That was a great novel by one of my favorite writers, John le Carré, but the spy I am talking about was actually a whole nest of spies who came in from the cold and settled in the washing machine of one of our neighbors. The culinary appetite of these spies was very peculiar. You see, they loved chewing electric wires, so when the machine did not work, and the repairman came to check, the nest was discovered. It took some cunning to actually catch the intruders, and by that time there was a whole colony of them. If you guessed mice, you were absolutely right. The little buggers found a way to come in from the cold, and get themselves comfortable in a warm place. By the time they were trapped, our neighbor had to buy a new washer, and yes, a new stove too.
Luckily, we do not have this problem, since we have our trusty Black Jack and some of his friends, who take care of such spies before they come in. But it is not possible to have feral cats roaming around outside everywhere. In Canada, for example, it is really cold now, and even snowy, so not many cats are to be found outdoors. One would think that all creatures are either hibernating or found a burrow deep underground to survive. But perhaps, one could come in from the cold?
In the 50+ years that we lived in our house in Canada we had a good number of unwelcome “visitors”. There was the raccoon who came into the attic to make herself a nest in the insulating material, and found our Passover food which we stored there since we had to buy it way ahead of time. She bit into the package of cocoa, and spit it out. She rummaged through, found a box of Mandelbroit cookies, and devoured them all. She sure had a sweet tooth. When we managed to chase her out, and boarded up the little window she crawled in through, she was so angry that she tore shingles off the roof and threw them at us.
There was also the time we bought a new record, and put it on to play. Suddenly we heard squeaky noises. We stopped the record, and lo and behold the squeaking continued. To add insult to injury, when we looked into the fireplace where the noise came from, somebody peed on us. This was already serious, and we called the exterminators, only to be told this was not a job for them. Dr. Google was not yet available, but advice from professionals was still free. We heeded their advice, and lit some newspapers in the fireplace to create smoke. Very soon, we saw Mother Raccoon carrying out 2 babies to safety. We realized we had to place a screen over the chimney to prevent renewed invasions.
And then there were the baby rabbits. They did not come on their own. The neighborhood children “found” them at the riverbank at the end of our street, and brought them to my husband. They decided that since he was paying them for crayfish they brought him for his research, perhaps he could use the baby rabbits as well. They were disappointed for not being paid, and we were stuck with 2 little baby rabbits which we all took turns feeding with an eye dropper. One of the little ones died after a few weeks, but the other stayed with us that entire winter, having the run of the house. And run he did! Especially at night, you could hear him gallop in a set route. If someone happened to move a chair there was a loud crash, but then the galloping resumed. Until one time he decided to explore a different route. We heard the familiar gallop, but then crash-bang-SPLASH! He’d jumped onto the aquarium cover, and slid into the water. We all jumped up too, but the fish were not harmed. In the spring we let him out in the yard to roam free. For several years he used to come back to visit, and one year he brought his bride to show us.
All those years, and not a mouse visitor. Until this week, when we suddenly got a phone call from our lovely tenant in a panic. He saw a mouse! In the living room. The poor thing. It was only a week earlier that we’d had another crisis; the furnace stopped working, and there was no heat. This is a serious matter. Not only is it hard to stay in the house and work from home without heat, but the water pipes can freeze and burst. The repairman who came after we placed an emergency call gave us the sad news that we needed a new furnace, but it was the end of the work day, and he had to wait in order to order one. He left some electric heaters so that no people or pipes would freeze, but it ended up taking almost a week until the furnace was installed and there was proper heat again.
I guess the mouse sensed the existence of a great opportunity, and decided to come in from the cold. Now our tenant is thinking either he or the place is jinxed. I am full of empathy, admiration and pride in the way our tenant of 4 years handled himself. Empathy for what he had to go through, uprooting himself from a temperate country and his native culture of Tanzania, and adjusting to the cold weather and different culture of Canada. Admiration for his perseverance and almost completing his PhD. But most of all admiration for his way of handling the situation without panic even though he revealed to us when we first met that he was diagnosed at age 18 as being on the high end of the autism spectrum. And pride in the way he handled this new situation by using his mouse on the computer and asking advise from “Eitzes Geber” Google. Only then did he send us an email to inform us of the situation. We replied, with CC: to our trusted friend, who is always there for us, “get a trap.”
Communication is a two-way channel. In order to be able to establish connections we need to respect the other person. We need to respect the differences, be open and curious, learn about their life, culture, and needs, and share ours. We gained a valuable lesson of respectful coexistence by accepting a person with different abilities into our life. Rather than considering differences either in skin color, culture or ability as something to shun, we can welcome it. Life is much more interesting and fuller. It is an adventure when you share your stories and enrich each other.
The traps are set, since our trusty friend brought them in and made sure no one got hurt setting them up. The mouse, it seems, is a clever little fellow, since we did not have any news of him being caught. I figured out that he actually is an Agent Provocateur who came in the box of the new furnace from the factory in Québec. When the workers opened the box to install the furnace, he quickly ran out of the way and hid. It took some time, for him, or (mon Dieu!) her, to get warmed up and explore the house. There were many things to explore, so that it took him/her a week or 10 days to reach the living room. We sincerely hope the trap works, that and s/he does not have an appetite for electric wires in the electric furnace s/he came with. We are monitoring the temperature of the house by a Raspberry Pi, a clever little computer, just in case. We’d rather not reach the situation so aptly described in the famous Flanders and Swann song “The Gas Man Cometh”…