Before I moved to NYC I heard all kinds of warnings about the vermin here. They say that for every person in the city there are two rats lurking about somewhere. Upon moving to the city I braced myself for the veritable cesspool that I had been warned of. Anyone who knows me knows that I can barely be in the same room as an ant let alone anything else. But this was NYC! I knew that I would have to evolve if I was going to make it here. In my first apartment in the Bronx I saw nothing. I moved to Harlem, and after six months of living there I didn't see so much as a cricket. Then I moved to Brooklyn, and everything changed...
Shoe Shoe Babies:
We'd been in the Bushwick apartment for about 6 months. A combination of IKEA and Target furniture were making our 800 square foot apartment start to feel like home, and with winter well on its way we were all starting to feel nice and cozy. My roommates and I had all come from Arizona and while I had bounced around in sublets for 8 months this was their first real spot in the city and were having boxes sent from home. One evening Dillon, Tali and myself were sitting on the couch watching a show when out of nowhere Tali screamed as if a murderer were in the room. We all immediately leapt off the couch in a fury. Not yet understanding what was happening Dillon and I both did a rapid scan of the room trying to identify what it was that caused such complete and utter terror. Our attention was quickly drawn to a tiny grey fluff ball scurrying along the wall. A mouse! Tiny, fluffy, disease ridden, gross. Within the hour we had armed ourselves with traps of all kinds and began to set them about the apartment. We decided to go with no kill traps in the hopes of simply removing the mouse without any mess or murder.
What fools we were.
Weeks went by and nothing. No sightings, no sounds, but ohhhh the droppings... One evening around 11 I was headed to bed, not a care in the world when the sound of screams once again filled the apartment. I sprinted out of my bedroom and saw Tali standing on her bed yelling that she had seen the mouse in her room. I grabbed a flashlight and started looking around the baseboards and under the bed. We would have seen it go out the door so it had to be somewhere in her room. Behind her door there was a stack of still unpacked boxes from Arizona. They were stacked rather precariously but the sound of scratching was coming from that direction so we got closer, Upon inspection we realized that there was a small hole chewed in the very bottom corner. I shined my flashlight and received a confirming squeal of fear from the mouse inside. We used packing tape to seal the hole, and while I held doors open and Dillon carried the box the three of us flew down the stairs and out the front door.
(Now keep in mind that it is November in the north east. Dillon and myself were wearing boxers and t-shirts with no shoes on in the dead of night on the street in Brooklyn while Tali yelled orders through the other side of the front door. It was quite the spectacle.)
I pulled off the packing tape and the little mouse came charging out and dashed across the street and vanished. Given that a mouse had been living in her clothing we could only assume that Tali wouldn't want anything inside, but we wanted to make sure there was nothing of value and began to pull out items one by one to evaluate them. Meanwhile we could hear Tali from the other side of the door yelling "Just burn it all! Get rid of it!" We were nearing the bottom and in agreement that there was nothing inside that needed saving when we heard the tiniest of peeps. I pushed aside a dress to find a loafer full of torn up fabric and three teeny tiny naked mice babies. The shock by this point had worn off, and horror began to sink in. The mother was long gone, the babies had now been exposed to some pretty serious cold, and there was no way in hell we were bringing that box back inside. I pushed the blanket back over them as if to tuck them in, and with my head held low walked back upstairs. I was a murderer.
Now at this point Dillon took charge and got to work with Tali in making sure that her room was clean and her floor was spotless. This was going to be a one time only event. It struck midnight as the vacuum began to run and we heard a knock on the door. Our downstairs neighbor (incredibly politely I might add) had come up to ask if we could maybe not vacuum in the middle of the night on a Tuesday. We all apologized and began to regale her with our tail (get it....). Once we had explained she then shared the reason for the mice. As it turns out, the building two doors down had a few months earlier been busted by NYPD as it was full of squatters who were running a teenage prostitution ring. The empty building had then been bought and the new owner was renovating down to the dry wall, and the commotion had sent all of the critters inside of it south. Our neighbor shared that they had been killing something like 15 mice a week, and was surprised we hadn't seen more. We said our goodbyes, reset our traps, and hoped that the ghosts of the mice babies wouldn't haunt us.
Now while this story does not specifically involve mice it is quite horrendous and must be told in order to truly demonstrate the gravity of what we have had to deal with, but I digress.
In our apartment we have a lovely westward facing window (see image of lovely westward facing window). The window you can see in the picture was installed after the incident I am about to describe as it led to a fairly justified melt down on my end. See during the summers our apartment turns into a literal sauna, and so historically we have left the windows open to try to get some air which has consistently led to there being flies in the apartment. My first summer here I became a master fly swatter. They feared me, and I them. Now our second summer was upon us. With a new roommate in the apartment (Hi Tori), and a unanimous revulsion of flies, she very wisely suggested that we simply get a screen. Why didn't I think of that....
She purchased a small screen from the local hardware store and it cut down on the bugs significantly and all seemed well. One hot summer morning I was working from home and dealing with a particularly difficult customer and my nerves were already a little fried. I decided to go to the gym to burn off some frustration, and came back after about an hour and walked straight into my room. Knowing that there were screens up I had left the windows open and thought nothing of it. We left the windows open literally every day, what could happen? After knocking out some more work I left the safety of my air conditioned den to get some water when I heard buzzing. Loud, like a recorded track of a beehive. I turned towards the sound and to my horror our entire window was covered with flies. I am not kidding or exaggerating, I have the videos and pictures to back it up. There were at least a hundred black flies sitting on or flying near our window, and I momentarily lost my mind.
I ran to the sink to grab my extra large can of raid (which I bought for the candy bar size cockroaches under our sink but that's a story for another time) and ran to the window. I sprayed with my left hand and swatted with my right like a mad woman. Limbs flailing. Vision blurred. At one point I tried to rip open the window but couldn't find a place on the handle that wasn't covered in flies... It felt like hours had passed when finally the battle was won. I looked around to survey the damage through the mist of raid. Our living room was littered with the bodies of my enemies. And like any girl who has just experienced a biblical plague of bugs would do, I called my father and cried because the bugs had nearly won and I was not cut out for this shit.
Once my nerves had calmed down and I had cleaned the mess I did the single worst thing any person can do whilst in the midst of something scary, I googled it. "Why are there 5 million flies in my apartment?!" I came across article after article of other victims like myself describing the horrors of what are called 'cluster flies'. Apparently there are two ways you can have a swarm of cluster flies. If you happen to have a westward facing window and there are plants/trees outside they can burrow in the ground nearby and on a hot day can all come bursting to life and will search for somewhere to rest. Given that the majority of Brooklyn is cement the only logical conclusion was that it was the second way. Should something, for example a mouse, die in your wall and a cluster fly should happen to find it they will lay their larva in the dead animal and on a warm summers day explode within the confines of your home. (See it's all coming full circle).
Over the next few days I GUTTED our apartment. I moved every piece of furniture and scrubbed down to the baseboards. I killed a collective 50+ more flies and will probably at some point die from the amount of raid I ingested. My landlord was unconvinced that the flies could have come from inside (the fool), and so given the only other option was the window I insisted he replace it to make sure that it was properly sealed and had fitted screens. Since then we have seen no flies, but summer has just begun and I remain vigilant.
Stay tuned next week for Mice-Capades: Part 2 where I'll talk about a mouse suicide pact, our bloody valentines day, and how we're getting a fucking cat.