Monday, November 21, 2011

Things aren't always what they seem

I was vacuuming in our basement when out of the corner of my eye, I saw what appeared to be a four-inch-long string bean.  That seemed oddly out of place, especially since now there are but two people living in this house and one of them is me.  The other is Felix Unger, so there's no way that bean came from him.  I admit to being a mess-maker (I have to because it's obvious now that the children are grown and the place is still messy) but I generally do follow my own rule about dining at the table.  That is to say, I don't wander around the house eating off a dainty plate like I'm the only guest at a cocktail party.  Has this green bean been on the floor since the last neighborhood barbecue in early October?

Things aren't always what they seem.  As I bend down to pick it up I can see that it's not a green bean at all.   It's a slender leaf from an aloe plant which lives happily on a nearby window sill.  I'm still not sure how it got here, but it doesn't disturb me like the thought of a green bean on the floor.  My day has improved -  I'm not a bigger slob than I imagine myself to be and I am remembering another time I bent to pick up something that wasn't what I thought it was either. 

I was a wedding coordinator at the Romeo United Methodist Church in Michigan, a job that I relished - in part because it was tons of fun and I was good at it and in part because the church was a half a block away so I could walk there.  This historic church was not air conditioned and summers can be scorchers, even in Michigan.  To remedy this, I'd go over at night, open all the windows in the sanctuary and then return at dawn to close them again in an effort to keep the building as cool as possible.  It was never truly cool, but it also wasn't as hot as it might have been, at least that's what I told myself.

Now I'm not a morning person, but this was a small sacrifice and I was willing to make it.   Not having an attendant faint from the heat was the goal here, so I'd do my part by dragging myself out of bed, sleep-walking next door, closing the windows, returning home and crawling back into bed again.  The whole process was maybe 15 minutes from opening my eyes to closing them again.  It was a minor thing, no big deal.

This particular wedding was in August and in the middle of a brutal heat wave.  I opened all the windows that night, just like normal.  At the break of dawn I went over to close them. Since this was far from my first rodeo, I didn't even bother to turn the lights on.  The sanctuary was in semi-darkness but I was just closing the windows and I wanted to stay in that drowsy state so I could go back to sleep easily.  As I was turning to leave, I saw what appeared to be a black washcloth on the floor, directly in front of the altar.  I was thinking evil thoughts about who might have left it as I bent over to pick it up and realized that it wasn't a washcloth at all, but sleeping bat. 

Since removing rodents with wings wasn't in my job description, I called Reverend Gary and asked him to do it.  He said he would be over shortly and hung up.  He lived next door, so I expected him in a flash but when he didn't arrive quickly I sat down to wait.  I looked over and  saw a second bat snoozing in the pew beside me.  That creeped me out - and woke me up. 

Now fully awake, I assessed the situation and as I looked around the bat count grew.  Bats were lying on pews, on the carpet under pews, one was even on the organ bench. There were seven in all.  The heat must have driven them to search for somewhere cool and the sanctuary must have seemed like a refrigerator in comparison to the attic where they probably normally hung out.  

Time ticked by and still no Gary.  I toyed with the idea of turning on the lights, but discarded the notion because I felt sleeping bats would be easier to address than flying ones.  Finally I heard someone fumbling around in the dark downstairs and then coming slowly up the back staircase.  I knew it wasn't the minister (because he was used to coming up that way) but lots of other people had keys to the building.  Then one person I didn't expect -- my husband Jerry -- stepped into the room, carrying a pool skimmer.  He had been called for back-up but he is a man of action so he scooped up one bat at a time and took each and every one outside. 

Just as he was finishing up, in walks Gary - wearing long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, giant quilted kitchen mitts and, to top off his ensemble, he had on a pith helmet with netting over it.  Jerry and I both laughed out loud, which was the reaction he was going for.  Even though he'd given significant  thought to the question of what constituted proper bat-removal attire, I think he secretly was pleased that the bats, all seven of them, had already been removed by a man wearing nothing but pajama bottoms.  I know I sure was.

I've always wondered though, where do you get a netted pith helmet on such short notice?

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