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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Rats Need Courtesy, Too (Dec. 2008)

I wouldn’t say I tiptoe around my backyard for the rats’ sake, but it’s not far from the truth. We have had a few surprise (READ: UNWELCOME) sightings inside our backyard composter. We had a composter when we lived in Northern California, but by 2006, they were hard to come by in San Diego. We finally found one to buy after calling half a dozen nurseries. The city used to give them away free but no longer does, which is odd. Wouldn’t they want to help cut down on the amount of refuse that lands in the dump? Victory finally came when I called a store twenty miles away and they said “Yes.” My husband arrived home from work with our very own shiny, brand-new composter.

He assembled it and I stood back to take it its beauty. Sexy black plastic, making miracles in our yard. Our do-gooder composter days began again. Yes, going out to the composter involved a little more effort than throwing avocado pits and carrot stems into the kitchen trash can, but composting is good for the earth. I felt noble.

One day I opened the door on top of the composter to toss in my husband’s banana peel. I saw legs kicking into the air as something dove into the mess of rotting vegetable remnants. I shrieked “rat!” and raced past my husband, heart beating wildly. It was HIS banana peel—I don’t even eat them!—and yet I was the one terrorized by rat feet. My altruistic feelings fermented into indignation. This wasn’t supposed to happen! Perhaps I was a bit naïve, but it hadn’t occurred to me that rats might A) exist near our house, and B) want to eat egg shells and coffee grounds. Plus, it seemed downright unreasonable: if you’re doing a good deed (composting) you’re not supposed to get the life scared out of you by kicking rat feet, presumably attached to a large, venomous, fast-moving rat!

A week or two passed and I guess my guard came down again. I innocently approached the composter and once again, inside it I saw RAT! Again, I shrieked for the hubby. It was grossly unfair that I was always the one who had rat sightings. Everyone knows that Rat Situations are the domain of those with the Y-chromosome. Obviously.

But thankfully, the rat situation calmed down. We haven’t had a sighting in many months. Still, as I brought our composting material to the backyard yesterday, I rehearsed my plan. Here is my routine: when my container of apple cores and orange peels (etc) gets full, I take a deep breath and head toward our composter. I step on dried leaves on the way there, so that any rat diners will hear me coming and leave before I get there. I tap on the lid of the composter a few times (a courteous “knock, knock, anyone home?” type of thing). I wait a second, which is only polite, as even a rat needs a minute sometimes. I figure a decent pause would give him time to swallow his bite and haul rat ass. So far, my system works. No more rat sightings for me. Maybe it’s only coincidence, but maybe my Rat Respect Program is paying off. Now if only I could get a handle on the gopher who has been squatting in the yard…

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