Only on Vashon – The Weekly Rundown 02/11/2024

We start with a problem that I worried was unique to me, but I’m oddly comforted to see that it is endemic to the island: Car rat infestations. 

Yes. Mice have eaten through one of my seatbelts twice. They’ve eaten the seat cushions. They made a nest behind the air filter. The off-island dealership I took it to was appalled and charged me extra for basic maintenance. When I brought the car to Burton Auto, they’d seen this type of thing loads of times and told me to dab lavender oil on my engine. 

We have some advice: “Some people swear by lighting up the car at night. You can use a trouble light in the engine compartment and/or a string of lights on the ground around the car.”  So you can string Christmas lights on your car to make it festive. Maybe even hang some lavender potpourri ornaments. 

But mice are just the start of the problem. One commenter says, “Uptown, under the big Oaks and Chestnuts, we have the same problem with squirrels. I’m so sorry.”

One islander concurs: “we have Douglas squirrels and I’m pretty such they are the ones who put peanut shells in our engine.” Ah, they’re leaving you gifts. The rats who get into my car just leave bits of fluff next to the battery.  

Another possible cure: “Secret ninja Car Cats.” I did once put my cat in my car to stay overnight and catch rats. She caught nothing and gave me a deeply scathing look the next morning, so I never tried again. 

Some say the poster should park in a garage. What a novel idea! I’m sure the poster has a garage and it just never occurred to them to park a car in there.

Others commiserate: “My mum’s Prius was totaled due to Mouse urine. It was so gross. She would never brake to get the smell out. We now use Bounce dryer sheets and cayenne pepper.”

There’s a lot going on here. First, she would never brake? Like, not even at stop lights? How did that help with the smell? Does she think she’d outrun the smell, and if she stopped, the smell would catch up to her? And what kind of odd potpourri is cayenne pepper and dryer sheets? Did she have to drive with her head hanging out the window to avoid getting lightheaded?

As a side note, I’m happy to say there were no complaints this week about people driving too fast or too slow. Perhaps we’ve solved the mystery: people who drive too fast are just unable to brake because of mouse smells, and people who drive too slow aren’t people, but rather a consortium of rats trying as hard as they can to weigh down the gas pedal. 

But let’s get back on track. We find out that we may all be doomed. One person says, “I’m sorry to say it, but if the mice have been there, they will come back. Unfortunately there’s no way around it. They are scent-based creatures and they will return to places they have infested. They will come back and eat the wires. That’s why they determined my car was totaled. Deterrents will work at prevention but if they’ve already infested, there’s no way to get rid of them.” Bummer. Looks like we need to make peace with our vehicular cohabitants. 

Oh wait, we are way more doomed than I thought. One commenter tells us this, which has led me to become one of those people who bikes around with my groceries in a bike trailer. ”The problem isn’t just the electrical damage, visible damage, and smell. That smell proves that your car is saturated with HANTAVIRUS, which is AIRBORNE and has a 38% HUMAN FATALITY RATE. (Hantavirus kills people the same way as COVID–you drown in your own lung fluids–but COVID has just a tiny fraction of that fatality rate.) I’m really sorry to have to say this, but your car can’t be fixed, and you’re taking huge chances with your health even getting into that car for a minute.”

Good thing I hardly ever leave my house, because apparently my car is a death trap waiting to infect me. 

Someone has an old-fashioned way to catch mice: “5 gallon bucket with 5 inches of water and peanut butter. Every day.”  You must have a large engine compartment to fit that in there. 

And it’s not just the wires they’re after. One person has this story: “The mice got in my car and ate my registration. Really sucked when I got pulled over for speeding and handed the cop an eaten up registration lol but all good got my first ticket at 62”

Speaking of eating, someone offered this interesting service: “I’m excited to share a special part of my Craniosacral practice that extends healing touch into a realm often overlooked – the interior of our mouths.”

There’s really someone willing to stick their fingers in the mouths of people infected with hantavirus? They’re going to massage the popcorn kernels and bits of carrot into our gums? It just sounds even worse than touching people’s feet. 

And others are giving away treasures. One person posts: “Free, been in storage. Kinda falling apart. Good art project or?”

Everyone wanted it and it was gone in minutes. Too bad I got to the post too late. It would have gone well with the pair of giant plastic legs my husband brought home one day to, and I quote, “go with the glass head” that he’d gotten at the estate sale the year before. If we got this torso, all we would need were two severed arms, and we’d have a complete person. 

Maybe we could place it in my car and douse it in lavender and deck it out with blinking lights, a sort of scarecrow to keep the mice away. 

Anna Shomsky
Author: Anna Shomsky

I'm a former teacher and a data engineer living on Vashon Island. My writing has appeared in Five on the Fifth, Women on Writing and on the Post-Culture Podcast. I wrote and produced the radio show Whispers of Vashon for 101.9 KVSH. I’ve had short stories published in the anthologies Island Stories and Chicken Scratchings, as well as through the Open Space Literary Project.

1 thought on “Only on Vashon – The Weekly Rundown 02/11/2024”

  1. I had a Toyota Forerunner that I only used seasonally and during 3 months of down time it became the home of a rat family. A litter of little ones were born in the air conditioning system. When I turned it on there were odd noises, the A/C didn’t work properly, and soon an appalling odor made the vehicle not only undriveable, but unapproachable! After a pricey stay at the repair shop, a mechanic showed me the residue of fan-pulverized baby rats on a big plastic A/C housing part he’d removed. It was as horrific as the worst “video nasty” ever. The smell of puréed and baked baby rats persisted for months, like a curse. So def be vigilant re car-camping rats!

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