When I moved into San Francisco, I remember thinking it would be a glamorous, artsy, intellectual part of my life. I would be inspired by the culture and the hustle. I would write. I would learn. I would have experiences.
I had some experiences, alright.
Now this story is hard to tell without understanding some basics about the layout of my 2nd floor apartment. I’ve included an illustration below that demonstrates how my art skills flourished during my time in SF.
Longing for nature, I was looking out the kitchen window into the cement shaft that ran down the center of the building to our floor. The shaft had always boggled me. I could step out my window onto it and look up at the sky, but thats about all that could be done with it. I guessed it was to vent kitchen smells or to keep the occupant of my bedroom from going insane.
From the space between our building and the giant wood fence that separated us from the next door neighbors, a raccoon popped up onto the ledge. Gleeful, I called my roommates over.
“Aw, it’s so cute!” we cooed. So naive. So innocent.
With that warm welcome, the raccoon moved in with all his buddies. They spent nights hosting Raccoon Fight Club. They would poop outside my window in the shaft and my landlord would call to ask me to clean it up. One little monster reveled in my startled cries when I opened up the blinds to find it staring at me once a week. Claws scratched at the wall behind my bed and I knew with absolute certainty that one night, a raccoon paw would finally burst through the plaster of my wall, grab my hair, and drag me to raccoon hell.
It went on for months. They couldn’t be caught and relocated because the city was infested with the garbage-munchers. Under the guidance of the internet, I sprinkled cayenne pepper on the ledge where they strutted around—supposedly, the taste would repel them. Nope, one glared smugly at me as it licked cayenne off his paws. If it had stuck up its middle claw and scurried off sniggering, it would have felt right.
My landlord covered the spaces where the raccoons were climbing onto the ledge with fencing. They hissed and shook the chainlink with their paws and their night battles were now accompanied by the crashing of metal. In his limited English, my landlord told me he had some “cat powder” that could get rid of them for good. I was unsure if he misunderstood what we were dealing with or if this was just his word for raccoons, but I figured something called “cat powder” wasn’t about to do the trick. I decided to try one more tactic I’d read about—playing talk radio near their nest.
I stepped out into the shaft in my sweat pants and tank top, holding my clock radio, talking with my mom on my flip phone (yes it took me forever to get a smart phone). Three raccoons climbed up the fencing to watch.
I switched on the radio, flashed them a “Take that!” look, and went back inside. As I sat down on my bed, I noticed something weird. My arm looked…black. And…my sweatpants were moving.
Fleas. I was covered in hundreds and hundreds of fleas.
The last thing my mom heard before my cell phone hit the floor and snapped shut was me starting to scream.
By a miracle, one of my roommates had left out a bottle of flea spray. I shut my door and sprayed it wildly, knowing the raccoons were laughing with evil delight as they watched me poison myself. But I knew if I ran from the room without dispensing every last drop from that spray bottle, my bedroom would forever belong to the fleas.
Ten minutes later, I stood in the bathroom, my brave roommate pulling fleas out of my ears and my hair while I picked them from eyelashes.
I called my landlord. It was time for the cat powder.
He walked in wearing what looked like a hazmat suit—I think in reality it was a painter’s suit and mask—holding a can with a white label someone had scrawled two words on in pen. “Cat Powder.”
He sprinkled it over the ledge down to where the raccoons nested while I searched for other places to live on the computer.
To this day, I have no idea what was in that can. All I can say is that I never saw a raccoon near my apartment building again.
I’m expecting my radioactive super powers to kick in any day. Some mornings, when I noticed dark circles around my eyes, I wonder if it’s beginning. If one day, you find me fighting in an alley and digging through trash with superhuman strength, get the cat powder.
For other stories of apartment horror, check out Part 1: Santa Barbara and the Microwave. Ominous enough for ya?
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