So I decided that since I’ve never participated in any social media “throw back Thursday” that I would here on the blog. At least until I run out of old columns to publish. Which should be about 30 weeks from now or so if I do this consistently….but I warn you, I’m not exactly the most consistent person in the universe.
So the lead….I hate bats. A friend of mine tagged me in a video the other day of a bunch of baby bats being swaddled and fed, and yes. I admit it. They’re adorable. In that video. They are NOT cute when they’re swooping around your house. And so, I give you this:
(Wait. Before I post this, I would like to explain to all the animal advocates and ga-ga bat lovers out there that I do not go around killing bats for pleasure. Yes, I know they eat mosquitos. Yes, I’ve heard they’re endangered or something……but it was in my house. Okay? And it wasn’t happy about it. And I wasn’t happy about it. And I sure wasn’t going to pick it up like I do birds and blithley carry it outside and give it the chance to bite me. A phobia is a phobia, people.)
So now. Here it is: “Bat-minton, Anyone?” August 2008
I have an irrational fear of bats. I know it’s an irrational fear because I’ve never actually been attacked by a live bat. (Dead ones are another story thanks to my mom’s less-than-spectacular aim with a tennis racket) Even the sight of one outside makes me duck and run for cover.
I grew up with bats, and I don’t say that lightly. It was an old house, and old houses and bats go hand-in-hand. I could actually hear them crawling around in the walls at night. (As a kid I always said they were chewing on the walls, but as an adult I realize bats probably don’t regularly snack on wood and plaster for sustenance and it was probably squirrels. Or Beavers. Or something.) Once in awhile, one or two of these flying, screeching creatures would emerge from their attic residence and zoom around the house, swooping and squealing, and mom or dad would saunter to the basement landing to fetch one of the tennis rackets we had on hand for just these occasions. (We called them “bat-minton rackets.” We were hilarious in our distress.) In my mind’s eye, the strings of these rackets were stained, bloody and brown, from the many bats that came before them, but in reality they were probably just old and discolored. It’s not like we had a bat blood-bath going on. For my parents, the bats were no big deal–a minor blip of a nuisance in a regular day. For me, they induced abject terror and cause to hide under the ping-pong table. I have no idea what I would have done if the bat would have decided it would be fun to fly under there as well. Most likely I’d have passed out.
Eventually we moved and I didn’t have to deal with bats for many years, even in the old row houses I called home in Baltimore. I shared bat stories with people, and mom gave (and still gives) me some sort of bat-themed gift every fall as a joke, but I never confronted one face-to-face. Then I moved back to Marengo and into a 106 year-old building.
In reality, I went a good five years in bat-free bliss before having any incidents—then one near-dusk night two years ago I entered my back door and nonchalantly wandered through the utility room to the kitchen and “pfffbblllttttt” a bat blundered across my kitchen about four feet off the ground toward the kitchen window. There was something seriously wrong with this bat. It could barely fly and had a trajectory more akin to a butterfly than the stealthy streamlined swoop I was used to. I screamed like a five-year-old and ran back out to my deck and sat there, rocking back and forth in a semi-comatose state, wondering what I was going to do.
After I had calmed down a bit (just a bit) I glanced over to my neighbor’s building to see if his truck was there. No such luck. I’d have to call my parents. Then I came to the realization I’d left my keys and phone inside on the counter. Now I was seriously unhappy. I couldn’t drive anywhere and I couldn’t call anyone, so I had to brave the kitchen again. I ran in, the bat blundered back across the kitchen, I screamed and ran out—this time with phone in hand. Tom (my step-dad) picked up when I called. I said “I have a bat.” Tom said “So?” I said “Well, it’s in the house.” He answered “Kill it.” I said “With what?” and he said with a sigh “I’ll bring you a tennis racket.” Thankfully once he got here he took care of it for me and I didn’t have to worry about bats again for another two years.
This year has been particularly batty around our buildings. They swoop, they taunt, I duck and hide, and yes, they invade. I had another one in my kitchen a few months ago. I was outside talking to a friend, and I could hear my oldest dog frantically barking inside. I told him that I should go see what she was so worked up about and thankfully invited him in. We walked up the front steps, me in the lead, and when I got to the kitchen the bat swooped, I screamed and tried to get behind him in the narrow hallway. (He will tell you I tried throwing him down the stairs, but why would I want to do that? Someone had to kill the thing, and it wasn’t going to be me.)
This bat seemed perfectly healthy if an ability to fly is a factor. My friend braved the kitchen to get to the racket from the utility room and then started swinging. This wasn’t easy because the ceiling fan was on, and once it was shut off, the bat decided it would rather rest on top of my cabinets, occasionally creeping over the edge, looking extremely horror movie-ish as it crawled with its little, winged, craggy feet and its mouth open in some sort of bat-like scream. (In my mind it had fangs, but I could be confusing it with the opossum that was on my deck a few months before.) He eventually smacked it while I huddled in the door frame moaning, and carried it outside as it clung to the racket. It stayed on the sidewalk until the next morning when I had my mom brush it into the gutter with a stick. It stretched its wings. I ran.