Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Stupid Things I Have Done: Rat Smuggling

My baby, 1978.
I began my short career as a smuggler in college. While a few friends and at least one family member were smuggling more lucrative contraband from across the Gulf Of Florida, I went off to school in my Gremlin.
(All right, you can stop the snickering right now! The abuse that Gremlins get in the current media will be the subject of some future post. It was a fun zippy car.)
I lived in a dorm on the UWF campus in Pensacola during my college days. The dorm rules did not allow pets ... maybe fish, but no fellow mammals. I found this rule to be ... uncomfortable, and it wasn't too long before I was looking for a way around it.
After some thought, the solution practically fell into my lap. The local pet store had a special on young pet rats and a cute little black and white one caught my eye. I was on a student's budget, so I bought a tiny 5 gallon aquarium (no top ... important point) instead of a proper rat cage to house "Ratty".
This small abode was also easily concealed if Joan, the dorm R.A. dropped in for a visit.
I did not know at the time that male rats stink and are therefore hard to conceal.
Ratty lived in my room, incommunicado, for a few months before becoming harder to keep secret and Joan was giving me the impression that she knew about his presence, so I decided to take him home when Thanksgiving break came around.
Eventually, it did.
The night before break, I loaded the Gremlin with all my dirty laundry, etc. I had one morning class the next day and then I was free to drive hundreds of miles back to St. Augustine. The Gremlin was in a shady spot, so that night I also snuck Ratty's aquarium with Ratty out to the car and loaded it into the back seat. The aquarium was leaning a little in the sloping seat, so I laid a Marine Invertebrate Zoology textbook over the top with a little gap for air.
The next morning, after class, I flew out to the Gremlin and hopped in for the long ride home. I glanced in the back to check on Ratty ... the aquarium was empty.
I hopped back out and did a thorough search of the car, shoving clothes around, moving shoes, books, etc.
No Ratty.
"Well, he has to be in here somewhere ... he'll probably pop out somewhere while I'm driving and I'll catch him"
After all, it was a seven hour drive ... he was bound to turn up at some point.
I fired up the mighty Gremlin and pulled out of the dorm parking lot.
During the ride from Pensacola to St. Augustine I kept one eye on the road and one roving around the Gremlin, seeking Ratty. Alas, the hours of asphalt crept by and there was no sign of the rat. Eventually, I pulled into the front yard of my boyhood home and was greeted with joyous hugs from my folks and then I unloaded my stuff, carefully searching for the rat as I did.
When the Gremlin was empty, I decided to leave one door ajar. At least the poor thing could get out. I left the door open all night. Not a good solution for a domestic rat, but at least he'd have a chance outside, vs. roasting in a closed up car the next morning.
Thanksgiving vacation went great, lots of high school friends were home for the holidays and all too soon it was over. The rat had never shown up, I figured Ratty had escaped out the open door during the night.
With the holiday over, I drove the long Interstate 10 corridor back to Pensacola ... ratless ... I thought.
Living on campus, in good ol' dorm 68, I didn't use my car for days at a time. Sometimes a whole week would go by before I needed to go into town for anything.
Ya gotta eat tho, so I headed out to the parking lot after having been home for a week. When I got to the gremlin, large blue bottle type flies were crawling all over the window glass. That was odd, but what was odder was the fact that they were inside my car.
I opened the door, shewed them out, and drove into town to the Delchamps grocery store. I picked up my $40 worth of weekly groceries and headed back to the dorm. The flies had already been tucked away in the back of my brain as just another oddity of life.
Fast forward about three days. I was going off campus again so I headed out to the gremlin. Imagine my surprise to find more of the big flies inside the car. I opened the door and a musty stench rose to greet me.
Now, it dawned on me that maybe the rat had not made it out of the car back in St. Augustine.
It was pretty stuffy in the car so I started it up and turned on the air conditioning. To get the stink out as fast as possible, I turned the fan control to maximum. As cool air began flowing out of the two dash vents so did hordes of maggots.
Big ones.
Now I knew where Ratty was.
For the next week, I made daily trips out to the Gremlin to air it out and toss maggots out onto the asphalt. After a while, a long while with no dates, the stench level dropped to bearable.
It actually got to the point (about a year later) that I didn't notice it anymore unless I turned on the heater. When the heater was on, a faint musty odor would flow from the vents, giving me cause to remember poor Ratty and my first fairly unsuccessful attempt at smuggling.
Lucky me, in Florida we don't use the car heater much. If we did maybe I would have thought twice about my second, more challenging attempt at smuggling in the dorm.
But, that's another story.
Emma darling, if you are reading this from your dorm at USF, remember to do as I say, not as I do ... er, did.


Anonymous said...

Dear FC- I know you and Thunder dicussed this incident last week, but my question is...was he your roomate at the time? He's such a perfectionist I find it hard to imagine him sharing a room with a "stinky" rat!

Sharon said...

Aaargh!!! This is almost as bad as when Greg Brady wiped out on his surfboard in Hawaii and I had to wait a whole week to find out if he lived! :)

robin andrea said...

Oh no! A cliff-hanger! You remind me of a time my parents went to a local bakery and bought some fresh bread and boxed pastries. They put the stuff in the back seat and headed home. A mouse popped out of the bread bag and started running around the car, while they were driving down the highway. My mom tried to stand on her seat. The mouse climbed up my dad's pant leg, and then back down. When they got home, we all went out to find that little interloper, but never did.

Mrs Mecomber said...


Was the pet's name really "Ratty"?

Doug Taron said...

The suspense is killing me here. Also, in 1978 I was driving- a Gremlin. It was the car I learned to drive in and I loved it.

threecollie said...

"RAT" "CUTE"...in the same sentence!!???!!!

Anonymous said...

A "forest" green gremlin and a pet rat named "ratty". So even in college you were cool.:)

And BTW, there is a trailor hitch on the back of the Gremlin? Ours couldn't pull It's own weight.

kathy a. said...

yeah, leave us hanging....

Thunder Dave said...

OK, the one thing I'll give you is that the Gremlin was a pretty comfortable (and cheap) ride from PCB to StA!

Oh and I do remember the rest of this story! LOL

Deb said...

Hey, at least it wasn't a Pacer!

I took my driver's test in a 1977 Hornet, another AMC wonder. In college I drove a '78 Volare. Ah, those cars of the seventies.

Floridacracker said...

The year before.

I fixed it.

LOL picturing that car ride!

Mrs. Mecomber,
Yup. Pretty creative, huh?

Thank you for that validation. They WERE fun zippy cars with huge gas tanks.

You have to hold them just right and squint ...

Way cool :)
I hauled boats and even a small camper trailer into the Smoky Mtns with that Gremlin.

Kathy A,
Completely accidental cliffhanger this morning, I thought I could do it before breakfast.

She was a fine lass.

Oh no, anything but a Pacer. Those 70's cars did not last long, but they came in interesting shapes.

Sharon said...

Ugh. At least Greg survived. Poor Ratty. ;) I've not had that in a car, but I've had one go to the rainbow bridge while in my ductwork in the house. I know that hot-dead-rat smell all to well!

SophieMae said...

RATS! Now I miss my old green Gremlin. Even more, I miss the '72 Javelin I traded it in on.

I've done some stupid things in/with vehicles, but even driving my RAM into a water-filled pothole wasn't as bad as your dead rat. At least the crawdad that blew out of the tailpipe was still kickin'.

threecollie said...

Oh, lord...reminds me of the guy I dated whose job involved burying dead things (not people). He left his shoes hidden under the seat of his mama's fancy new car. They LOOKED all right.

elpbulls said...

It's a good thing you included that disclaimer because corinne and I were just discussing the possibilty of getting away with a furry friend. We found an article online about mini pigs, which are pretty much the cutest things ever, and only get about a fifth the size of a regular pig. We bought a small plant but its just not doing the trick! Love you can't wait to see you soon!!


kathy a. said...

FC -- so, i'm guessing people suddenly stopped asking to catch a ride in the ratmobile?

emma -- go for it! i'm pretty sure nobody would even know the pig is there, being so tiny and everything.

we once had an illegal goldfish in the dorm room. it committed sewer-cide, though. jumped down the top drain of the sink while we changed the bowl one night. [for some reason, campus security did not consider this an emergency requiring them to call the 24-hour plumber.]

Floridacracker said...

Hot, dead rat has a certain, special fragrance ... very unforgettable.

Wow a Javelin was a real muscle car.Cool.
Take it easy on your new baby.

I'm thinking he heard about it from Momma.

Mini pigs that aren't those hideous pot-bellied things? Real pig shaped mini's?
I'm interested.
Here, not in the dorm ... you rascals.
Love ya.
Love you too Corrinacita.

Kathy A,
Definitely reduced the "need a ride into town requests". I guess the campus security never owned a gold fish.

ImagineMel said...

great, now I have to go Google mini pigs...thanks ELP! ;)

Floridacracker said...

Me too.

elpbulls said...

No Mini pigs were created when pot bellied started to go out of style for obviouse reasons. They look just like regular pigs only there tiny and can be house trained. Heres a link http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/devon/7044897.stm !! There adorable!
Love ya

Cathy said...

That is the damnedest story I've encountered in a long time. One of those laugh or cry, but why not both tales.

I've missed so much here, FC. So much :0)