For several months preceding my hire here at Bellevue College, I’d been just eking out an existence. Between temp jobs and the kindness of friends, family, and Mercer Island Youth and Family Services, I was able to make rent…but not always pay the electric bill. In August 2011 I’d just gotten my job, and was two days away from a full paycheck. Puget Sound Energy must have known I was about to pay my bill because they chose that week to turn off my power.
I’d just gotten back from QFC. In hopes of salvaging my food, I bought seven bags of frozen water to turn my refrigerator into an old-fashioned icebox. (What do they think at the store when a person purchases 40 pounds of ice and nothing else?) Like some bizarre game show, I race to see how quickly I can consolidate my perishables, fill my refrigerator with the blocks, and lock it all in before the remaining cool air escapes.
As all my apartment’s switches, lamps, and clocks lay around dazed and confused, my iPhone is humming merrily along on its battery, unaware that anything is amiss. I take the opportunity to sit out in my hallway with it. PSE can’t stop me from using watts in the communal area! I sit outside my open door, letting light stream into my apartment, taking what I can get. Between Facebook and texting, I’ve easily passed the time until bed. I set the alarm on my phone so I can get up for work the next day and snuggle into my sheets.
*Flutter* *Flit* *Flit* *Flutter*
Dang it, I think to myself. Is that a moth? This would be a good time point out that I hate those things. Their erratic flights and random alighting habits shatter my nerves. (I don’t say this cavalierly. I once crashed a car because I jerked the steering wheel when I saw one). If I was at home with Mom and Dad I’d probably enlist our favorite indoor hunter, Rusty the Cat, to dispose of it. In that case, finding a moth is kind of fun because I know he’ll be thrilled.
Not tonight, though. It’s just me. Ready to fall asleep. Just stop fluttering, I beg. Find a spot on the wall and let me sleep. I can live with you in here if you can manage that. No such luck. It’s flying back and forth under my Beatles poster (aka headboard) with no signs of stopping. My next line of defense is my ponytail. Like an appaloosa swatting away flies, I flip my curls around, hoping it will decide my bed is a hazardous place to hang out.
In a way, this works. I snap Mr. Moth out of his psychedelic Beatles reverie and cause him to fly away…right over my face. In his wake, he leaves a LARGE breeze. Not “Zoom-a-bug-just-went-by-my-ear” tickle, but a very real, full, fan-like swoosh of air. That’s a big-*** moth, I think to myself, shuddering. This fills me with a jolt of adrenaline that I know will make sleep impossible.
It’s times like these that I wish I had a guy in my apartment.
Me: Honey, wake up!
Guy: ::rolls over::
Me: Wake up! There’s something in here!
Me (taking covers): You are not getting back in this bed until you kill whatever that is.
Go get the cat to help you.
But, I’m all on my own. I grab Domino (That would be the stuffed panda bear I’ve had since Christmas 1990; don’t judge me) and tiptoe cautiously out of bed. Normally, I would turn on the lights to give myself an advantage in the situation. But, of course, in a scene literally out of my nightmares, the switches are entirely useless. I grab the flashlight with my other hand and attempt to startle my little home invader with that.
He is unfazed.
The next step is the big gun, as any woman faced with any kind of vermin knows: the broom. At this point, my hands are already full with panda and flashlight, so I wield it rather awkwardly. Hopefully this makes me all the more threatening. It feels like forever, but I manage to at least get him out of my sleeping quarters. Now I just need to remove him from my residence completely. I open the front door to let in as much light as possible and to provide a clear path of escape.
At this point, some curious facts are emerging.
1. This creature doesn’t seem to want to go toward the light, though that’s supposedly something moths are prone to do.
2. With the light from the hallway, I can see a clearer silhouette. It’s not light and papery. It’s got some…girth to it.
3. It seems to be making concentric circles around my living room. Like it’s using some sort of mechanism to map out the space…
HOLY CATS. THERE IS A BAT IN MY HOUSE!!!!
“Get out of my apartment and I won’t kill you!” I exclaim.
It dawns on me after I say this that any neighbor overhearing this conversation might have assumed something much more sinister was going on. I can’t decide if I’m more disturbed that no one came to my rescue, or more mortified at what I would have had to explain if they had.
Mr. Bat is now taunting me by making his circles just large enough to circumnavigate the room without ducking out the door. A couple times he even flies right at me. At this point I’ve stood the flashlight up on the coffee table and left Domino atop the relatively safe washing machine. It’s just mammal vs. mammal. Both of us are getting desperate. (I’m only guessing about Mr. Bat. He’s cruising around my place at about the same rate as before, but I can just imagine what it would be like to be pursued by a shrieking creature 30 times your size). My desperation is immediately apparent as I momentarily set aside my broom and grab other potentially useful household objects. How about a Dustbuster? I once vacuumed up a spider and deposited it alive and (presumably) well outdoors.
Perhaps a J.C. Penney’s bag could be used as a net?
But the broom proves to be my best friend as 10 or so minutes of persistent swinging eventually herd Mr. Bat out my door. Now, I don’t know if it’s the adrenaline, the sleep deprivation, or both, but I immediately decide to break my “get out and I don’t kill you” promise. By this time I’ve invested so much time and energy, I can’t let go. As I pad up the stairs in pursuit, it dawns on me that I’ve never been upstairs in my apartment building in two years, and now here I am, bra-less, disheveled, and crazy-eyed, still clutching my sweeping-implement-turned-weapon. This would be a terrible…or hilarious…time to meet my neighbors.
The bat flies back and forth down the short hallway, bouncing off each end wall like a pinball zinging around the machine. I stand in the middle of the corridor, a glistening, deranged goalie swatting at him helplessly. I’d occasionally “get a piece of it” but never enough to fully take him down. More often I’d get a piece of the wall and stand petrified for a moment, willing the residents not to come out and demand what was going on. I also start imagining future games of “I’ve Never” where I need to admit I once killed a mammal…
After several minutes, however, I accept the fact that I am too sleepy, not to mention short, to win this battle. My heart-rate and inner Captain Ahab subside enough that I’m able to leave the situation and return to my (now blissfully creature-free) bed.
I have no idea where that bat is today. Probably telling all his bat friends on his social networking site about his harrowing experience: “I just thought it was a nice, warm cave…”