Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Shalom Shachne's Guide to Household Pests - Israel Edition

From Shalom Shachne:

As in every other facet of Israel, things are different than what we are used to in USA.  This includes the varieties of household pests.  Some of those are more familiar to Americans, for example, the ubiquitous pigeons roosting on roofs and balconies of all the houses in our neighborhood.  However, nothing we had in Massachusetts compares to a quiet, yet always unexpected house guest: the lizard.  Or more specifically, the gecko.

Geckos, are kind of cute, although a bit eery, due to their very large eyes.  And when they unexpectedly run across the floor of your house, your initial thought is that you just saw a centipede out of the corner of your eye.  However, once you focus on the little critter, you realize that all the legs you thought you saw are really just a set of four moving really fast.

Hemidactylus mabouia (i.e. gecko) courtesy of Wikipedia

I've tried to convince the girls that having a lizard in the house is actually kind of cool.  (When I was a kid, I always wanted to have various types of lizards as pets.  And actually, our former housemates, Howard and Paul Savin who had the bedroom next mine in our house in West Windsor NJ, had a family of garter snakes as pets in a terrarium in their room.)  But my best efforts are to no avail, and inevitably there is a lot of screaming when a gecko is unexpectedly encountered inside the house.

To their credit, the girls feel a lot more sympathy for these guys when they are outdoors.  We recently had one take up residence in the archway outside our front door.  I haven't seen her in a while, but she used to come out night and hang upside down in the archway.  The girls got kind of used to her, and we nicknamed her Lizzie, in honor of Miss Frizzle's lizard mascot (in the Magic School Bus series).  Penina especially got attached to Lizzie, and we used to open the door at night to watch her crawl around upside down.

In an effort to further increase Penina's good feelings toward our reptilian friends, one night as we were watching Lizzie, I told Penina:  "You know lizards are really good, because they eat bugs".  (And probably the only thing that makes my daughters scream more than lizards are bugs: moths, beetles, what have you.)  Sure enough, no sooner had the words come out, when an innocent little moth fluttered down on the archway to bask in the glow of the outdoor light bulb.  And, as following the script perfectly, Lizzie, made a quick lurch toward the moth and swallowed it whole before our very eyes.  Point made...

Our story begins a few weeks ago, when poor Ilana, feeling very over tired, was making her way upstairs to bed, when she let out a blood curdling scream.  I ran out of my office (working at night as usual) to find out what happened.  Through the sobs, I made out the words "centipede" and immediately suspected one of our little gecko friends.  After a few minute stake-out, my suspicions were confirmed, when I saw a tiny gecko, not much bigger than top joint of my index finger, scurrying around on the landing.

It was fruitless for me to continue trying to convince Ilana that she should not be scared of such a tiny creature.  (And a very cool lizard type of tiny creature at that!).  And despite marshaling my best arguments, all 3 girls were now huddled on the sofas refusing to let their feet touch the floor until our lizard problem was solved. 

So I had to somehow catch it and remove it from the house.  (For those of you who have been in our house, you know that I do not like to kill any pest, and always do my best to catch them alive and release them back to the "wild".)   But this little fella was really fast, and I wasn't sure how to get him. 

So we turned to that great solver all problems, the Internet.  Chana Googled how to catch a lizard, and turned up the sage advice to try to entice to run into a box.  We happened to just have an empty box of Ortega Taco Shells handy in the kitchen.  (Disclaimer: no money was received for product placement in this blog post.)  So I put the empty taco shell box near the tiny gecko, who was otherwise trapped against the wall under the bookcase on the landing.

Much to my amazement, the little fella was completely cooperative.  After a short moment of indecision, he scurried into the box, and waited there patiently while I ran around trying to find something to seal the open end of the box.  I transported him safely out the front door, and he was eventually convinced to run out of the box to freedom.

Sensing a good system here, I saved the taco box in my office for future episodes.  Score another win for the Internet.

A few nights ago, (Thursday night to be exact), I was working in my office when I saw out of the corner of my eye, what looked like a centipede running across the floor of my office.  (At this point you are all trained to understand that centipede is what people of slow reflexes and vision see when a gecko is in the house.)   Since my office is filled with all sorts of delightful devices and stray possessions (including a set of barbells left to me by a former employee), I didn't have any illusions that it would be easy to do a repeat performance.

However, I set my trusty taco box by the back of the bookshelf where I last saw my friend dart.  This gecko was a bit bigger than the last one, about the length of my middle finger, and I was also concerned he might put up more of a fight.  After a few minutes lackluster chasing around the office, I decided to let bygones be bygones, and get back to work, while my gecko friend did whatever he had to do.   After a few hours, I didn't see him any more, and I optimistically thought that perhaps he had gone back out of the house the same way he had gotten in.

Motzei Shabbos, while Ellen was cleaning the Shabbos dishes and I was in my office learning Daf Yomi, I heard a yelp from Ellen saying that she saw a (you guessed it), centipede.  I called out to let her know it was just a lizard, not to worry.  Sure enough, she confirmed the lizard hypothesis shortly afterward.

A few hours later, after everyone had gone to bed, while I was finishing up in the living room.  I saw the gecko (same one from my office on Thursday.  I'm sure of it), proudly standing in the middle of the living room, as if he owned the place.  I rushed to do battle with my trusty taco box, however, similar to my office, the living room also has lots of juicy places to hide, where a determined little lizard can squeeze into a small space out of reach of the humane but equally determined opponent.

This time there was no cooperative traipsing into the taco box, and despite my skillful placement of the taco box by each of his hideouts, the little bugger instead ran from one place to the next with impunity.   Finally, he made a serious blunder, running to hide by my sefarim bookshelf, behind the twin owls floor statue.  Here everything was flush against the wall.  "Ho-ho, I've got you!", I thought.  However, he again evaded the taco box, and made another dash for it.  However, making a "V" of my feet (heels together, toes out), I trapped him as if in a very short taco box, shaped like a pair of shoes.

At this point I wasn't sure what to do, and was contemplating just plucking him up into my hands.  However, he made the first move, and decided for whatever reason to climb onto the side of my shoe.  I had a brief moment of panic as I imagined him running up my leg inside my pants.  But, thank G-d, he seemed well contented just to cling to the side of my foot.

Sensing imminent victory, I began gingerly walking to the front door, being careful not to put my foot down in such a way as to crush Mr. Gecko.  I walked as quickly as possibly, given my gecko-burdened food.  It seemed like time was of the essence, since at any moment, I was sure he would leap off and we would begin the chase around the living room again.  I got to the front door, which one of my daughters had considerately triple-locked especially to add more time for the lizard to escape, and thankfully made it out the door before he realized what was happening.

After going down two steps, Mr. Gecko decided he had hitched a ride long enough, jumped off, waved goodbye (I think) and was off into the night.
or maybe he's just hanging out on the ceiling right outside our door?!

I have more to say on the subject, but I've just seen a cicada dart across the floor of my office, so I'm going to be otherwise occupied.

שבוע טוב
Shavua Tov
(Have a good week!)


1 comment:

  1. Aba- this was HILARIOUS!!!! (and extremely well written :) I got a big kick out of reading it!!! Thank you for rescuing all lizards and assorted creatures that get into out house