Monday, April 27, 2009
I sit on my patio on this beautiful Monday morning and think over the events of a full weekend — a “fun” walk for charity, a patio breakfast with a good friend that included wonderful thought provoking discussion about God and His ways (our form of church these days), a first time visit to an “X’pressions Session” poetry night where I shared more of my writings in one evening than I have in a couple of years worth of open mics, and completing some much needed yard work and making firm plans for our upcoming vegetable garden. But, there is one thing not in this list that stands out because the effect of it is still causing me to take pause before I step into each room of my house...we had a bat invade our space this weekend.
Now, I don’t know if you have experienced one of these little creatures in your abode before, but most likely, if you have, you will not have forgotten it.
We had bats in our house on a few occasions when I was a kid. If you were lucky, you noticed them when they were still, sleeping above a doorway or in the corner of the ceiling. These were pretty easy to catch...dad put his gloves on, grabbed an empty coffee container and snuck up on it, covered it with the Folgers can and slid the lid on, hopefully before the bat escaped.
If you were not so lucky, then you discovered the bat as it was swooping through the house, (usually at night) and then chaos would reign as you opened every door and window you could in hopes that it would find a way out. None of this happened without a fair amount of screaming, running and even hiding, everyone looking out for themselves, wanting to get a closed door between them and this scary creature.
Now, my dad kind of liked us to face our fears and so he would show us the bat after he caught it. Then, we could see that it did not really have the wing span of a vulture and it was actually pretty small and (unless it had rabies) harmless. He probably thought that seeing it captured would help us to not be so scared of it, figuring that at some point in the future we may be faced with ridding our home of one.
Well, seeing that thing up close, eyes bugging, mouth opening and closing, sometimes making that freaky squeak was kind of “cool”, especially since my dad seemed to have this thing secured (in my mom’s metal tongs which she used to fry chicken with every Sunday), but it also cemented the image in my mind of just how ugly these things are. The truth is, I am as freaked out by bats at 50 as I was at 8.
So, heres the scene of my latest experience: I wake up early Sunday morning to prepare for the patio breakfast a few hours away. I pick up around the house, do some dishes, sweep the kitchen floor, wipe down counters and assemble ingredients. We are going to have bacon, eggs and pancakes topped with sauteed spiced apples. I will make all this (except the apples, which I saute on the stove inside) on our kick ass grill we got last year that has an extra burner on the side with a cast iron griddle. Real maple syrup for the pancakes, fresh chives from my garden for the eggs, a bold cup of coffee or perhaps a latte...I anticipate a lovely morning.
I get done with my chores in short order and as I survey my tidy kitchen I realize there is plenty of time to sit and relax before I need to wake Bill up (he loves sleeping in on the weekend). I make a latte and grab the Sunday paper. It is just getting light outside as I settle in, still a few hours till our patio breakfast.
I’ve made it through the ads, the Parade magazine, obituaries and world news and am thinking about checking my email when I hear this weird noise...it’s something banging against metal. So, I move off the couch I am on and over to the love-seat in front of the window, because I figure it’s someone outside messing with a car. But, I quickly realize the noise is just below me, in the cold air duct under the love-seat. I listen for a minute and I don’t feel good about the sound — not good at all. So I get up and seek assistance from my sleeping husband by going to the bottom of the stairs and yelling, “Bill, come here! Bill, theres a noise down here!” One of Bill’s least favorite things in the entire universe is me yelling up the stairs...I know this very well, but my years of habitually doing just that (first to my siblings and then to my own kids) overtakes me because of the urgency I am feeling. There was something in there making this noise and I did not want to be the one to find out what it was!
He emerges from the bedroom, half awake and not happy in the way I have gotten him up. “Whats going on?” he asks and I tell him of the noise. We both go to the love-seat and listen. Sure enough, something is there in the duct making this noise. So, he moves the couch out and takes a look in the grate but can see nothing and asks me to get a flashlight. I do this and after a minute or so he says “It’s a bat; want to see?” I am in disbelief that this noise would have been a bat...I was thinking bird or mouse...and I put my knees on the love-seat next to him and lean over the back to take a look. I’m thinking it’s going to be kind of far down the duct, where there is a lower ledge...a safe enough distance to observe it from. So, when he shines the light on our little visitor, I am surprised by how close it is to the opening of the metal grate. The bat is still when Bill first shines the light on it, but then suddenly moves and it startles me and I let out a yelp and jump back. This action startles Bill and he barks at me that my “freaking out” won’t help, or something like that. Well, this does not go well with me and does nothing to comfort my racing heart and so I grab my laptop and stomp off to the family room where I figure I’ll be safe from the bat, my husband’s attitude and will check my email in peace, closing the door behind me and leaving him to figure out what to do.
It is only a few moments before Bill follows me and apologizes for his harsh words and I am just about to forgive him when through the open door of the family room, in flies the bat. Our family room is small and this bat is flying in circles around it above our heads (I should note that Bill is a foot taller than me, so his head is closest to the flying bat). This causes Bill to let out a shriek (a very manly one for sure) and my response is to hit the floor and just scream. He is right by the door and steps out in the hall and says “Come on sweetie, get out!” “I can’t, I can’t” I scream as the bat swoops back and forth above me. Covering my head with my hands, I curl up on the floor, lamenting that in tidying up that morning I removed all the throw blankets to be laundered. “Yes you can, just come on!” Bill yells at me. So, encouraged by his voice, I do a “run/crawl” towards him on all fours and he slams the door behind me.
If we could have had a video crew at that moment, I would win the big prize on the funniest video shows! I could spend my next vacation at some fancy all inclusive resort in an exotic locale with all the money we’d win. I must have looked insane. I can laugh now, but at that moment...
Bill holds me, tries to calm me down (as I am in tears by now) and again apologizes for snapping at me. He admits that bats “freak him out” too (thus the manly shriek) and we both just stand there for a minute while our hearts stop racing.
We plan our attack. He prepares himself with a hooded jacket and gloves. I tell him of my fathers trusty coffee can method and he grabs the old red “Hill’s Brothers” can I have sitting on top of my cupboard for decoration. We attach a blanket over the doorway first, so that just in case it tries to escape as Bill opens the door, it will be trapped. We take one last look at each other, I say a “God be with you and grab my laptop” blessing over him and he cracks open the door, coffee can and lid in hand. He looks around, but does not see the bat flying, and steps all the way in and closes the door, while I retreat to the adjacent bathroom and close the door behind me - I am taking no chances.
A few moments go by and he emerges with the news that the bat is once again in a cold air duct. He knows this because he can hear the familiar banging. What are the chances of this? Like I said, I have had experience with bats in my house before, both as a kid and later in my first marriage (that’s another crazy bat story). I’ve never had one in the ducts! Now, I am kind of freaking out again because if it is in the ducts, it could emerge anywhere in the house...and how would we know which room? Bill assures me that the cold air ducts, or “return” ducts as he calls them, are different from the “supply” ducts (registers). So, all we have to worry about is covering up those return ducts. But first, he has me turn on the furnace fan, since it has some air cleaning, “electro-static” thing that would hopefully shock the bat if he tried to “cross over” to the supply ducts (registers). While I go to the fan control he goes to the basement to see if he can hear where the bat is. My next task is covering up all the return ducts, which do not have levers to open and close them like the registers.
What to cover them with? Having just completed our taxes, I have a large supply of empty file folders close at hand and opened up, they are the perfect size to cover the ducts. Some openings are large and require two, but no worries, I have plenty. I go room to room covering up the openings. As I do, I eye the registers as well. Now, while I do trust my husband's knowledge of duct work and such, I still take the time to close the open registers in the rooms that I go through, just in case the bat breeches the divide between these two systems. You just never know...
Next, we open up the window above the duct in the family room, where we last saw the bat. Then we take the afore mentioned blanket and secure it around the duct on the floor and the open window above it. Bill removes the duct cover and goes to the basement to bang on ducts in the hope that the bat will emerge through the open window. I watch the window while Bill bangs away. I watch for a few minutes, but see nothing.
Now, I still have our friend coming to join us for breakfast soon, so I tell Bill I need to get breakfast going and leave my place as window guard. He stays in the basement to listen for the bat. It’s there, he hears it, apparently pretty low in the system, close to the furnace. Bill bangs away at the ducts, hoping to coax the bat to leave, perhaps from “whence he came” (although we don’t know where that would be exactly) or through our very scientifically rigged open window.
He gives up on this after hearing no activity for a time. We go about the morning, having our delightful breakfast on the patio, looking up periodically at the open window in hopes of seeing a bat emerge. We tell our friend about the craziness of the day and he almost pees his pants laughing at our tale, imagining my screaming run/crawl out the door and Bill’s manly shriek. The three of us banter about the enormity of power these bats have on us and we each admit how silly it is, but that it is there nonetheless.
After breakfast we listen and the ducts seem to be quiet. Now, this should reassure me shouldn’t it? But we never did see that bat come out of the window, so I just can’t be sure where it is. What if it did get through the barricades somehow and it is in my house, just waiting to be discovered. So, now I go back to the very beginning of my tale...that pause before I step into each room of my house. As I mentioned before, I have some history with bats. The flying bats are quick to be noticed and the commotion they cause considerable. But, when those bats are asleep, they find a nice little corner to rest in, or a door jam to light upon. And you just never know when they are going to take flight again. So, as I go into each room, I kind of duck my head and quickly scan all the corners, making sure there is not a little black blob attached to anything. I have a couple of scares as I see a hook in the ceiling or shadow on the wall.
Every noise is subject to investigation for the rest of the evening (that fun walk took us away from home for several hours during the day), but we never hear the original cause for concern, the banging metal. So, we hope for the best and pray the bat has not given up the ghost in the ductwork, rotting away in the warming weather.
Since we got through the night with no bat flying around, I am feeling pretty good as I walk through the house when I get up this morning, but I am still checking those corners and doorways. I can even smile as I recall yesterdays drama. But I have to admit, my heart jumped a little as I realized that Bill would be off to work soon, and I would be left here alone...I really hope that bat made its escape.