Archive for April, 2011

Flip Flops Can’t Outrun a Bat’s Wings

07 Apr

Close to sundown one warm spring evening, I make the mistake of still being out walking my dogs.  Instantly I look up at the pine trees.  This is when they come out – from under the cover of needles and shade – the hairy airborne creatures that are supposed to hang upside down in caves.  Suddenly one drops down from the tallest branches and flutters rapidly, if not unsteadily, straight for me in its blind flight.  Before I can stop myself, I hit the asphalt.

Leo, my big teddy bear of a dog, strains on his leash and turns around and around, barking at my sudden fall.  No doubt I have scraped up my knees.  But I do not have time to check for blood or gravel in my wounds.  In defense, I throw my arms up in the air, a grown woman causing such a childish commotion, until I shuffle all the way home in my flip flops.

When we first moved in, we found in our mudroom what I thought were mouse droppings left in strangely high places.  In actuality I later learned they were from bats known to migrate to this area during spring and later returning briefly at the end of summer.  No matter how stifling it may get in there, I insist on keeping the doors to the mudroom locked after dark.  The rest of my family resisted until early one morning as I entered the kitchen to make coffee, a bat swooped down from the rafters and landed on the screen window.  This time it was so close I saw the rough fur on its back.  My screams woke up everyone.  An elderly neighbor dialed 911.  No coffee was made and I waited at Starbucks until I was reassured that the bat flew out on its own through the front door I’d left flung wide open.

Many times in my life I have confronted things that have terrified me whether it be a rabid student or relative, even my former neighbor’s Rottweiler.  But I have never been able to fully control my fear of bats.  Maybe it’s my hairdresser who likes to tell stories that sound more like urban legends while I sit still in an adult version of a booster seat while she snips at my wet hair.  Over the years she’s told me the story of when she was at a gas station bathroom in the desert and a tarantula fell from the towel dispenser and landed right smack in the palms of her hands.  Or the time another client of hers got a bat stuck in her updo.  It clawed and bit at her scalp until her husband knocked it unconscious with one of his wife’s garden tools.  My hairdresser laughs at the horror on my face through the mirror.  “Don’t worry, Paula.  You don’t use too much hairspray.”

Most of my family and friends find my phobia of bats quite funny.  My mother has gone so far as to buy me a Beware of Bats sign made out of wood with a stake at the end to plant in the yard.  Instead I’ve hung it on the front door to ward off those flying spirits.  But it is my friend’s adorable young daughter and what she will think of me that convinces me, however temporary, to suck it up as I hold my breath and follow her brave lead inside the wall to wall bat exhibit at the Central Park Zoo in New York City.