Winters in Toronto, Ontario like to keep us guessing. Sometimes temperatures are mild and there is hardly any snow. Sometimes the cold is so bitter that you literally can not breathe and the snow-falls are so heavy that they completely bury our cars and houses.
Few years back we had one of those cold, snowy winters. One day I wanted to go shopping but because of the extremely cold weather my car would not start, so I decided to stay warm at home and leave shopping until another day. On the way out of my car I noticed that the rubber cover around my shift-stick had tiny thin slashes all around it. “Very strange” – I thought. “I wonder if the cold made the rubber crack?”.
Not giving it much thought I went back inside the house and soon forgot about the puncture marks on my shift-stick cover. The following day I was stranded in my house because of a severe snow blizzard which lasted for 3 days, burying my car under 6 feet of snow. I could not leave the house or get inside my car, so I hibernated. On the fifth day I finally was able to dig my car out from under an igloo that formed around it.
As I got in I immediately noticed a piece of bread laying on the driver’s seat. “Hmmm” – I thought. “I don’t remember eating bread in the car last time I used it”. As my eyes moved towards the shift-stick I froze in amazement. The rubber around it was shredded to pieces and there was a big hole gaping right in the center. As I looked closer I realized that there was a trail of bread crumbs all the way from my seat to the hole. I sat there for a few moments wrestling with my thoughts, trying to figure out what that might have meant. Finally I realized that my car was visited by a field rat. There are quite a few of them in the field around my house. You see a lot of them in the summer, but they never got this close to the house before. One must have gotten trapped under my car in all that snow and figured out a way to get inside to get warmed up.
Being Hypoglycemic I often keep some bread, chocolate or cookies in the car in case I need to eat something quick. Because I am involved in rescuing animals I also carry in the car some dry dog and cat food. My little visitor must have smelled it, got in and thought he was in Heaven with all that food available to him for over 4 days. One might have considered the intrusion rude, however, this was obviously a very polite rat. He did not take ALL of my food. He generously and graciously left me a piece of bread on my driver’s seat as a sign of gratitude.
When I brought my car to my mechanic he could not believe what happened. He told me that in all his years working as a mechanic this was the first time he had to work on a car that was chewed up by a rat. Over the next few weeks, while trying to search for a replacement part for my car, he had to endure bursts of uncontrollable laughter from his suppliers and other mechanics as he tried to explain to them what happened. During this time the Rat, whom I have now affectionately named the Ratzenberg, has visited my car during the night on regular basis, always finding something else to eat, but ALWAYS leaving me some food on the passenger seat as a sign of gratitude. He never dirtied the car and never damaged anything else. He would just have a meal and than leave, after gathering enough food to bring home to his hungry family. I realized that I was actually looking forward each day to finding out if he has visited during the night or not.
I must confess, I was secretly happy that it was taking such a long time to find a replacement part and I was quite dissappointed when my mechanic finally called me to say that the part had arrived and I could bring my car in. No more holes in a rubber casing meant no more visits from the Ratzenberg, and there was an entire Ratzenberg family who’s survival depended on this daily “shopping” in my car.
I called my mechanic and said: “You know Jai, I’ve been thinking… If I replace this part now, the rats would only chew through it again! Do you mind if we wait until the weather is nice and than change it?” I heard a heartfelt laughter on the other end and after a few moments Jai’s voice replied: “Of course I don’t mind! After all, what would the Ratzenberg do if he could not feed his family. We will wait until spring”. And so we did…
Once the snow melted and the nice weather set in, the new rubber casing was replaced and the visits from the Ratzenberg stopped. Never again did he try to get in. He never again damaged the rubber around the shift stick or any other part of my car. And although I have never actually seen him, I have grown quite fond of him and I knew he understood what I did for him. I know there is a whole family of Ratzenbergs out there grateful that there was this “crazy” woman who shared her car and her food with them, who allowed their husband/father “shop” in her car and feed them during a rough winter.
Yes, many may think I am weird, but it warms my heart knowing that a family didn’t have to starve during a hard, long winter… even if it was a family of Rats! Wishing you well Ratzenberg, where ever you may be!
In memory of a great person and a wonderful mechanic, Jai Ram of Jattan Auto, 6505 Kingston Road, Unit 6, Scarborough, Ontario.