• Melanie McCree

Post #14: Set Mousetraps

Updated: Dec 8, 2021

This is actually a second blog post #14, on account of I deleted the first one. It was a sort of "write in haste, repent at leisure" kind of deal. I let my temper get the better of me. I should never be allowed to write something others will see when I am in a temper. I may be wimpy in person, but I can be a real bully with words.

The rant in question was a poor approach to self-expression, but the sentiment behind it remains the same: wear your mask over your nose as well as your mouth. Unless you are the only person on the planet who sneezes through their mouth. In which case, ew.

The problem is, I'm having trouble finding entertaining things to say right now. It's too bad; the world could use a laugh. But there are so very many things going wrong in so many different arenas, my jokes all come out bitter. But I feel like if I admit that I'm weary and down and going to crumble, that I'm always braced for the next horrible revelation, that everyone around me is so wound up, if one of us snaps, it will set off a chain reaction...

Well, I can't admit it, that's all.

When I was a kid I did a weird experiment for a science fair, which involved a demonstration of kinetic energy. I had a box with a bunch of set mouse traps inside, and I would drop a rubber ball on one of the traps, which made them all bounce and snap like corn bursting in an air popper. It was fun to watch the traps go off. The setup, on the other hand, was terrifying.

You had to set each one of these sensitive little spring traps one by one and set them next to each other inside the box. They had to touch sides, but you couldn't bump any of the set traps too hard, or you'd trigger them. And it's hard to set one of those traps, too; if the latch doesn't set properly, the swing arm will come down on your finger. It hurts. Especially when you're a kid and have little fingers.

I can remember setting the traps up one by one on the night of the fair, shaking with fright. I was determined to do it; it's not like I had a backup science project. I had to set the traps in order to earn the passing grade. So I set the traps. Pick up the wooden rectangle. Pull back the swing arm. Latch the arm to the thick spring at one end of the rectangle. Pull your finger away slowly, so you don't set the trap off. Set the trap down gently. Then pick up the next trap and do it all again.

Right now, life feels to me like a box of mousetraps. All of us in there, side to side, waiting for the next ball to drop. Waiting for the next chain reaction.

So I can't admit to any of the underneath feelings. The people I work with can't admit to them. The people we help - with a few notable exceptions - can't admit to these feelings, either. It's a weakness we can't afford. Some of us talk about climate, and war, and the pandemic, and the economy, and supply shortages, and Democrats and Republicans. Some of us use our words the way I used them in my last post: as weapons. Some of us choose to only discuss lighthearted, silly things: cat videos. Baby photos. Where to find apples on sale.

This is what it looks like when people have to clench their fists and grit their teeth and wait something out. I think it has to be done this way. I think our mousetraps need that box.

I try to do my crying at home. It's for the best.


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