By M. Roanoke
The reference to Cinderella always raised questions, and I probably could have thought of a more apt comparison. But it really did remind me of Cinderella, so whenever we all started talking about the mice, I always said that the ones in E Wing were “like Cinderella or some shit. They would just come hang out, offer to help us do our work, like they are BOLD (motherfuckers) over there.”
That whole building had mice, but E Wing was the worst. On the North side, they only ever came out after dark, like if you were working late or something. And they mostly stuck to the shadows. Every once in a while you would see one, but just out of the corner of your eye before they scurried back to their little mice homes or whatever.
Now, sometimes, even on the North side, people would see a mouse that had been caught in a glue trap. These traps were the devil’s work, and I never requested one. I didn’t like the idea of it, and people who used them confirmed that they were both gross and sad.
One lady said that mice don’t like peppermint oil, and this seemed made up, but we wanted to believe her, so we went with it. There were a bunch of ladies who used peppermint oil to keep the mice away, and I liked all of them. You could talk to them about things like TV shows, and your mom or your pets or whatever. They liked to sigh and shake their heads at the dumb shit we put up with, but none of them were really all that upset. Yes, this company was the worst, but these ladies knew (the way I knew) that we got to spend our whole day inside, off our feet, take actual breaks, more or less whenever you wanted, and nobody spying on you or tracking you down to the minute. So all told, it’s right to be disappointed with this place, but there are way worse jobs out there.
Besides, the whole mice thing was partly on us. I mean, we all knew you don’t keep food in your desk. But it’s like masks and all this other shit we see every day (some people just won’t do even one tiny thing to make everybody’s life better).
At any rate, people would keep food in their desk, and mice would take advantage, covertly, politely, and that was the worst they ever got on the North side. Unsettling, but not nearly as bad as the bathroom situation IN GENERAL, or the time everything started smelling like gasoline and we all got really bad headaches, and nobody knew what to do so we just left fans blowing until the smell went away.
But E Wing mice were playing an entirely different game. I only worked there for four months, when I got temporarily reassigned because a bunch of people quit all at once. The whole situation kind of sucked, so somehow it wasn’t surprising to find that the mice over there were living their best life. As I said, it was like fucking Cinderella or some shit. They had no shame, no fear. They lived out and proud, practically throwing parades in the middle of our workspace.
Everybody said it was because we were reorganizing the area; we’d disturbed their little ecosystem when we started moving filing cabinets and shelves and stuff. But I’m pretty sure the issue was just that there were so many fucking mice.
Not that they were the worst thing about E Wing. The work was boring, and I was bad at it, and my boss was a twin, which kind of freaked me out. Also, I somehow developed allergies, even though it wasn’t hay fever season, and I’d never had allergies before to anything except maybe cats. Well, it felt like I had allergies, but when I went to the doctor, she basically said it was all in my head, and asked me if I’d been “under a lot of stress,” to which I replied (with my eyes) “motherfucker I cannot breathe right, I am sneezing all the goddamn time, you think these are fucking stress sneezes?”
So that cost $400 and for what? To further erode my trust in western medicine? (Don’t worry, I’m fully vaxxed).
Anyway they hired more people, and I was able to go back to the North Side and a few months later I was all better, so I mostly forgot about the whole thing. Until like YEARS later, they temporarily shut down the entire South side, including E Wing, because the air contained dangerous levels of “mice allergens.” So, turns out I was not crazy, I was just sick from breathing in mouse shit all day.
Absolutely fucking disgusting, right, but no permanent harm done, and this ended up being a pretty solid office story. For one thing, it highlighted the fact that the company fully sucks. But it also implied that North side employees were better, since we all worked on the less disgusting side of the building.
M. Roanoke (they/them) is a queer bureaucrat and folk artist based in Kansas City, Missouri. Their work generally focuses on queerness, the subtly outrageous, and our shared attempts to manipulate the moral arc of the universe.