Recently, I have been spending a disproportionate amount of time on an aspect of my job that never even came close to being mentioned on the job description.
Specifically, looking after the gerbils.
A couple of weeks ago when I was working late on a Friday, I heard a sudden clatter from the science lab next door. Given that the entire building was pitch black apart from my office, I instinctively grabbed the nearest heavy thing to hand before jumping up to find out what was going on. This happened to be a 0.75m aluminium projector pole, which on reflection I judged to be a particularly masterful choice with a good weight/bludgeoning power ratio . It was all for nought, however; the noise was caused by the water bottle falling off of the side of the gerbil habitat (or as I call it, the “Gerbilarium”).
But did it fall… or was it pushed?
Fast forward to a couple of weeks later, and I arrived one morning to be met by the science teachers combing the entire top floor. One of the gerbils had escaped.
He learned some time ago that if the top hatch is not sufficiently weighed down, he can leap up, knock it open, and be on his merry way. When I say “sufficiently” weighed down, what I mean is “with half a brick”. We used to use a piece of wood. He can knock it off. I’ve become convinced the little bugger has been systematically testing the defences of his prison, no doubt incensed by the now constant gaze of the replacement GerbilCam I installed after he destroyed the previous camera.
The problems of a gerbil breakout are twofold. Firstly, they like to chew. Especially on cables. A follower on Twitter once put it this way after I mentioned a previous breakout: “Nibble nibble, fibre down on Monday”. The second problem is that the Gerbilarium is the only place in the building with accessible food and water. Unless we get an escapee back in relatively quickly, the poor bugger will die of thirst. Even if he made it that far, an adventure outside would most likely end up with him becoming quick meal to the local foxes or red kites we have living on site.
Anyway, after about 45 mins of searching we left out some food as a lure and went about our day. Until about 9.30, when I was sitting at my desk pondering possible hiding places for our furry friend, and I heard a sudden shriek from the prep room.
‘Aha,’ I thought, ‘there he is.’
It was at that precise moment that one of the science teachers had lost all credibility with her class by opening a supply cupboard and reacting girlishly to our missing gerbil scurrying around in the bottom of it. Luckily for us he was quite hungry by this point so was easily tempted into the open by some fresh greens, at which point I cunningly scooped him up while he was distracted by food. Unfortunately by the time I got hold of him I had been sealed into the prep room by doors that only open inwards, with both hands full of gerbil. Only after tapping on the glass of one of the doors and waiting for a pupil to spot the gerbil trying to escape my clutches was I able to get back into the biology lab and deposit him back into the habitat.
He still hasn’t forgiven me.