Of man, mouse and dirty politics

Recyled politics: This is the view mice now encounter when they look up at the back of the dishwasher in my home.

SELDOM a day passes that another smart technology isn’t launched. But, every so often, Mother Nature pulls in to remind us who really runs the show. Late last year, the Wall Street Journal revealed that, in the US, “smart corn” developed by agricultural biotechnology company Monsanto had fallen victim to the rootworm it was engineered to resist. Just as antibiotics can’t be formulated fast enough to keep pace with nature’s ability to resist them, super-worms are fighting back.

But it wasn’t a worm that caused worry in the works in my home recently; it was a mouse.

Because I’m borderline obsessive-compulsive, the most valued piece of equipment in my kitchen is the dishwasher. Before my mother-in-law gave it to me years ago, whenever I spotted an unwashed piece of crockery or cutlery, I cleaned it. (Although Dutch, my husband’s mother is more laid back than a Capetonian after a massage and a bottle of wine on a Friday, and she has pity for my neurosis.) With a dishwasher, dirty things are out of sight, which means I’m chilled. It’s a big deal.

So when I turned the switch one night and the machine spluttered, choked and died, it constituted a crisis. By 8am the next day, I had an expert dismantling it. The diagnosis wasn’t good.

“You have a mouse,” he said, in a strangely accusing tone. He shook his head at the convoluted network of multicoloured wires, pipes and connectors. “It went crazy. There’s nothing I can do.”

This was the work of a hard-core rodent. It hadn’t just bitten through stuff, it had removed large sections of the cabling, gnawed holes in thick pipes and ripped out connectors.

“Throw it away. Buy a new one. The cost of my labour alone will be more than replacing it,” said the repairman. I was already shopping for a new machine — that is, asking the people of Twitter to recommend the best buy — when my husband got home.

Ever reluctant to spend money quickly on anything other than devices that’ll make his superbike go faster, he took up where the other guy left off. After two days with his head and upper torso inside the machine and 11 trips to the hardware store, he reinstalled the washer and looked on proudly as it hummed happily.

“No mouse will get the better of me,” he bragged.

But the next day the machine was dead again. Sure enough, the mouse had sidestepped the trap we’d set and consumed more electrics as if sucking up spaghetti. This was a declaration of war. Once again the machine was dismantled and my husband disappeared inside. He emerged hours later, looking smug once more.

“He won’t dare go into the machine again,” he said. “I called in the big guns.”

Mr Smarter-Than-a-Mouse had blocked access to the workings by creating a double barrier at the back of the machine using a plywood campaign poster I’d found in the street after the most recent municipal elections. President Jacob Zuma beamed forth. And indeed, having combined technology and politics, we’ve had no more trouble from the mouse.

(This article was first published as my column on technology on the Business Life page of Business Day in March 2012.)

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About Administrator

Freelance writer based in Hout Bay near Cape Town in South Africa.
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