Saturday, January 06, 2007

It Came Back

On New Year's Day I went into my basement with the idea that I was going to clean it out. There's a big pile of crap in the middle of the floor that I've been meaning to put out for ages. And just general reorganization of stuff to do. But I have a creepy basement. Lots of spiders. Not much light. So I don't really like to spend much time down there.

New Year's Day, though, I was bound and determined to do something about this. I turned on the light, walked down the stairs and as I got to eye level with the rafters, I thought I saw a dark shape flitting across the room. It was a slight movement out of the corner of my eye, so I convinced myself I was seeing things. After all, I would much rather be hallucinating than seeing a bat.

So I went all the way down and started moving boxes of empties around and lining my different sizes of screws up, and trying to pretend that spiders don't exist, etc. etc., when I noticed that Freya was acting a little weird. Pacing back and forth. Near the washing machine. "Oh well," I thought, "spiders don't exist."

And then I heard the squeaking. It was clear and prolonged and very definitely bat-like. "Oh well," I thought, "spiders don't exist. It's probably mice. In the wall." Nevertheless, I left the basement and haven't been back down since. And I need to do laundry something awful. But that back corner where I think there may be mice, in the wall, is right above my washing machine. In which I found a bat last January.

Jennifer offered to shine a light into that back corner to see if there were bats, but I forgot to get her to do that when she dropped me off after Girl Detective practice. Last night I asked Greg if he would come over and shine a light into that back corner sometime this weekend, which he kindly agreed to do.

It may be a case of shutting the barn door, however. This morning at 4 am I awoke to the leathery flapping and screeing of a very frightened bat, and the excited padding and jumping of my cat. My heart was pounding, but after last summer (see posts from July and August '06), I have a very efficient Bat Removal System (patent pending) in place.

After ascertaining that the bat was not in my bedroom, I got up, closed the door and Step 1: put some clothes on. Long sleeved and long pantsed clothes. Of course, because I've once more gotten used to not having bats in my house, my glasses were in the bathroom, where I take them off to perform my evening ablutions. So a little defenseless, but feeling good for having fairly thick material between me and the flying mammal.

I went out into the hall, heard no flying or squeaking, so crouched and slunk down the long hall to the front door. Why the slinking, I don't know, since it would make no difference to the bat if I were 5' 7" or 4' 2". But it made me feel better and I am all over the placebo effect.

Step 2: I opened up the apartment door, opened up the front door of the house. Turned on the light in the vestibule. When I turned around, Freya had obviously cornered her prey either behind the full length mirror propped against the wall at the far end of the hall or behind the card table I rescued from the garbage and had yet to take into the basement because I was afraid of the mice in the wall in that back corner. Oh, irony, how I love your leathery grasp.

Sadly, my glasses and the next steps of the Bat Removal System required me going past that mirror, and all I could envision was getting to that fairly enclosed part of my house - the only part of my house with a low ceiling - only to have the bat fly out and the cat fly up and me in between. Screaming and uselessly flapping my hands. But it had to be done, so I told myself to suck it up.

A slink down the hall, a very quick pass by the mirror, and I was safe in the bathroom and no longer blind. Step 3: Scooping Freya up, I enclosed her in the bedroom, 1) to get her out of the way and 2) to prevent the bat from ending up in my bedroom.

Step 3: I flipped the kitchen light on to 1) orient myself to the bat and 2) jostle it into moving towards the light at the other end of the tunnel. Because once a bat gets going and can locate the outdoors through smell and light (bats can see, which is why it is important to have the light on near the exit), that is where it wants to go. Away from humans.

But this bat was not long out of hibernation and pretty sluggish. Kitchen light on, I moved the mirror, and it moved a little bit. I got ready to duck. But it didn't fly, hardly moved.

Step 4: Thankful that I am a person who knows to Always Be Prepared, and feels that part of Always Being Prepared is having an emergency flashlight in every room,* I grabbed my kitchen emergency flashlight, and put the bat that had wedged itself between the floor and the trim into the spotlight.

It started crawling.

(I'm not sure where I stand on the age-old question "Which is creepier - a bat flying or crawling?" because there are points on either side. Crawling bats look really fucking creepy, what with their wiggling outstreched wings, especially when they are crawling all zig zaggy down your hall to sweet sweet freedom. But at least you know where they are and can predict where they are going with amazing accuracy. The same cannot be said of flying bats. I think I must come down in favour of crawling bats.)

I think it was crawling not so much towards the open door, as towards the spotlight I kept just ahead of it. At one point, it veered off and tried to go into the living room, but I headed it off by shining the light into its bastard eyes and it veered back again and crawled outside.

Luckily it was a very warm night,** so I didn't have to freeze my flaps off through this procedure. It did give me witnesses though, and lord knows what my neighbours, ending a party on their front porch in the damp spring-like air, thought about me marching out my front door with a flashlight trained on a crawling bat, then quickly whipping around and desperately working the screen door doohickey in the hopes that I could get it closed before the bat started flying and flew back in.

This was all accomplished in under 10 mintues. And the first 5 were me sweating and swearing in my bedroom behind a closed door. See? Efficient Bat Removal System.

Having Greg shine a light into that back corner might indeed be locking the barn door after the horse is gone. But what if there's more than one horse? We need to know how big the team is.

*Other ways of Always Being Prepared:
- if you generally use a cordless phone, have a non-cordless phone stashed somewhere handy in case of a power failure. Know where the jack is, so you don't have to hunt for it with an emergency flashlight.
- practice using your non-dominant side. That way, if a stroke ever renders your dominant side useless, you will still be able to write, feed yourself and get dressed.

**Luckily? Maybe not. This warmth is at least partially responsible for confusing the bat in the first place.


Amanda said...

ooooh..heee...when i got to the part about the bat crawling i was almost on the floor with laughter. you are definitely my hero, oh conquerer of bats, shining a light for truth, justice and the batfree life everywhere!

Anonymous said...

Wow. I am thoroughly impressed by your Bat Removal Skills. I can safely say that I would have spent far more time swearing in my room. And hoping someone else in my house would get it.

Anonymous said...

I am very impressed that your preparedness menu includes planning for a stroke.

Agatha said...

It seems like you deserve a Governor General's medal for this one.

Asteroidea Press said...

Someone must have said somewhere that necessity is the motherhood of all bravery. What I discovered last summer is that what is worse than getting rid of a bat is listening to a bat thump against your basement door trying to get into the upstairs.

It's the one downside I've found in living alone.

I figured that someone should write it down so that if this happens to someone else, they'll know what to do.

Asteroidea Press said...

I spent my teens as a housekeeper at a Home for the Aged and my early twenties as a Personal Support Worker, mostly for seniors. I've changed the diapers and fed people who lost the use of their dominant side, so it was a lesson learned well early on.