NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

March 14, 2013

Alien hitches ride in family car

As I See It
Stuart Deane

---- — I’m here to report that I’ve had a little visitor to my automobile – a mouse.

How do I know? Well, I haven’t seen it, but something has shredded a box of tissues that my wife keeps handy on the floor behind the passenger seat. We also keep a bag of snacks in the same vicinity for emergency use on long trips, but that has not been touched. Nesting must be the motivation rather than eating.

This raises a number of questions. First of all, where did it come from? I’ve never seen a mouse in our driveway, though I’ve found them in the cellar and the garage. Mice, apparently, are everywhere. The boarding mission of this mouse must take place in the dark of night.

And why a car? What’s wrong with the cellar and garage? How does a mouse decide to, I presume, climb up a tire onto the tie rods and subsequently into the engine compartment and passenger cabin? It certainly can’t wait for the car doors to be opened. Perhaps the warmth emanating from a recent trip attracted the little varmint and drew it into the sanctuary.

The next and most important question is, where is it?

Does it ride along with me when I go skiing at Gunstock or when we visit our sons and grandsons in Connecticut or the South Shore? Or when I go food shopping at the local market? Or does it hop off when the engine is turned on, wait until the car returns and then hop back on again? If so, where does it wait? And if it stays aboard, is it watching us as we drive along? Or is it hunkered down in some secluded place? And where might that be?

I’ve had mice in old cars before. They like to build nests in the housings for the heating/cooling fans. I’ve pulled two dead mice out of these spots in the past — once after a distinct odor permeated the car whenever the heater was turned on and once when I heard a thunk when I turned on the fan. Neither was a job I relished doing, but one does what one has to do.

My current car, however, my first-ever new car purchase, is a Honda CRV. When I open the hood, it’s jam-packed with housings and hoses and wires and dip sticks. Where in the world is the fan housing unit?

So what to do? Here I must tell the truth, which should be the purpose of a piece of writing. This is not a miniature version of “Free Willy.” I want that mouse out of there, whatever it takes. I don’t want it chewing on my wires and insulation. Or watching me.

My solution, which I also use in the cellar and garage, is to resort to D-Con, presuming that the mouse is alive and active.

I don’t particularly like killing things, but this issue cries out for a resolution.

It feels strange to peel back the plastic on a tray of D-Con and put it into a car, but why not? Why wouldn’t it work? The theory is that mice get thirsty after eating the poison and go outside seeking water before meeting their ultimate end. This is just what I want — the mouse or its cadaver out of the car.

My first attempt apparently does not work. The bait is not touched, so I remove it from the car. At the same time I clean up the shredded pieces of tissue. Maybe the mouse has already departed, I hope. A couple of days later, however, more tissue has been shredded. Now, this is war! Back goes the bait!

The next day, the tray is empty.

That, however, raises some more questions. Did this mouse indeed depart the vehicle before expiring? Time and my nose will probably tell. Was a nest of young ones left behind? Same answer. Will more mice follow in the path of the first pioneer? Is this an ongoing battle? Or was this just a random act of homesteading? What pre-emptive strike could I take? How do I know when I’ve won?

If someone out there knows the answer to these questions, please let me know.

I’m not running a boarding house here.

By the way, please don’t mention any of this to my wife. I might have to sell the car.

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Stuart Deane lives in Newburyport.