Thursday, August 18, 2016

True story: Bats!

The list of animals I'm terrorized by and avoid at all costs isn't long - it basically consist of snakes, chickens and moths. Snakes is pretty self-explanatory as lots of people are afraid of snakes (Incidentally, I'm afraid of eels as well, but they are basically water snakes so I don't give them their own category). I can't really explain my chicken phobia, but a lot of it has to do with my cousin Mark. Feel free to ask him for details. Moths, quite simply, have it out for me. The only plausible reason I have been able to come up with is I secrete a moth drawing pheromone. Rarely a day goes by from April until October that I have not been the victim of an unprovoked moth attack. A lone moth would seek me out of a stadium full of people for attack. It happens far too often to be coincidence. Kate will verify this - she has witnessed countless attacks. Two days ago, while cleaning out an old backpack of mine - one that I hadn't used for months - she opened a zippered pocket and out flew a moth ready to attack. Realizing it was Kate and not me, however, the moth flew off and is undoubtedly hiding somewhere else in the house waiting for me to let my guard down. There are other animals I'm not really a fan of - centipedes, maggots, and other gag reflex inducing animals are on this list, but I don't scream and run upon encountering them. Bats were also one of these "second tier fear" animals. An encounter last week, however, promoted them to the esteemed ranks of snakes, chickens and moths.
I had some vacation time to burn and a fat stack of books to read so Carson and I took off for what is becoming our annual week-long retreat to the woods. Our days are spent lounging on the deck reading and napping and having some much cherished alone time. There were other campers, but our spot is secluded enough that seeing others is rare and interaction is non-existent. It was just Carson and I for a full week - or so we thought. On Tuesday morning, while I was sitting on the deck enjoying coffee and the cool morning air, my attention was drawn to the tarp covering the wooden frame over the deck. More specifically, it was drawn to two tiny triangular ears that were situated between the tarp and the frame.

It's impossible to discern what the object is from the picture, but I had a pretty good idea of what I was looking at and wasn't really interested in moving in for a closer shot. As I said, I considered bats in that second tier of frightening animals - not exactly terrifying but not something I want to cuddle up with either. After pondering for a while, I decided to leave it be. Bats have it bad enough these days with the terrible and mysterious white nose syndrome that is decimating their population. I certainly didn't need to be responsible for further killing off the species. So, I picked up my book and began reading, determined to ignore the uninvited guest. I read about half a page before quickly glancing up to make sure the bat hadn't moved. It hadn't. Good, no reason to be alarmed, and I could return to my book. This time I read a full three sentences before checking on the bat again. It still hadn't moved. After about 10 minutes of repeating the process of reading increasingly smaller amounts before having an irresistible urge to make sure the bat hadn't moved, I came to the realization that this wasn't going to work. If I wanted to relax and get some reading done, the bat had to go.
I was still determined to remove the bat humanely, so I decided that if I simply lifted the tarp off of the frame, the bat would most likely harmlessly fly away into the woods and the problem would be solved. So, I grabbed a stick and headed to the opposite corner of the tarp from the bat and began lifting the canvas off the frame, keeping one eye on my beady-eyed intruder. I almost had my corner of the tarp removed when I saw a movement close to where I was poking my stick. Startled, I jumped back and gave a small squeal as I saw a second set of tiny triangular ears scurrying to get back under the cover of the tarp. Well, shit, now I had a problem. There were not one but two bats I had to humanely remove before I could resume enjoying my vacation. Pausing to assess the situation, I poured a little bit of Jameson into my coffee to steel my nerves. I then went to a third corner of the tarp, inspected it carefully to assure there weren't any bats hiding (there weren't) and began using my stick to remove the tarp again. As the tarp slid up over the wooden frame, something dropped down, bouncing off my arm before hitting the ground. I let out a yelp and took off running. Carson, convinced we were playing some sort of new game that he didn't yet understand the rules of, chased after me. I stopped about 10 feet away, hid behind a tree and courageously looked back towards the desk. There was no sign of movement so, stick at the ready, I crept forward to determine if the coast was clear. It wasn't. The two bats were still watching me (can bats see?) from their perches. Additionally, a frog had apparently decided to join the party in the tarp and it was he (or she) that had tumbled down on top of me while I was trying to free the bats.
Shaken, but still determined, I poured more Jameson into my coffee. I took a nice long sip and poured in a little more. I determined the only way to make this happen was to rip off the proverbial band-aid. Instead of inching the tarp off, I would grab a corner and just give it a quick tug, pulling it all off at once. It was a risky plan, but I wasn't interested in prolonging this exercise any more than I already had. So, I poured a little coffee into my Jameson, slammed it down, and took a firm grip of the tarp. After counting down from ten, I gave the tarp a strong jerk and it slid off of the frame, exposing the bats. In the scenario I had mapped out in my head, the bats, once exposed, would quickly dash off into the woods and my problems would be solved. The bats, however, weren't interested in following my script. Once exposed, the began furiously swooping and circling around the deck over and over again. I screamed, quite loudly this time, and (literally) hit the deck. For what seemed like an eternity, but was probably no more than 10 seconds, I lay flat on the deck as the bats continued to swoop around in circles above my head. Carson, meanwhile, still not understanding the rules of this game, began prancing around me, oblivious to the horror just inches above him. Trapped, I began desperately searching for an escape, eventually settling on the car parked about 20 feet away. I let out a scream and began running while staying as low to the ground as possible. Thankfully, the car was unlocked and I dove in, slamming the door immediately behind me. Safe now, I looked back at the scene of the carnage, letting out another yelp as Carson joyfully jumped up and looked in the window, obviously enjoying this awesome new game.
The bats circled for at least three more minutes before finally taking off for the woods. Once they left, I waited another full five minutes before exiting the car and shamefully apologizing to the dog for deserting him in the face of danger. The ordeal over, I steadied myself with a Jameson (hold the coffee, please) and replaced the tarp. After a few hours, I was finally able to relax again and resume my vacation.
The next morning the temperature and humidity dramatically spiked upward and over coffee Carson and I debated whether we should stay in our introvert paradise and deal with the heat or stealthily sneak home to air-conditioning. As we were discussing, I happened to glance upwards and noticed the horrifying little brown bump wedged firmly under the tarp again. I was out of Jameson, so we quickly packed the car and headed for home.