I’ve been having a rough time falling asleep for the past while. so I’ve been making a concerted effort to go to bed earlier. Last night I was particularly proud of myself. It was 10:40, and I’d already stopped watching West Wing. So Denisa and I head off to brush our teeth and get ready for bed. On my way to the bathroom, I caught a flicker of movement in the corner of my eye. I turned to look at our enclosed front porch. Just as I was about to dismiss what I’d seen, I saw it again. And again. And then there was no doubt:
A bat had gotten in there.
This is a little room about ten feet wide and five feet deep. It’s got a door to the outside, but we’ve sealed that door shut with spray foam, since we never use it. It has a big window to the outside, though. A locked window. That could only be unlocked from inside the room, of course.
The room which had a very angry bat flying wildly around inside it at the moment.
Denisa and I conferred and came up with a few options:
- Laissez faire–Leave the bat alone. It had gotten in there somehow. It could get out again, thank you very much. This seemed like a less-than-optimal choice, mainly because we were pretty sure the bat came in through a hole in the ceiling where we’ve been working on fixing a light. We never go in the room, so we’ve just left the hole there while the light gets fixed. It’s a small hole, however. I could see how the bat got in through it, but the odds of that flying rodent finding its way out were slim to none.
- Call for reinforcements–Isn’t this why they invented exterminators? I could surely *buy* my way out of this mess. However, that goes against the DIY attitude I’ve somehow developed since moving to Maine (6 years ago today–can you believe it?) I didn’t want to pay some schlub to come take care of this problem for me. Plus, who knew how long it would take for it to get taken care of.
- Wait it out–Bats have to go to sleep eventually, right? The little bloodsucker would get tuckered out during the day, and then we could catch it and release the thing into the wild, where it could prey on mosquitoes as much as it liked. The problem with this one was that we really had no clue if this would work, and Denisa does have to go in that room occasionally.
- Get the bat out right then and there–Not as appealing as the other options, but it would solve the problem. One of us would have to go in, brave the fluttering bat wings, open the window, remove the screen, and then the bat would voomp! off into the wild dark yonder.
We went with the last choice. And I’m the pater familias. I’m bona fide.
I volunteered to be the one to go in with the Fledermaus.
I don’t have a lot of experience with bats. I’ve seen all the Batman movies, and I can sing the Mighty Mouse theme song (flying mouse–same thing, right?), but when it comes to bats in the wild, my experience boils down to one a dark night on the sun porch of my house growing up, where a bat dive bombed my sister and I laughed at her. (Sorry, Susie)
Karma is real, my friends.
Even though my experience was small, I *am* a trained librarian, and I’m awfully good at looking things up online. A few minutes later, and I knew that yes indeedy, bats carry rabies and other nasty things. You’re supposed to wear long sleeves and pants when dealing with them, and you want to limit your exposure. There was a YouTube video of a woman catching a bat, and if some random woman on YouTube can do it, so can I.
I’m bona fide.
So I got into my grubby jeans, threw on an old long sleeve flannel shirt (flannel is the cloth of choice for bat-wrangling), and went to the door to the porch, then paused. The bat was still flapping around, whizzing from wall to wall like a disease-ridden pinball. And I was about to step in there with that bat.
I’d need a hat. And gloves.
So I got the hat and gloves and stood in front of the door again. The bat had gone into stealth mode. I was fairly confident that bats didn’t have Predator-level technology (at least, I hadn’t come across anything indicating that on YouTube), so I was pretty sure it had just taken refuge in one of the piles of stuff on the floor. I looked at the window where I’d need to get to, then back to the door I needed to enter. Six feet, tops. Then pause at the window to open it, fumble with the screen to get it off, and then back to the door to get out. I could do this.
But I’d need protection for my face. Didn’t want that bat making a run for my eyeballs, you know. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Denisa has a bug hat she uses on particularly bad buggy days in the garden. I went and got that, and put it over my head. I was now armored for action, and no doubt looking about as stupid as a thirty-something librarian can look at 11:15 at night.
I took another breath, and opened the door.
The bat was ready for me. It started swooping back and forth, emitting shrieks of anger and no-doubt rabid intentions. But I kept my cool, went to the window, opened it, took off the screen (Denisa was helping from the outside), and then went back to the door and shut it behind me. I had done it! I hadn’t even screamed. Honest.
Problem solved, right? Wrong. You know how nature shows are always talking about how bats are like awesome and all that at finding their way around in the dark? About how they’ve got super awesome powers of sonar? Those nature shows are full of it. I stood there watching the bat fly around the room. And keep flying. And flying. Despite the fact that there was a square three foot opening for the stupid thing, it couldn’t find its way out. That bat couldn’t find its way out of a paper bag, let alone that room. And then it dropped to the ground again and went back into hiding.
No problem. The bat would come out eventually, right? Nope. I waited. And waited. And I was getting pretty tired, because I’ve been having sleep issues, you know? And it was now 11:30 at night. So I suited up again, grabbed a trusty broom, and headed back into the room.
I poked around with the broom. I squeaked. I shouted. I clicked my tongue. I did everything but offer that cursed bat a steak dinner. It didn’t come out.
Denisa was sure the bat had already left the premises–that we’d just missed seeing it leave. Besides, we could just leave the window open all night, and the bat would leave on its own. “Denisa,” I said. “You’ve got to go in this room tomorrow or the day after. Are you going to feel comfortable going in there?”
She thought about it, and then sent me back in to look for the bat.
I was now at the most distasteful part of the evening. I don’t really like cleaning clutter up, but let me tell you friends–you’ve never cleaned clutter up like this. They could make a new game show out of it: “Mr. Smith! You’ve got a room full of clutter, and you’ve got five minutes to clean it out. But somewhere in that clutter, we’ve secretly hidden a LIVE BAT WITH RABIES! So, Mr. Smith. The time has come to see if you can be the one . . to FIND THE BAT!” (Cue audience applause)
I started an archaeological dig for that lousy bat. Moving box by box in a dark room (I mentioned the light in there was broken, didn’t I?), never knowing if the next box was going to reveal a winged horror. I’ve done more pleasant things in my life.
And then I found the bat. But it didn’t swoop into bite my neck. It was huddled underneath my briefcase, scrunched up in a ball on the floor. It was doing the animal equivalent of the five year old who squeezes his eyes shut in a misguided belief that if he can’t see you, you can’t see him.
I own pet rodents. (My kids’ degus) This bat wasn’t a fiend of terror. It was a small winged degu, and it was scared out of its mind.
From there on, it was smooth sailing. I grabbed an empty sour cream container, placed it over the huddled bat, slipped a piece of cardboard under it, and picked it up. The bat started screeching wildly then, fluttering around inside the container. I took it out of the room, set it on the porch, and removed the lid. The bat stayed huddled there for a minute or so, and then it flew off.
I went back inside and duct taped the ceiling hole closed in that room.
And there you have it, my friends. My first encounter with a bat. It might not have been glamorous. It might not be a story for the ages, but it kept me up until 12:30 last night, and I’m kind of sleepy today because of it. Denisa expressed her undying respect and admiration for my feats of bravery, and I assured her the main reason I did it was because I wanted a permanent “Get Out of Jail Free” card for anything. (Denisa: “Bryce? Come do the dishes!” Bryce: “I would do the dishes, but there was that one time I captured the bat. Remember that?” Denisa: “Oh, right. Never mind. Keep reading!”)
But when you get down to it, I did it because I’m the pater familias. Bat duty comes with the job description.
And I’m bona fide.