For no particular reason, here's the story of our Rochester bats.
When Howie and I moved to Rochester, New York, right after our marriage, we found a totally cool apartment. It was a converted attic studio, very spacious and airy, with a cathedral octahedral ceiling in the middle of it, equipped with a ceiling fan. The space was divided with some partitions and half-walls; there were 6' X 3' windows on three sides, with semi-circular windows above them. The kitchen was tiny but functional. When we were shown the place, we were struck with the 1970s shag carpeting underfoot: an orange expanse of retro un-chic. But we fell in love with the light and space, and the rent was refreshingly cheap after years paying out stacks of cash in Boston's outrageous real estate market.
The landlord was amazing, too, which sadly shot down one of my pet theories, that all landlords were undead, liver-eating, child-stealing, vehicularly-nosepicking monsters. He was always having maintenance and improvement work done: building locked storage spaces in the basement, replacing carpeting in the common spaces; and one summer, he had the exterior of the building painted. The painters had some of the windows in the hallways open for a day or two at some point during their work. In retrospect, we always assumed that one of these open windows was the point of entry for Bat Number One. When we first found Bat Number One, we didn't know it was a bat. We discovered it in the morning at the bottom of the stairs that led up to our apartment, just inside our door. At first, I thought it was a vole, which looks like this. Except the fur didn't look quite right. The creature looked tiny and baggy and shriveled up ... We got a dustpan to try to pick it up and cart it outside, but when the pan approached it, it suddenly bared its teeth and pricked it ears and then oh my god it's a BAT! We realized what we were dealing with. We phoned the nice landlord and he sent Dave, his man-of-all-work, to remove it for us. It had a broken wing, said Dave, so he killed it, the poor thing. With a baseball bat. No lie.
We didn't realize that this was the beginning of a three year relationship with bats. Bat Number Two showed up at about midnight about a week later, apparently out of nowhere, flying around our apartment.
This was our first experience with a lively bat, then. And here's the thing about the way bats fly: they have a kind of skittering style that is very unnerving. They vary in altitude with astonishing rapidity, and they just don't seem to try to avoid getting close, so much. It's up down dart dart all over the damn place. And yes we did: we called the landlord at that hour, and he came over with Dave. They were equipped with heavy leather gloves, a fishing net, and ... the baseball bat, just in case. This bat they managed to capture uninjured, and they set it free out our back window.
Now it became apparent to Howie and me that we'd better get edumacated about bats, since they were becoming a fixture of our apartment life. The landlord sent over a pest exclusion fellow to check out the crawl space for a nest, and he told us that our neighborhood--which was full of handsome old Victorian and early-20th century houses--had the highest bat population in the city, since that type of construction is so friendly to bat nesting habits. We found that the species common to our area was the Little Brown Bat. We learned what beneficial critters they are. We learned that bats are voracious consumers of mosquitoes (an adult bat can consume 500 mosquitos an hour), and it occurred to us that we had never, ever gotten a mosquito bite while walking in our neighborhood--though I'd been nearly sucked dry at a barbecue we'd attended about two miles away. The exclusion guy didn't find any evidence of bat guano in our crawlspace, so he figured there was no nest--the bat had probably just found its way in through a tiny crack somewhere (bats can crawl through a space as small as 1/2" wide!).
Bat Number Three showed up dead, on our couch, within a week. That was disturbing. For one thing, the dead ones don't eat mosquitos worth a damn. For another--come on. Our couch?
By now we were getting something of a reputation among our acquaintance as The Bat Couple, though we were bereft of capes and gadgety, finned black cars and the like. One of my friends gave us a rubber bat, which we hung in the middle of the apartment. (You can sort of see it in this pic, hanging in front of the beam and appearing to float over the hamper.) She was fond of singing: Ha ha ha, you and me, little brown bat, don't I love thee!
That was the end of bats for the summer of 1996. In 1997, Bat Number Four made the scene with a splash. We were up late, packing for our summer vacation--we had an early flight to San Francisco scheduled for the next morning--when Bat showed up, winging around the apartment. We followed the routine: phoned the landlord, waited for him to show up with Dave. This time while we were waiting, Bat flew into the ceiling fan and fell to the floor, apparently stunned. This was the first time I really got a pretty good close-up view of one of the creatures, as it lay huddled near the wall on our orange shag carpeting. The wings were almost imperceptible--they were so thin, and shrank almost into nonexistence when the bat was, um, in repose or whatever. The bat looked so substantial flittering around the apartment, but as it attempted to vanish into the corner it looked more like a crumpled bit of black construction paper.
When the Bat Auxiliary Brigade showed up to escort it out, they tossed it out the window, but it fell to the ground--wing apparently broken from its collision with the fan--and sadly, the baseball bat again was again called upon to perform its act of euthanasia.
The very last bat made its appearance in the summer of 1998, within weeks of when we were planning to move away, and this was the only one to appear in our apartment after the Jellybean's birth. The Jellybean was five months old, sleeping in her crib. This was the only time a bat showed up when we were actually already in bed. The uninvited guest made its appearance, as they all did, after midnight--such a horror movie cliché. But this was the latest one of all--it was about 1AM. Although by now we were such Bat Mavens that we knew not to panic, having an infant around just made it a bit too much for me. I couldn't resist taking the Jellybean out of her crib and holding her against me on the couch as the bat swooped around. Howie watched the bat, actually seeming to enjoy it a bit. But I had a new mother moment and ran out of the apartment, in my nightshirt, clutching the baby and the cordless phone. I called the landlord from the hall, and went out to the porch to wait for help to arrive. Howie remained in the apartment to ensure that we knew where the bat was when the landlord arrived--you know, because of the inconspicuous-bat-looking-like-a-crumpled-bit-of-paper phenom. When I brought the fellas upstairs, the bat had crawled into a little crevice under one of the beams. There was nothing to do but quietly wait for it to decide that the ruckus had subsided enough to brave another flight. So, we stood around the apartment for about half an hour (by now it was about 2 AM), chatting quietly, and eventually the bat ventured out again. And broke its wing against the fan while Dave attempted to snag it with the fishing net, and lost its life, as had all its brethren save one.
It was only after that fifth bat that we figured out where they had been coming from all along. Go back and look at that kitchen picture again. See the ventilation fan on the wall? It didn't work. But Dave figured out that it provided a pretty easy entrance for a bat. He installed some heavy gauge screen there, and I doubt the next tenants had any bat adventures.
We still have the rubber bat, and we hang it on our porch on Halloween. Now that we live in the suburbs, I think it might be nice to have a bat house in the backyard, for mosquito control. And for old time's sake.