Monday, May 17, 2010

Day 186: Unwelcome House Guest

Before my brother and sister-in-law came to visit on Day 174, I went to great lengths to prepare for their stay, ensuring that my house was clean, and that there was food and beer in the fridge. I forgot, however, to tell them about my new roommate.

Because I had been hearing him for several weeks now, I was used to waking up to the sounds of little feet scurrying around in my ceiling and in the walls. But Jeff and Katie were disturbed by the noises they were hearing and urged me to get my landlord to evict my roommate sooner rather than later.

I told Katie and Jeff that I lived in constant fear of him falling through the ceiling and onto my bed while I was sleeping, but I assured them that the situation had been under investigation and would soon be under control.

Knowing that action was being taken to have him physically removed from the premises, I guess my roommate decided he wasn't leaving until he met me face to face. So one morning recently he made an appearance in my apartment while I was making a bowl of cereal.

And it was grand appearance indeed.

On Day 186, April Fool's Day, my roommate, a squirrel that had found its way into the walls and ceiling of my apartment, jumped through the chimney in my living room. Chasing the little rodent out of my house became Day 186's thing I've never done before.

I've told this story so many times in person and every time I tell it, people want to know, "Oh my God, what did you do?"

The best way I can describe this horrific experience is by contrasting it to other experiences often over-dramatized by the movies. For example, when a woman goes into labor. In the movies, this scenario is always depicted by a hysterical pregnant woman screaming wildly, breathing heavily, cursing everyone in her path. I was with my friend Danielle when she went into labor and her experience was far from dramatic race to the hospital always portrayed in films and on television shows. She was in pain, but she was calm. There was no yelling, no racing.

I assumed, then, that if ever a rodent was let loose in my house, the scene would not be like that scene from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation when all of the Griswolds ran screaming from room to room from the squirrel dramatically. But in fact, it is. That's EXACTLY what it's like.

When the squirrel tumbled down the chimney and to my living room, I threw my cereal bowl on the counter and I let out a moan that I didn't think I was capable of making. I truly don't even know what part of my body the sound came from, because it was one I'd never heard before. My heart was beating so fast, but I was paralyzed with fear, and I stood frozen, staring at the squirrel.

But if you've ever seen a squirrel, you know that they really don't stand still. They dart. In and out of the road, up and down trees. The same is true when squirrels are indoors. Before I could look at him for very long, he took off running through my apartment. And then I ran too. Towards him or away from him, I'm really not sure. I suppose it was a combination of both.

I knew that I'd never catch the squirrel, nor did I want to. I had just two goals: to open a door and let the squirrel run out and most importantly, to never let him touch me.

My apartment is designed "shotgun style," so all the rooms are in one long row, in this order: the foyer, my bedroom, the living room, kitchen, and bathroom in the back. There are two doors, one in the front in the foyer and one in the bathroom that leads to the deck out back.

So in my attempt to open both doors so that squirrel could run out, the rodent and I basically chased each other up and down the house, through all four rooms, lots of weird noises still coming from my completely terrified self.

At some point in the insanity, I texted my landlord "Uh, the squirrel is in my apartment!"

Landlord Scott came over immediately and I prefaced my tirade with, "I just want you to know that I'm hyper-aware that it's April Fool's Day. I swear this isn't a joke!"

He shook his head, and I could tell he believed me because I was more or less shouting at him.

And then he said, "I'm telling you, I've looked everywhere and I just don't understand how the squirrel is getting in the ceiling."

Now, I had acknowledged already the humor in this entire situation and had faced the likely possibility that this might be the most hilarious thing that will ever happen to me in life. In fact, there were times when I found myself half-laughing while also screaming running through my house.

But when Landlord Scott wanted to dive into how the squirrel was able to get into my house, I was not amused. I nodded that I understood, but what I really wanted to do was grab him by the shoulders, shake him and say, "Can we talk about how he got here later?!?!?! He's still in the house!" That's like asking someone, while their house is burning, how they think the flames ignited.

I mean, let's deal with the squirrel!

I should tell you that my landlords Scott and David are extremely conscientious about the upkeep of their home, they take good care of me and of the house and I think the not being able to crack the squirrel case was really weighing on both of them.

But like other unpleasurable things, squirrels happen.

And unfortunately, on this April Fool's Day, they were happening to us.

Landlord Scott eventually stopped with the explaining and the two of us faced the situation at hand. We both tiptoed around my apartment and tried to find the squirrel but finally we heard no more scurrying. I assumed that my genius idea to open the doors had worked and squirrel ran out during our conversation.

Scott left, but not before telling me that he'd go up in the attic and between the walls again and try and figure out how the squirrel had made our home his own.

I tried to go back to my cereal, which was now soggy, but I realized quickly that I didn't have much of an appetite. My heart was still racing, and I felt like I had run a marathon.

I tried to go about my morning as usual, so I sat on my couch and tried to write, which is what I do in the morning. I shared with a few friends what had happened and reacted to every noise as if it was the squirrel ready to rumble again, jumping up several times from the couch.

At some point I started to feel uneasy with the fact that I never actually saw the squirrel exit my apartment. So before I got in the shower, I did one last look through the house for the squirrel. Under the bed, under my couch, behind my book shelf. My stomach flipped when I looked behind my magazine basket and saw a little ball of fur sleeping soundly.

First of all, who knew squirrels slept? I had to assume that they did at some point during the day, I had just never seen it until now.


My heart, which had calmed down somewhat since I thought the squirrel had left, started racing again. I text messaged Scott to tell him that the squirrel was still in the house.

His response, "I'm on a conference call. I will come over when I'm done."

Freaking great.

Time was starting to become an issue because I had to get ready for work. I have an understanding boss, but calling to say, "I am going to be late today because there is a squirrel taking me hostage inside my house," is just not something that I wanted to do. I decided to get in the shower and hope that Scott's conference call was over by the time I was out.

Positive that the only thing worse than a squirrel in my house is a squirrel walking in on me talking a shower, I closed and locked the bathroom door.

Part of me expected to open the door after the shower to the squirrel running wildly all over the place. But he remained behind the magazine basket, still sleeping. I shared the latest with the squirrel with Lauren, Elizabeth, and Emily and asked for their advice.

"Holy crap. The squirrel is still here. Sleeping behind a basket."

Their responses were vastly different.

"HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA," Lauren laughed. And then she said squirrels are gross. No real idea on how to get it out, but she appreciated the story.

Elizabeth's response was my favorite: "Get the f*ck out of your house. Call the fire department."

I can't call the fire department over a squirrel. Or wait, can I?

Emily was concerned, especially when I told her I was out of ideas on how to get him out and that I was contemplating leaving the squirrel behind when I came into work. "No," she wrote, "Put on a hat and shoo it out with a broom. If you let it stay in your house while you're at work, it'll destroy everything."

When I told her that the squirrel was sleeping, she asked me if it was possible that the squirrel was dead. I said I wasn't sure, but it was certainly possible with all the trauma he and I had suffered together just hours earlier, there was a chance he could have died. Then I felt bad for the squirrel who possibly took his last breath in my sad little apartment.

When I turned my hair dryer on, I saw the little fur ball twitch, so I knew that the squirrel was still alive. And just like that, I wanted him dead.

At around that time, Scott had finished his conference call and come over to my apartment with a towel. His plan was to scoop the squirrel up with the towel and calmly release him in the yard. I was not confident in this approach, but without any ideas of my own, I was willing to go along with it.

Going along with it meant that I was going to stand in my bedroom and watch the action go down as far away from the squirrel as possible.

Scott walked over to where the squirrel was sleeping and surveyed the situation. He is an animal lover and I could tell he had empathy for the little rodent who obviously was more scared of us than we were of him.
He gently pulled the basket back and spoke to the squirrel in a gentle tone of voice, "It's ok . . .it's alright."

No surprise, Scott's plan to scoop the squirrel up in the towel did not work. Sweet sleeping squirrel went immediately back to being schizo squirrel running wildly all over my house. Only this time, instead of just me running behind him screaming and making other weird noises, Scott joined in. Only he had the towel as a prop that he was using to guide the squirrel towards the door.

Thankfully, it worked. And after a few laps in the living room, the squirrel ran out the front door.

He ran onto the front deck and then he climbed up the screen of the porch. Scott kept telling him, "Run, run into the yard," and he used the towel to point him in the right direction. Only the towel waving in his face seemed to scare him more and from about ten feet up on the screen, the squirrel leapt onto the porch, missing jumping on Scott's face by just inches. The squirrel hit the porch with a thud and scurried away, his back legs seemingly injured.

I felt badly that the ordeal had to end this way, but I was happy to see the squirrel go, bum legs and all. If that makes me a bad person, then maybe I am. The next morning I woke up to the same scurrying feet in my ceiling, so the little squirrel obviously wasn't that bad off.

I went to work exhausted, happy that the thing I've never done before was already taken care of, but disappointed that I had no energy to play any pranks on anyone for April Fool's Day.

Elizabeth said it would've been funny if the squirrel had jumped through the chimney holding a sign that said, "April Fool's!" and I agreed. For a moment I thought maybe the squirrel was a joke carried out by Lisa as pay back for her Valentine's Day present.

Someone asked me if I was going to write about this in the blog and I said, "Yes, of course I am. I've never chased a squirrel out of my house."

Then the same person asked me, "Did you take a picture of it?"
What? Whoever asked me this (and I truly don't remember) deserves a little shake of their own.
No, while chasing the squirrel through my house, I didn't think to grab a camera and say, "Hey little rat with the bushy tail, smile for the blog!"

But admittedly, I was sad I didn't think of it. Because that would've been awesome.


  1. I have been a long time lurker of your journey through project and I had to comment today. I am at work and couldn't help laughing out loud at this whole experience. I had a squirrel circle me in a parking lot once and was screaming my head off, I can't imagine it being in my house.

  2. Michelle, it was a scary day for sure, and I feel like all squirrels are out to get me now. Thanks for reading the blog and for commenting!

  3. Just found your blog tonight...loved this story!
    Made me laugh and reminded me of my squirrel episode many years ago(mine was of the flying type) ... after wrecking several things, it flew into a french door and well...the little fella didn't make it.