Posted tagged ‘hamsters’

“Always be smarter than the people who hire you.”

July 14, 2017

The windows and doors are all closed. The day is dark, damp and chilly. When I took Gracie out earlier and waited until she was done, I got cold. I was thinking sweatshirt weather. It may rain.

The first summer I ever worked was just after high school. With college in the fall, I had no choice but to get a job. I worked at Woolworth’s in Hyannis, a huge store on Main Street. I had no specific job title but moved from the cash register to counter after counter except for the lunch counter. I spent the most time in the corner where the small animals were housed. My job was to clean the hamster and mouse cages, feed the fish and refill the inventory. It sounds like a gross job, but I was by myself and seldom bothered by the manager which made it ideal. I learned to separate the mother and the babies from other hamsters because if the mother got nervous she’d eat her babies. They were ugly babies. Most of them lived but I never took credit for raising the inventory. Once I worked the souvenir counter which was filled with the tackiest souvenirs, most made in China. A guy once came and bought something then tried to scam me with dollar bills. He kept a running commentary of the amount of money between us hoping I’d get distracted or confused so he could trade a few dollars for a 20. It didn’t happen. He took off quickly when I called for the manager. My favorite part of that job was the lunch counter where I ate most days. The hot dogs in the grilled rolls were my favorites.

Every other summer I worked in the Hyannis post office. It was good money in those days. My job was to sort piles of mail into smaller piles of mail for specific destinations. I started working the primary board where all the mail started. I had a rubber thumb to help me sort the mail. The stool was angled toward the board. The slots in the board were open in the back but had some rope across so the mail wouldn’t fall on the floor. Sorters would come and take the mail back to their boards for further sorting. The mail for sorting came in two foot trays. The worst was a tray of postcards. I swear there were thousands of them on a single tray. I did have some fun as any postcard which had a message but wasn’t addressed I’d sent to a friend or a neighbor. Postcards with postage due also got sent. The worst thing about those post cards was when they were cancelled. Because they were so thin, a pile would go through the machine at the same time and only the first postcard would be cancelled. I was a quick sorter so the foreman would bring me the postcards. I told him they’d better be cancelled. Many weren’t so I just tossed them on the floor. They piled around my stool. The foreman would come, say nothing, pick up the postcards and put them through the cancelling machine again. The last summer I worked there, going into my senior year in college, I was offered a full time job. I didn’t take it.

I spent the next summer in Ghana.

“I don’t believe in reincarnation, and I didn’t believe in it when I was a hamster.”

February 4, 2013

About an inch of snow fell last night. With the sun glinting off the ice crystals, the morning is a pretty one, but it’s cold out. I swept the snow from the walk and my car windows, got the paper then ran inside to the warmth of the house. I’ll have to venture onto the deck later as the feeders are empty.

No mouse was in the trap this morning though the trap had been sprung, but the peanut butter was still there so one of the cats could very well have been the culprit as the trap is so sensitive to touch. I’ll reset the trap and put it back in the eaves, but I haven’t found a mouse in a few days. Gracie is a bit disappointed. She enjoys her late evening mouse runs. The last mouse was my favorite. It was let loose near some woods and to get there it ran, hopped, ran and hopped again. I watched it until it disappeared into the woods. As always, I wished it well.

I had hamsters once. The guy at the pet store swore they were both males; he was half right. Those hamsters had several babies, but I did find homes and then put the two of them in separate cages. Those cages were in my bedroom. The female hamster learned how to open the cage and escaped often even after we closed it with more wire. One of the cats captured that hamster and was playing with it in the bathtub. The hamster would try and climb the side to get away, and the cat would bring it right back. It was like the Myth of Sysyphus without the rock. My mother saved the hamster which, you find later in the story, was a bit ironic. I had one of those furry rugs popular in the 60’s. It was a round one on the floor in my bedroom. The rug was bright pink. The hamster pulled it close to the cage and chewed off a section of the rug for her nest. It was one pretty colorful nest, and I had a rug with a circular piece missing. People saw the rug with the missing piece but never asked. I would have been curious. Eventually the male hamster died and the female escaped. It lived somewhere in the house, but we didn’t find it until later, until its demise. The hamster had been living behind the stove, and when my mother turned on the stove one time, the hamster, the same one my mother had saved, bit into a wire and was electrocuted. We called my mother the Lord High Executioner for a while. She never really warmed to that name.