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When I told my friends I was moving into a pre-war building, they warned me about the host of creatures that likely colonized the crumbling, decades-old walls.
Being told about the horrors is never the same as living with them.
To begin with, there were all kinds of strange bugs crawling on the floors and walls: Some were oval-shaped with vast numbers of legs, some resembled daddy long legs’ on steroids and others were three times the size of house flies, buzzing around our heads like helicopters.
Since I had never seen them before, I didn’t know which brand of bug spray would work. So I bought several all-purpose insect traps and put them in the nooks and crannies of my apartment. I also made sure to always have the screens down. These two things dramatically decreased my creepy-crawly population.
Then there were the pigeon mites – or at least my fear of them. Since I was located on the second floor next to a ledge, three of my windows were unusable due to a flock of pigeons.
Also, I wanted to place an air conditioner in one of the windows, and I was worried that pigeon mites would get in the filters, spew into the apartment and make me sick. For the first few days, I crawled out the window to sweep away all the droppings. A mere hour later, the situation was dire again.
Window screens prevented molting feathers and various twigs from entering my home. I noticed that many of the other residents had bought bird strips. The metal wires prevented the birds from nesting directly on my windowsill or near my air conditioner.
There was still one creature that outsmarted me.
I was sitting in my living room when I thought I saw a large dust bunny blow across the floor. When my eyes focused and I realized it what it was, I was too shocked to scream or do anything. It apparently felt the same. We had a two-minute stare-off before the mouse scurried away into the wall.
My roommate and I plugged up every crack in the wall with caulk and put heavy boxes or items in front of each spot even if it seemed too small for a mouse to enter.
Then we saw the mouse frolicking on top of our stove. We realized it was coming in through a gap in the wall behind the stove, entering the stove through a whole in the back of the appliance, crawling up through the wiring and out the top.
We had a huge debate over how to kill it.
Our landlord would send an exterminator once a month and only if there were enough people who signed up.
Out came the glue traps. Though our trespasser showed interest in both the cheese and peanut butter we put on top, it was somehow able to traverse the pad without getting stuck.
“Don’t worry, it’s better that you have a mouse!” interjected a dining companion one night after overhearing my roommate and I debate our options.
“Why?” I asked.
“Well, mice are relatively clean. It’s only when your mouse disappears that you have to get worried, because chances are a rat, which carries all kinds of diseases, ate him. “
The mouse disappeared on its own a couple weeks later.
Maybe he found a better place.
Michelle Castillo moved to Manhattan last fall to attend Columbia University's Journalism School and currently works as a freelance writer covering entertainment for the TodayShow.com and MSNBC.com. Rental Rookie is a twice-monthly column chronicling her first year as a renter in NYC.
See all Rental Rookie columns here.