Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

In-room wildlife makes for an exciting morning

We were 16 American men and women having breakfast on the boat while waiting to disembark. We were ages 22 to 84; I was the only person from Missouri and the oldest woman, age 67. We were the first open-to-the-public group of bicycle tourists after the organizers’ tour. It had taken two years for American Youth Hostels Inc. and All China Youth Federation to arrange this 11-day event in 1981.

The trip leader handed out orange safety vests and white T-shirts for our bicycling on not-very-busy, narrow blacktop roads. The message on the back of our shirts was "Please Drive Safely," written in Chinese characters, of course. Our leader reviewed the instructions: no halter-tops or short shorts, no expensive gifts, do nothing offensive or dangerous.

She introduced two interpreters who would be available 24 hours a day, and she warned, "Don’t eat any foods not prepared in the hotel - except bananas, oranges, peanuts and other things in their natural protective ‘shells.’ "

Then she added, "Don’t take any food to your rooms. It might attract the rats."

A week later we were on the fourth floor of a hotel that had an outside patio entrance where the building almost touched a vertical rock bluff. We sunned on that patio and dried some light laundry before bedtime.

Farmer-like, I woke at 5 o’clock each day. In the bathroom, I was startled to see a rat racing around the floor and up the door facing! What to do?

First, I shut him up in the bathroom till I could warn the two sleeping girls. Maybe I could get rid of him before they woke. But how?

The rat and I eyed each other, and he scampered to a stack of clean towels on a foot stool. He rooted in between towels and was almost completely hidden.

I quietly left the room, closing the door behind me, and brought my camera back, ready to snap the shutter. The rat was still hidden in the towels. With the bathroom door closed again, I shook him out, and he scampered up the door frame and rested at the top, eyeing me. I snapped!

I flailed at him with a towel, and he came down. I grabbed an empty blue plastic wastebasket and tried to clamp it down over the rat; that wasn’t easy.

The first time I got near enough, I clamped him under the edge, and he squealed; I released him at once and tried over and over to catch him.

Finally, I had him trapped under the basket, but it was right in front of the only door. I slowly scooted the basket while holding it down to the floor.

I moved the rat and the wastebasket into a corner, then I put the foot stool upside-down on the basket. I then forced myself to stay awake to warn the girls.

"Don’t move the blue wastebasket," I said, "There’s a rat underneath."

Of course, they wanted to see it, and there were two women in our group who had asked earlier, "Has anybody seen a rat? We want to see what they look like."

After breakfast I told them to come to our room if they wanted to see the rat. We paraded down the hall to our room.

"Stand back," I said, "I’m going to let him out."

They wouldn’t come into the bathroom; all were peeking around the door sill. I tipped the basket, and the rat flew through the door.

The women went screaming down the hallway, and the rat streaked out the patio door, which we left open after bringing in the laundry.

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