Tuesday, June 12, 2007

And now we have a roommate.

Reading on the couch last night, I heard the scrabbling scuffle in the ceiling that never really bothered me when I was a renter. My attitude then? "Vermin. Whatever. They stay on their side of the drywall and don't stink up the joint, I try to return the favor, and everyone gets along great." Now, my attitude as a homeowner is equal parts, "The wiring! The ancient, decrepit, fragile wiring! Don't! Chew! It!" and, "Great, yet another project for us to attempt, botch, and then hire an expensive, unreliable man named Eddie to fix." So, I decided to just keep reading, calling upon the skills that earned me the title Cleopatra (you know, Queen of Denial) as a homework-avoidant high schooler.

But not even my advanced abilities were enough for the next development. I went upstairs, got in bed, read some more, and eventually realized that the little noises my brain was doing its best to lalalalalalala out of existence were no longer on the other side of anything, but rather, coming from a little lump over near the radiator. A dark brown lump, maybe black, with appendages. My brain then took the following trip very quickly: "Mouse? Too ...lumpy. Rat? Too small. What could it... oh. Oh! Aah! Eeeaaaaaaah!!" The bat took flight and started swooping around the room, and I screamed like a little girl. And being rather a big girl now, I admit to being disappointed by my reaction. So I composed myself, took a deep breath, pulled the covers up over my nose, and watched it flap around while I waited for it to land somewhere, and formulated my strategy. When it landed on the closet door, I jumped up, grabbed my glasses and my book, slid out the door, closed it behind me, and went to bed in the guest room, resuming my book where I had left off. Then I got up again and wedged a towel into the gap under the bedroom door. I've heard that rodents* are very flexible, and have exceptional limbo skills. Then I went to bed for real, mentally preparing for a morning confrontation with what would hopefully be a sleepier bat and a more wakeful me.

This morning, in the cold light of day, I realized that I should have left my book behind and taken some clothes out of the room instead. I was on one side of the door, hardly dressed for Battle of the Flying Rodent*, and my adversary was (presumably) on the other side of the door, trying on all my clothes, peeing in my shoes and laughing. Luckily, I'm not a very prompt mender, so in I was able to find some pants that need hemming and a shirt that needs buttons in the mending heap. But I didn't feel quite girded enough until I added a woolly hat, some big work gloves, and a pair of rain boots. I was quite willing to trade some dexterity for some armor.

After closing all the other doors, I opened the bedroom door quietly and stuck my head in. No immediate sign of my leathery friend. Looking around, I realized that my closet door was open, my underwear drawer was open, and there were the usual number of piles of things strewn around the place. Apparently, I had left a thoughtfully diverse assortment of hiding places for the little guy. Closing the bedroom door behind me (with a little internal scream, "Other side of the door, bonehead! You should be on THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR!"), I gingerly stepped over to my closet, regretting for the first time that I own so many black, drapey clothes. And all that black underwear! Clearly now a bad idea. If only I took after my grandmother more and had a wardrobe full of white and gold and sequins, that little interloper would have no where to hide. So I left the closet, opened the bedroom windows, opened the screens, and started some very timid poking around. Not behind the mirror. Not clinging to the curtains. Not immediately visible in the closet or the underwear. And then I just lost my nerve. I really, really did not want to be the one to startle a bat awake. Maybe this one would be a morning person, and would be friendly and composed when I found it, but I wasn't sticking around to make sure. I delicately retrieved some underwear (shaking it out and inspecting it for far longer than necessary) a couple shirts and some pants, and turned to address the room, "The windows are open. Please wake up and leave now. Okay? Great. Thank you in advance for your cooperation." And I scarpered. I stuffed the towel back under the door, and started planning how to tell the man of the house that the bedroom is no longer our own when he gets home from his business trip in half an hour. Perhaps I'll just ask him to read my blog.

*Edited to add: I had a feeling I might be wrong, and sure enough, bats aren't rodents. Battle of the Flying Primate-Like Furball just doesn't have the same ring, though. I'm leaving it in.

Afternoon Update:
1:46 pm
So the man of the house got home, heard my tale of woe and plea for backup, and asked me if I hadn't already volunteered for the position of Manager of Flying Creatures. Oh, right. That. I enlisted cheerfully one afternoon a few years ago when I found a drowned mouse in the dishpan, and suggested that he take care of the running (or formerly-running) things and I deal with the flying ones. This was when I thought (for no good reason) that with two successful bat-wrangling situations behind me, I was unlikely to encounter a third. Crap.

So I re-armed (gloves, hat) and enhanced (shoebox, piece of cardboard) my gear, and re-entered the room. Some tips, if you find ever find yourself in this situation:

1. Shoes are easy to look into to verify vacancy. Boots are harder. If you're pretty sure you're only dealing with one potential guest, just see if the right one weighs about the same as the left and if it does, move on.

2. Try not to let the detachable (and detached) leather collar of an overcoat scare you. It is not a bat, and you don't want to have to change your pants.

3. Pawing through your a closet with gloves on, not knowing what you might find, makes you feel like a cop on a TV show. This is a valuably thick-skinned mentality to adapt during the procedure. Distance yourself as far as possible from the persona of the girl in the horror movie who goes down to the basement to see what that noise was.

4. If you don't find anything, leave the bedroom door closed and the windows open. Hope that if the bat hasn't left yet, he will soon.

5. Yearn for closure and definite bat removal, thinking of the Dread Waterbug Incident. From a comment I left on someone's post about waterbug close encounters a few years ago, here's how that went:

deedle deedle deedle deedle deedle
~~~~~~~flashback screen~~~~~~~~

My skin crawls, and my Waterbug Incident is brought right back out of my repressed memories file. I'm on my parents' couch, on the phone to my husband. No safer scenario, right? A massive waterbug appears on my ankle and zooms right up my pantleg, like it has really urgent business up there. I immediately lose all sense of reason, hurl the phone across the room, tear my pants off and hurl them across the room, and swat frantically at my legs and butt, hopping up and down in what I hope is a bug-dislodging sort of way. I don't see the bug on me, but I don't see it anywhere else either, and this is alarming. And then my mom comes in and I explain to her why I'm half naked, jumping and flailing around in her living room. She accepts my explanation with the right amount of sympathetic exclamation, and then says hold still, and advances toward me, hand raised. I've been around enough to recognize the "you've got a bug on your neck" stance when I see it, and I brace myself. She whacks at me, I jump around, whack myself, and tear off my shirt. The bug, again, is seemingly not on me, but also not to be found anywhere else. I quiver with horror and revulsion for awhile, then pick up the phone, explain to my horrified husband what all that shrieking was about, take a marathon shower, and burn my clothes.

deedle deedle deedle deedle deedle
~~~~~~~flashback screen~~~~~~~~

So the bat thing doesn't actually seem so bad, now that I have a little perspective. At least bats have more sense than bugs, and won't likely crawl up my pants leg. But I might get a set of footie pajamas just in case.