Thursday, March 3, 2011

Insert bat pun here

I promised you bats, and bats you shall have, though I have been up to some actual sewing the last couple of weekends. But I'll save that for another time since I know you're all practically falling all over yourselves with anticipation.

I was reminded of this story when someone posted a comment about a rat getting into her sewing room. In general, I have not had too much trouble with varmints invading my personal spaces. We did discover a couple mice in the apartment we lived in the year we got married, but that was right before we moved, so we didn't really care that much. Also the landlady of that apartment lived directly above us and she and her two teenage sons were the absolute craziest human beings I have ever met. And they had us totally fooled when we leased the place. She was so nice and gave us cookies and tea and and then the first week we lived there I had my hand on the phone to call the cops every ten minutes. The two sons beat the living shit out of each other on a regular basis. And they would scream and howl like they had each been stabbed in the eyeballs while they were doing it. One had a girlfriend he was always fighting with, and his end of the fight was always "BUT I LOOOOOOVE YOUUUUUUU!" But the best one was one morning, when I had a day off and was praying for a few hours of peace, I hear the mom vacuuming. She hoovers up and down the hall for a few minutes, then turns it off and starts banging on a door. "I KNOW SHE'S IN THERE, YOU LITTLE SHIT! YOU GET HER OUT OF MY HOUSE RIGHT NOW! YOU GET THAT DIRTY, DISGUSTING WHORE OUT OF MY HOUSE!" Then she turns the vacuum back on and hoovers some more for about three minutes. Then back to the door. "WHORE! WHORE! GET OUT OF MY HOUSE YOU FUCKING WHORE!" (Oh, and to the latest Anonymous - it's not really cursing here. It's reporting.) And back to the vacuum. This went on for over an hour. I have never been so entertained by people I hated. Anyway, I figured I'd let her discover all the mouse poop on her own, after we made our escape.

But that's not the bat story. The bat story is one that took place the summer after my sophomore year in college. (And this happens to be one of Harper's favorite stories; she asks me to tell it all the time.) That was the summer I finally convinced my parents to let me stay in my college town for the summer after the school year had ended. I have never been one of those kids who ever wanted to move back home. No, once I got the taste of freedom, I was hooked, and once they let me spend a summer in Annapolis, I never went back. I had joined in with a bunch of other students to rent an apartment, and we slept four or five to a room. I can't even remember the names of everyone who lived there. It was awesome.

A friend had gotten me a job with a local home security company, run by a very magnanimous guy named John. John ran the business with his son-in-law, who, rumor had it, was a disgraced ex-midshipman who was kicked out of the Naval Academy in one of its umpteen cheating scandals. There were two or three other regular daytime employees and there was us: the Alarm System Monitors. Initially, I worked a 4 to midnight shift, but then the guy who worked midnight to eight became ill, and with no one else willing to take that shift, I ended up with it.

An Alarm System Monitor's job was to sit near a computer and printer system that would beep loudly whenever a customer's home alarm system was set off. The printer would jump to life and print out a small series of codes, which the Monitor would then look up in a handy book. The codes told whose alarm was going off, what type of alarm it was, and the book would tell what to do. In general, you would have to call the home and if the homeowner answered, get them to tell you a specific code so that you know they're okay and help them reset the system. If no one answers, call the cops. If there were no alarms, your time was your own. They even provided a TV and VCR.

Shortly after I had to start the graveyard shift, I began noticing noises. Scratchy noises. It wasn't terribly often, but it was enough to get me wondering, and after a few nights it was often enough that I began to get a wee bit concerned. I got a couple of my roommates to come with me one night, and they agreed that it definitely sounded like claws skrootching around in the walls and the ceiling. They even pushed up some of the acoustic tiles to see if they could see anything. Nope. Nothing. We figured a squirrel had gotten in somewhere, and went back to watching something French and pretentious on the VCR (we were like that).

The next night, however, it was like the squirrel had multiplied. By a hundred. The scratching sound was coming from everywhere, all around me, and now I was too freaked out to stay in the room, but too brave (or dumb) to call anyone. I went into the next room, where I could still hear the monitor, and where I couldn't hear the scratching at all. I had a long sheet of dot-matrix printer paper from previous nights to go through and reconcile so I hunched over that and tried not to think about the hundreds of demon babies in the walls who would appear at any moment en masse to eat my face.


Then I heard a new sound.


I looked up from my print out and there was a bat, swooping around the room. I screeched like a, well, like a girl, but that seemed to get its attention and as it came around it decided to fly straight at me. All I had to defend myself was...the end of the long, long sheet of printer paper in my hand. I launched it as hard as I could, but only succeeded in making the bat even more curious (and a long ribbon of paper across the floor).  I frantically looked around for something else to defend myself with.

I had been sitting at the desk of the son-in-law who was, apparently, really into badminton. And hanging on the wall, crossed like swords, were two badminton rackets. For all I knew, these were the precious rackets that brought the Naval Academy its grand victory against the Sunshine Meadows Nursing Home back in '82.  But I did not care. They were now - and yes, I'm going to say it - BATminton rackets.

I have never managed to hit any object that was hurled at me, because I have strabismus and no depth perception. I cannot hit a baseball or a softball. Even kickball is iffy. So I figured I had a one in 1000 chance of hitting a pissed off bat. But maybe I could wear it out; I mean, who knows, maybe bats tire easily. Maybe it hadn't eaten in a while and was weak from hunger. It was trapped in an office after all.

But somehow, I managed to become the Babe Ruth of BATminton, and on my first try I brained that sucker. And when you hit a flying bat with a BATminton racket, it makes a little squeaky noise that sounds remarkably like "ow!" and crumples up and falls to the floor, where it appears to be dead.

I tiptoed over to the little gray-brown heap on the floor, not knowing what I intended to do. I don't think I would have actually poked it, but I did have that stupid need to somehow check and make sure it was really dead. Which was just inviting it to come back to life and fly at my face again. But before I could get close enough...


I turned around and looked toward the doorway that led to the monitor room. The system was going off. Someone was maybe being held at knifepoint or a house was on fire. Screw that. There were bats in that room.

Lots and lots of bats.

And they were headed my way.

I had two options: stay and fight or run like hell. I couldn't just leave the building—I did have alarms to monitor, after all (though I was patently ignoring one right at that moment). And I was seriously outnumbered at this point. So I ran to the end of the hall and barricaded myself in John's office. Then I called John. It was about 3 a.m.

"John. Get out of bed and get down here. There are bats everywhere." To John's great credit, that was all I had to say. He didn't live far and he came down right away.

Immediately, I told him that I had whacked one with the BATminton racket and he picked up the one that was still on the wall and started in on whacking the airborne ones himself. "Get in here, Meg! This is fun!"

"Kiss my ass, John," I yelled from down the hall.

After he had dealt with the alarm, which was a false one - thank goodness - he proceeded to confess that he knew about the bat infestation. The entire floor above us was unused and was home to god only knows how many of the infernal creatures. Up until that point, they had not been much of a nuisance, only on a rare occasion making their way into the office below, and John, being a thrifty man, wasn't going to spend a whole lot of money trying to get rid of them if they weren't actively causing an immediate problem. However, my screaming that I would not set foot in that office again until ALL and I mean ALL the bats were gone presented a more immediate problem than he had encountered thus far.

So he pulled out the vacuum cleaner and said, oh so authoritatively, that any other bats that had come in and were hiding would be drawn out by the high-pitched whine of the motor. At this point, all of the airborne bats had been whacked, so I was back in the monitor room with him and I asked him what he had done with the bodies. "Well, first, I was tossing them out the front door," he said. "But I realized they weren't dead - just stunned. So I flushed 'em!"

"You flushed them. Down the toilet?"

"Yup!" He sounded absurdly pleased by this. I watched as he turned on the vacuum and rolled it around the floor. Nothing emerged from anywhere, but John wasn't taking chances, so he started looking in the small spaces behind file cabinets and under the baseboard heaters. "Get the racket, Meg! The little buggers are wedged in everywhere!" Again, he sounded like he was finding gold nuggets or naked girls, not demon babies with wings.

I tossed him a racket, and before I could run, a few more started flying around again. John was blocking my path to the outer room and the hall, so the only place I had to run was...the bathroom. I stood in there, cowering, while John waged his BATminton battle. Eventually he scored a casualty, which he then brought into the bathroom on the strings of the racket, dumped in the toilet, and flushed. I stayed as far in my corner of the bathroom as I could and prayed for the whole thing to be over.

John brought in bat after bat after bat. Finally, as was inevitable I suppose, he brought in two too close together and the tank hadn't refilled enough for a second flush. Even though I was as far away as I could get, it was still an office bathroom and thus quite small, so I could easily see that last bat, still spinning in the bowl, unflushed. John was now preoccupied with an alarm, and I was once again seized with that inexplicable need to check out the bat. I needed to know - had to see - whether it was truly unconscious. Or dead. Hopefully dead. Unconscious would be fine, though. But for some reason, I had to know, even though the only way I would know one way or the other would be by peering into the bowl at a stupidly close range.

I decided that I would attempt to flush it, since that would get me close enough to see it and solve the problem of its presence at the same time. I inched closer. Closer. It was probably all of two and a half feet away. Took me five minutes. Closer. Closer. I reached out towards the handle...leaned over...closer...

You know what happened next. I don't even have to tell you, I'm sure. Let me just say that a bat that suddenly comes to life inside the bowl of a toilet is not so much like a demon baby with wings - it's more like a demon turd with wings. You know how sometimes you approach a toilet, like in a public restroom, and you can just see the dark shape of someone's unflushed business, and you have to kind of rush over with your eyes averted so you can flush without having to actually look at it? Imagine if you also held a deep-seated fear, born of experience, that the dark shape might suddenly animate and try to escape. That is what I now deal with on a daily basis. And I have kids who never remember to flush.

Once the zombie bat turd happened, I finally got the hell out of there. I announced to John that I would not be returning to work until I was assured that no bats remained in the building. And he did end up springing for some sort of system that would, at least on the outside of the building, allow the bats to get out but not back in. The ones still trapped inside and making their way into the office...well, there was a prize system set up for the employee who whacked the most bats every week. Apparently, I was the only one who objected to sharing my work space with demon turds, but perhaps that was because the rest of them weren't working during the hours when bats like to fly around. I went back after two weeks, because I needed the money. But I never saw another bat.

And that, my friends,  is why I ALWAYS prewash my fabric.

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