Etiquette & superstition: letters to pests

Pest: an annoying or troublesome person, animal, or thing; nuisance. Being a pest does not require intention or desire to be a pest. You may be a pest and not even know it. Wouldn’t you rather someone told you?

ETIQUETTE: If you are in a work situation or living environment and you do not know who is stealing everyone’s lunch or leaving junk mail on the lobby floor, it is perfectly fine to post a directly-worded but calm note at the area of offense and not sign your name to it. It’s more of a sign than a note in this case. If you know who the offender is, however, it’s a completely different matter.

If you don’t feel comfortable confronting the offender and their offense is something that is actually interfering with your ability to work or to live comfortably, direct communication is preferred but if you must, find an intermediary. A boss is the appropriate person to talk to if a co-worker’s habits are harassing, unprofessional or intrusive, and an apartment manager is the appropriate person to talk to if a fellow tenant has ignored your previous requests to stop rollerskating in the hallway at 3 a.m. or is leaving his discarded shotgun shells on the floor of the elevator.

A very important point to bring up on this topic, courtesy of Charles Purdy in his quite enjoyable book Urban Etiquette: “… anonymous notes are at best cowardly and at worst threatening: If you can’t attach your name to it, perhaps it shouldn’t be said at all. An unsigned note addressed to a specific person is appropriate only for secret admirers, credit card companies, and kidnappers demanding ransom.”

SUPERSTITION: If you have a rat problem, you should leave a note for the rats. The ancient Greeks recommend a more threatening tone (“… if I ever catch you here again by the Mother of God I will rend you in seven pieces”) than do the countryfolk of the Ardennes or England (more of a “my neighbor has a lot more grain than I do” tack), but the people of New England are particularly New England-y about it. “The letter should indicate precisely the habitation to which they are assigned, and the road to be taken, and should contain such representations of the advantages of the change as may be supposed to affect the intelligence of the animal in question. A sample:

The Greeks say the note should be placed on a rock writing-side up, the Scots think it should be nailed to the wall or placed under the door one expects the rats to exit by, and the Yanks feel it should be folded up neatly and put into the rats’ hole. The Welsh say you should not bother with a request to vacate but instead write out some sort of mysterious “r.a.t.s. a.t.s.r.” acrostic puzzle and shove it into the King Rat’s mouth. I’m not so sure about that last one.

Photo via Boston Public Library feed on Flickr

Cannibals and cannonballs

Benny went to visit a friend of ours this week and I guess the conversation turned to our intermittent but rather disgusting pest problem, because Benny came back with our friend’s solution to cannibal rats in the home. If the previous sentence made you squeamish, you may want to turn back now.

The solution as presented to Benny was thus:

  1. Trap a rat in a standard snap trap.
  2. Await the cannibal rat who wants to eat the rat in the snap trap.
  3. Trap the cannibal rat in a cage.
  4. Feed him until he becomes very large.
  5. Release him back to where the rats hang out.
  6. Let him eat all the other rats.
  7. Problem solved.

Unfortunately, this plan doesn’t seem to me like it would be as smoothly executed as it is laid out, and furthermore I see a much different #7 in this scenario. I don’t think this is the plan for us.

I don’t think the plan for us is the one laid out in this cartoon either, however. Those mini cats are wasting much more food and causing much more damage than that tidy rat with his electric meat slicer.

Published in: on January 16, 2016 at 12:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Etiquette & superstition: cricket

I just realized that there are numerous superstitions about crickets, and I really haven’t written anything about them. There are two reasons for this:

  1. I haven’t been able to find any accompanying etiquette tips relating to crickets, and
  2. the earwigs are back in the house, thus making me completely disgusted with insects of any kind. Really; I just felt something crawling on my leg, and it was an earwig. I threw it across the room and now I have no idea where it is.

Let’s talk about the game of cricket instead.

ETIQUETTE: Cricket, like most sports, has a baffling amount of jargon that makes no sense to the outsider. Reading about cricket etiquette reminds me of that old Bob Newhart comedy sketch where he’s on the phone with Abner Doubleday. The following is a tip that I have seen posted verbatim on several sites on the subject of “Walking when you’re out”: “Sadly this is a tradition that has gone out of the game at the highest level. But there’ll be times when you know you’ve got an edge through to the wicketkeeper that the umpire’s missed. But whether you own up and walk is your decision.” The point deserves an F for grammar and composition, but an A+ for esotericism. I’ll be a professional Full-Frummert before I learn how to play cricket.

SUPERSTITION: The score of 111 is very unlucky in a game of cricket; it is called a Nelson. 222 (a double-Nelson) and 333 (triple-Nelson) are no luckier. There is one professional umpire in the UK who balances on one leg when the score is a Nelson in order to keep bad things from happening during that time. In Australia, the unlucky score is 87.

Sugar sugar

A friend of mine once made a short film in which I played an ants rights advocate. I (as the character) offered my services to homeowners as an alternative to traditional ant extermination techniques by making sugar cube houses and bringing them to the ant infestation site, with the intention of luring the ants away and into their new elaborate sugar cube homes.

At least I thought they were elaborate until I saw artist Brendan Jamison‘s sugarcube sculptures:


Now, those are elaborate. I’m calling him if I actually find myself with an ant problem. He also makes wool staircases and helicopters, which I’m thinking could be quite helpful with moth issues.

Published in: on March 26, 2009 at 11:33 am  Leave a Comment  
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