It Takes Brains

 

From The Mark Tarses Blog

Mark owns some rental property in Berkeley, where he occasionally encounters the interesting tenant...

Posted on January 7, 2017

HEIDI AND THE ANTS

In most American cities, when a tenant tells his landlord that he has ants in his kitchen, it is usually because he wants the landlord to kill them, but this is Berkeley where things are different. I was just reviewing a series of emails that I got several years ago from a tenant who had ants in her kitchen and wanted me to get rid of them – but without harming them. I think you might enjoy reading this exchange. Here are some of the emails I received from her about this subject. There were more emails about this from her, but I can’t find them all. I changed her name in the letters below. Her name wasn’t actually Heidi. My stepmother had a dog named Heidi, but I never had a tenant named Heidi.

Dear Mark:
The ants are back. I have tried everything, but nothing works. I have even tried yelling at them.
Heidi

Dear Heidi:
I have been meaning to talk to you about this for some time. I know that you have been yelling at the ants in your kitchen. I can hear you from my office. However, yelling “Get out! Get out!” at ants doesn’t work. I don’t know if ants have ears, but I am sure that they don’t understand English. I will come over and spray something in your kitchen to get rid of them.

Dear Mark:
Will this spray kill the ants?
Heidi

Heidi:
Yes. I use a product that is made from the oil of orange peels. It is not harmful to people, but it destroys the respiratory system of ants and other insects. They die quickly because they can’t breathe.
Mark

Dear Mark:
I don’t want you to do that. That sounds awful. How would you feel if you couldn’t breathe? Let me think about this for a while. I was hoping you had a spray that would just keep the ants away, like mosquito repellent keep mosquitoes away.
Heidi

Dear Heidi:
I don’t have ant repellent. I don’t even know if such a product exists. I use orange peel oil because it is non-toxic to people and safe to use in restaurants and home kitchens. However, this product does kill ants. I doesn’t just repel them.
Mark

Dear Mark:
I need time to think this over. Please don’t do anything until I say so.
Heidi

Dear Heidi:
OK. Think it over. I will spray or not spray your kitchen as you wish. There are many products on the market that will kill or repel ants, but I don’t know of any, aside from orange peel oil, that are safe to use in a kitchen or around food. I have investigated this matter.
Mark

Dear Mark:
I found 6 more dead ants in my kitchen this morning. I found 4 dead ants in my kitchen yesterday. Did you spray that stuff in my kitchen? I don’t think there is anything in my kitchen that would kill ants. I found most of the ants on the top of the sink near the soap. Do you think the ants might have eaten the soap and died? Is soap poisonous to ants? If it is, do you know of a brand of soap that won’t kill ants if they eat it.
Heidi

Heidi:
I did not spray your kitchen. You told me not to. Frankly, I think it is silly for you to worry about the health of the ants in your kitchen. You have probably killed hundreds of ants by just walking on the grass in your yard.
Mark

Dear Mark:
Wow! I have been thinking about what you said about walking on ants in the yard. You are probably right. It makes you wonder if it is OK to walk in the yard. I have been taking the ants in my kitchen outside and putting them in the yard, but I don’t know if that’s the right thing to do. It is depressing, but I know you are right. I am now taking the ants to the back porch and dropping them off into the yard. Some of them may get hurt in the fall, but that’s better than walking on other ants in order to save the kitchen ants. Don’t you think? What do you think I should do?
Heidi

Heidi:
Do whatever you think is best.
Mark

Dear Mark:
I asked my mother for her advice about the ants. She thinks that trying to save ants is stupid. She says that she kills ants all the time. My mother thinks that I have too much time on my hands. She says that instead of trying to save the ants in my kitchen that I should come over to the church today and help her make brownies for gift baskets for our very old members. What do you think?
Heidi

Dear Heidi:
I agree with your mother. If you change your mind and want me to spray your kitchen, let me know.
Mark

Dear Mark:
Would you like some brownies? My mother and I made a lot of them today at the church for gift baskets. We made too many of them. They are very good. If you want to spray my kitchen, go ahead. I have lost interest in the ants.
Heidi

In any other city in the U.S., a tenant like Heidi would be considered bizarre, perhaps even unbelievable, but nobody who has lived in Berkeley for a long time would be surprised by a story like this. Landlords in Berkeley have to deal with tenants like Heidi all the time. When inexperienced Berkeley landlords ask me for advice, I tell them that the key to successfully dealing with someone like Heidi is patience, lots and lots of patience. — Mark Tarses


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