It may be the Percocet that I’ve been taking to manage my kidney stone pain, but I realized recently that my blogs have been rather revealing of just how neurotic I truly am. It’s all out there in black and white for all of the world to read. Ready for more? I always find that reading about the neuroses of others helps me feel better about my own, so I’ll just say this. You’re welcome.
Bats have always struck me as vaguely paranormal animals. They kind of creep me out – these little flying rodents with their sharp little teeth and their creepy black wings. I can remember camping as a kid with my family and watching bats fly through the air above me. It was not a warm fuzzy feeling. As a matter of fact, I used to be afraid to go to the outhouse after dark because I was certain that either a bat was going to fly up out of the depths of the commode and bite me in the butt. Or maybe it would be hiding in the eaves of the outhouse just waiting to pounce and get tangled in my hair.
I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I am still not fond of using the outhouse in the dark. Okay – well I’m NEVER thrilled to have to use an outhouse, but sometimes it is out of necessity. If it’s after dark, I make sure I keep the interior lighted up with a flashlight and I wait a moment after opening the lid just to make sure that nothing flies out. You have no idea how much I wish I was kidding about this. Apparently when I was listing my phobias last week, I should have added bats and dark outhouses to the list that included snakes, clowns and sensible shoes.
Here’s what’s funny. I totally get how ridiculous this fear is. Both the outhouse thing and the bat thing. And yet, I can’t help myself. I’ve thought it through rationally and it’s just plain silly. Almost SNL skit silly. But the fear persists.
Which leads me to the bat story. I know I’m not alone in being creeped out by the little foaming at the mouth, rabid rodents with their papery black wings and those HUGE FANGS. I once read that a bat could actually bite you, and their teeth are so razor sharp that you will not feel the bite and could be unaware that you are infected with rabies. I think this may be especially true in dark outhouses. Or maybe if a bat manages to get tangled in my hair and bites me while I sleep.
Our house is one of those houses that is in town, but in the woods as well. We have a large number of woodland critters who make regular appearances on our property – deer, raccoons, squirrels, bunnies, mice, birds, peacocks and – oh yeah, bats.
When we first moved into the house, we had bats in our basement. I counteracted my concern about the basement in two ways. A) I never went into the basement – I sent Jim; and B) when I had to open the basement door, I would open it just a crack, grab whatever I needed and then slam it really fast to make sure no bat could slip through the tiny crack when I wasn’t looking.
Still, one night a bat made it into the house, courtesy of the cat. We had a black cat named Emily at the time, and she came trotting into the house. Because she was black, no one saw the black in her mouth – until she let it drop after about four steps and it took off flying. Sure ’nuff. It was a bat. Chaos ensued.
The bat immediately disappeared. It was nowhere to be found, but it was in the house. Possibly hiding in my toilet. With that knowledge, my mind immediately flashed on how bats could bite you and you wouldn’t know it. And so, my mission became to find the bat.
Tanner was about seven at the time, and not fond of bats himself. After searching fruitlessly for the bat, we were at a loss. It was then that I had the brilliant idea. Follow me here, keeping in mind that desperation may actually cause cloudy thinking:
Bats eat mosquitos, right? So maybe if a bat heard a mosquito in the house, it just might come out. Right? Right???? My plan was brilliant in its simplicity. I went online and found a downloadable ringtone that was a mosquito buzz. It was one of those high frequency ring tones that supposedly no one over a certain age could hear because the frequency was too high, but young ‘uns could hear it just fine. I downloaded it to my laptop. Then Jim, Tanner and I went on the hunt.
Tanner grabbed a tennis racquet and put some socks on his hands/arms. Jim grabbed a racquetball racquet and some protective gear. Only to cover his hands and head. Otherwise, all he was wearing were his boxers. Tanner had on some kind of helmet and gloves. I just had my computer. I clung to one of Jim’s arms. Tanner clung to my arm. Very slowly, the three of us began to walk through the house. Every few seconds, I would push the button on my laptop that played the mosquito buzz. Every time I did, Tanner would scream and grab his ears, yelling, “It hurts! It hurts!” Jim and I, of course, had no idea what he was talking about, because we couldn’t hear the darn thing. We are, apparently, of that certain age.
Every time Tanner would scream, Jim would snarl, “Would you shut up?” and I would ask, “Do you want me to stop?”
“No…no,” Tanner kept saying. “We have to find that bat or it will bite us in our sleep.” Oops. Good mothering there. That was my fault.
We did this for about an hour before we admitted defeat. The bat was not going to come out of its hiding place – not even for a juicy mosquito that only he and the boy could hear.
I, however, was unwilling to have my entire family infected by rabies in our sleep. That’s where brilliant idea #2 came into play. I made Jim pitch the tent in the middle of the living room. We all dragged our bedding into the tent, zipped up tight and slept in there.
That night, in the middle of the night, I heard the vertical blinds rattling. Very quietly I nudged Jim.
“It’s out there,” I whispered. “I can hear it rattling the blinds.”
It was a smart bat. It disappeared the second Jim unzipped the tent.
I called the exterminator, and he wasn’t able to get to the house for a few days. In the meantime, we slept in the tent every night and stepped around it during the day. No stinking bat was going to bite us while we were asleep. I opened cupboards, closets and commodes with caution.
When the exterminator came, he took a look at the tent, listened to my fears and rolled his eyes. Not so I could see him, but the eye rolling was going on in his brain, I’m sure of it. He took a look around the house and told me that the bat was probably either dead or had found a small crack to slip out of. He told me that bats were so tiny that if it died in the house, we would probably never, ever find it. Swell. He also told me to take down the tent and sleep in our beds. We were not in danger.
Somewhat reassured, we returned to our own bedrooms that night. For several weeks, however, I pulled things out of my closet with care. I was certain that bat was hanging upside down on one of my hangers under my clothes and/or hiding in my shoes laying its bat eggs or whatever bats do to reproduce.
Six years later, I am happy to report that no one in my family died of rabies, and I never stuck my arm in a sweater sleeve only to have something fly out and get trapped in my hair. Maybe the bat escaped down my toilet where it lies in my plumbing just waiting for me to enter the bathroom one dark night.