect hunter. Also, if need be, ladies, abandon feminism momentarily and find a boy to take care of the problem. Just milk that — I can make demands because of my gender but get offended when a male does the same — double standard as much as possible. Disclaimer: I believe men and women deserve equal treatment … as long as it suits me.

Ultimately, you should talk to your landlord. New Jersey landlord-tenant law guarantees the “warranty of habitability,” meaning that the landlord must provide “safe and decent” living conditions, according to the Legal Services of New Jersey website. So, instead of lamenting to everyone that you live in filth and squalor, tell your landlord you are having habitual pest problems. Maybe then people will start returning your calls and willingly come to visit. Maybe. Throw the ’ol book at your landlord, if need be. Remind them (politely) of their responsibilities. Don’t wait until the squirrels in the walls multiply, and you suddenly have baby squirrels crying at all hours of the day. Falling asleep to sounds of scampering (not cute) and scratching also takes its toll on the psyche. Remember, just because you’re playing house, doesn’t mean you need to be a “real” person just yet. Not (really) your house, not your problem.

Katie Brenzel can be reached at brenzel2@tcnj.edu.

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