Wednesday, December 1, 2010

avoiding bad things

A bit of thinking-on-paper today to share with Emily's Imperfect Prose on Thursdays

I'll go to just about any ends to avoid mice. Before I moved to the Dar, I'd heard more than enough horror stories of the little critters that terrorise the house where I live. Among the stories included blackness of droppings on bednets, rats making their home in someone's suitcase, and a bite on the toe of someone when sitting at her desk.

These stories almost convinced me not to come. I suppose it is a phobia, because if those things happened to me, I'm quite sure I'd curl into a little huddle in the corner and never actually do anything. But I was assured things had improved, and I told myself it was a stupid reason to stay away. Then I sucked in my breath, said a prayer, asked everyone I know to pray for me and the mice, then hopped on a plane.

I've been tremendously fortunate and must believe the prayer has done its job, because so far my bed is clean and my feet are in one piece. Nonetheless, I have gone to great lengths to protect myself - obsessively, you might say. My colleagues helped me out by filling a big black garbage bag with sand, which I put up against my door on the floor. This fills in the open crack of space through which little guys might sneak in to my room. One day I woke up and saw a gift left behind by a critter and mobilised more plastic sheeting protection for my room. I keep my blankets high on my bed, always sleep under covers even if it the heat is sweltering, only open my windows when I'm in the room and can monitor what goes in and out, play music so I won't hear any scratching, and wrap my food in plastic, burlap and more plastic before storing it. Yeah, I'm obsessed.

But it's worth it for the sense of security I feel. And that sense of security makes it possible for me to face each day's non-rodent-related challenges with gusto.

And, I'm well aware that if avoiding the rodents were truly my top priority in life, I would not have accepted this job in the first place: this job not only puts me in the line of little puttering feet, but it also subjects me to plenty of other potential awfulnesses that don't even make the news anymore because they've become repetitive.

Meanwhile, I've been thinking a great deal lately about risks that we take, and risks that we seem to think we can fully mitigate. And the price we pay for mitigating them.

I definitely lose time and a little bit of resources minimising the risk of rodent hazards. But I'd be an idiot to think I'm saving myself entirely. I know this, and I feel peace that I've hit my happy balance. My housemates doubtless think I go too far, but in my heart I know this is right for me.

Meanwhile, some of the other risk mitigation rules imposed on me do not feel like they are worth the price. For example, avoiding fraud in the workplace: call me twisted, but some of the fraud-mitigation rules seem to prohibit getting our work done. The only way to really ensure we will have no fraud is to shut down our office. So instead of creating all these inhibiting rules, why don't we just shut down?

Similarly, the several dozen signatures required to do any activity feel a little too obsessive. Lately I feel like I spend more time getting approvals than I spend doing stuff. The reason for this is to ensure that everyone understands and agrees with what we're doing. Fair enough. But if all these signatures mean we can't do it, maybe we should just plan not to do it from the start?

Then again, if I really wanted to avoid the mice, I should have just stayed home, right?


David N. said...

Should we mail you a cat, perhaps? I'm sure it would get through customs.

Mommy Emily said...

good on you, girl, for not letting your phobias keep you from doing life. but i agree with david. we need to mail you a cat. :)

Carrie Van Horn said...

Hope all goes well for you, and that maybe you could get a cat...:-)

Courtney Walsh said...

oooh, I'm with you on the mice. I have heard stories of them running across people's bare feet and I shudder in fear. Something about the little buggers!! I hope you can stay clear of them!

Unknown said...

I am looking at the pictures with the rainbow and I am thinking that you must be really cool. Who wants a mouse chewing on her toe?

joanna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
joanna said...

I say mice gnawing toes, is not in fashion,,, totally agree, but they are rather cute looking with their little ears, and all,,,

Oh the topic, mice rats, and other creepy crawly things hate steel wool -- it cuts their mouth which leaves them as prey,,, not to be desriptive of inflicting pain on one of God's creature, the little ones know enough to stay away -- its the one thing they can't build up an immunity and eat around or avoid.... works better then a cat who can only get one -- either that or get a snake they say 'king' snakes get the whole nest.

good luck


Kati patrianoceu said...

Thanks all, for your sympathies. To those of you who suggest a cat... we have had a stray visit our compound several times in the last few weeks. We're trying to figure out how to get it to stay: feed it enough to stick around but not so much that it doesn't have a huge appetite for the little guys! If all goes well, I'll have that last most important protection in place!!

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