Bats in the belfry… I mean closet

Bat in the ClosetIt all began a couple of weeks ago. Lying in bed at night, SLP and I both heard a strange rustling sound in the ceiling. Unable to do anything about it, and uncertain if it even was anything to be concerned about, we listened for a few minutes and then, when it stopped, went back to sleep.

Then we went away for a week. We’ve been back for three or four days. Last night around 10 PM we were lying in bed, each watching our respective iPods. (Me, Curb Your Enthusiasm; she, 30 Rock; the fact that we were both isolated in the worlds of our pocket-sized cocoons rather than interacting with each other or even watching the same show, a sign of the times. We’ve also been known to sit side-by-side, each competing against an AI opponent in computer Scrabble, rather than just busting out the board and playing the game together.)

And then it happened. We both jolted up at the sound of a thud and some frantic rustling in the cheap economical IKEA wardrobe at the foot of the bed.

What transpired next was a scene worthy of the sitcoms we were watching.

“Did you hear that?”

“Yeah… was it… in the closet???”

“I think so.”

“What should we do?”


“Maybe it was just some clothes falling down.”

“Yeah…” And then I went for it. Foolish, perhaps, but I opened the door. The next 1/8 of a second happened in slow motion. Something dark writhed slowly in the air and landed, stunned, on the floor.

“IT’S A BAT!” I shrieked, channeling my inner 7-year-old girl.

We both leapt from the bed and danced around on tiptoes, arms flailing, for a few seconds.

“Cover it!”

“With what???”

“Find something!!!!”

I grabbed an empty toy bin and nervously inched towards the still-still bat. I frantically threw the bin over it, hoping it was covered.

“Now what?”

“Is it dead?”

“I don’t know. I think I hear it rustling around in there.”

After consulting the Interwebs, we determined a course of action: SLP went down to the basement to get a large piece of cardboard to slide under the bin, trapping the bat in a makeshift cage, while I continued the tiptoe dance upstairs. (Miraculously our 4 1/2-year-old son slept peacefully, feet away, through it all.)

Eventually she returned with the cardboard, which I gingerly slid under the bin. I peeked around to the back, where I discovered (with more shrieks and cringing) that part of one of the bat’s wings was protruding… but it appeared secure.

My wife sprinted down to the kitchen as I carefully made my way, holding the cardboard in place and somehow controlling my natural clumsiness adequately to keep from bumping against a door frame and prematurely freeing the beast, until I made it to the back door.

While she held the door open, I stepped out into the snow in my bare feet, shouted, “Here we go!” and with much haste hurled the lot as far out onto the driveway as possible.

It took several hours to come down from the trauma, but eventually I fell asleep. I saw this morning that our driveway-sharing neighbor had moved it off to the side, and it did not appear that anyone had needed to be taken to the hospital for rabies shots, so I am assuming the bat escaped.

The question remains, how exactly did it get into the roof (assuming it was what we heard a few weeks ago), and furthermore how it got from the rafters down into the bedroom and then, unnoticed, into the wardrobe. I blame shoddy work by the roofers who probably did not adequately vent our bathroom fan two years ago. For now, though, I am simply glad that there are (as far as we know) no longer any non-human mammals dwelling in our home.

All the World’s a Stage… and We Are Merely an Audience That Will Sit Through Just About Anything

Network television has been struggling lately to hold onto viewers. It’s no wonder why. In my early childhood years (the ones I can remember), say, 1977-1982, we got 4 TV channels… 5 if the wind was blowing in the right direction, the planets were properly aligned, and God was in a good mood. And 2 of those 5 were PBS.

Now I have a DirecTV satellite system that offers me over 130 channel options. Of course, about 127 of those channels are utter crap, but at least I get VH1 Classic and Boomerang, so when all else fails, I can always fall back on a cheesy Ratt video or an episode of Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch. All of the old stuff from the broadcast networks that was actually worth watching is now on TV Land or Nick at Nite, and the more recent stuff is on TNT, or as I like to call it, the Law and Order Network.

You might think that with all of the competition from cable networks, broadcast TV would’ve withered away. But much to the contrary, the number of broadcast networks has doubled since my youth. So now instead of 3 networks competing for 95% of all viewers (perhaps I am being generous to PBS), we have 6 networks competing for about 10-15% of the total audience. (I think PBS has managed to retain about 3 or 4 viewers nationwide, for the shows that haven’t been stolen by the army of Discovery networks. So someone actually does watch Masterpiece Theater!)

Oh yeah… I had a point to all of this. Faced with dwindling audiences, atrophy of advertising revenues, and a chronic inability to get the public’s attention, the networks have resorted to… reality TV.

I remember naively thinking, around the third series of Survivor (which is now, incredibly, casting for its seventh series), that the public’s fascination with “ordinary” people making asses of themselves had run its course. Oh, how wrong I was.

I admit, occasionally I get sucked into this stuff. I spent 3 hours in front of the TV last night, flipping between the finale of Joe Millionaire on Fox (which I, honestly, had never watched before) and ABC‘s encore presentation of the freakshow that is Living with Michael Jackson.

A variety of thoughts went through my head during the course of the evening:

Am I witnessing the fall of Rome?

I can’t believe I’m buying into the hype and watching this crap.

God, that Sarah‘s a bitch!

Yes, it’s true. As high-and-mighty as I like to be, as much as I deride this tripe and the people who watch it, I get drawn into it too.

But what really disturbed me were the promo spots for other shows that the networks were airing. Just about every new show they were promoting was another reality show. And now we’ve gotten into the scariest territory of all: reality shows about fallen celebrities (or perpetual wannabe celebrities) who are desperately trying to revive their faltering careers. Granted, even then, I must admit I find it somewhat amusing to see what happens when the likes of Vince Neil, MC Hammer, Emmanuel “Webster” Lewis, Gabrielle Carteris from Beverly Hills 90210, Corey Feldman, and the rest (as they used to say in the first-season theme music to Gilligan’s Island) are thrown together, as with the WB‘s The Surreal Life. Of course, I got as much amusement from watching the closing credits of a recent rerun of SNL on Comedy Central, wherein Rob Lowe, Eminem, and Ralph Nader were standing in a row at the front of the stage. Any truly odd assortment of famous people is bound to be mildly entertaining, even if they’re just waving at TV cameras.

At this point, I can only wonder, what’s next? And how can I avoid watching it?