Sunday, July 19, 2009

Playing with bats, no baseballs required

I was a bumbling nerd of a highschool senior, walking into my very first scholarship interview at The College of Wooster. I sat down in the chair, wondering if the professor would notice that my right armpit sweats a little more than my left and that my face and neck made “cherry tomato” seem like a dull, blah color.
She quickly welcomed me and then leaned back in her chair and said, “tell me what you know about bats.”
My mind raced because this was an English professor and I didn’t think she was really asking me about anything scientific. I wanted to say that I spent countless hours as a child, sleeping on our pontoon boat, nestled deep inside my sleeping bag while the bats dive bombed all around us. I wanted to tell the stories of being at Girl Scout camp and choosing my canvas tent by the number of spiders versus the number of bats. I wanted to say that I always loved how bats pretty much have thumbs, and that if I ever met one who was ready to converse and not give me any diseases, I’d toss him a big thumbs up and expect one in return.
Instead I think I just said something really stupid, like “my mom doesn’t like them because she thinks they’ll make a nest in her hair even though she knows they won’t.”
As the interview went on she explained that the point of her asking me that bizarre question was to demonstrate how the media, movies mostly, can skew the opinion of such a wonderful creature.
“Thumbs up,” I should have said. Instead I sat there, with my irregular sweat pattern.
These torturous memories came back to me last weekend as the family was out late, setting off our little fireworks and enjoying the rise of July’s full moon. The bats were out enjoying it, too.
I watched as the bats came swooping down at the firework debris as it floated back to Earth, and all at once I was back in that interview office. To ease the unpleasantness, I quickly grabbed a pebble from the gravel drive.
When the bats are out, it’s rather fun to play with them. As we all should know, bats don’t really see; they use echolocation. They send out little squeaky bat sounds, waiting for the return of those squeaky sounds, so that they know where the bugs are so they can zip over and gobble them up. Bugs, that is, or pebbles.
Next time you find yourself in the presence of these hairy, thumbed, flying mammals, wait until they get fairly close and then toss a pebble 10-15 feet up in the air out in front of you. If the bats are hungry, you can watch as the bats dart straight for the pebbles and plunge to the ground as it falls. Don’t worry, they won’t actually hit the ground. They aren’t as blind as a bat…
Chances are that if you do it once and it works, you’ll do it again and again. Soon enough you’ll be on the lookout for bats, hoping that they grace your summer evenings with their humorous ability to chase down a falling rock. Before you know it, you’ll be hanging bat houses in your backyard, sewing anatomically correct bat costumes for your children’s Halloween costumes, and studying up on the little guys so much that if anyone ever asks you what you know about bats you’ll have an awful lot to say. Without a single drop of sweat.
By the way, I did get a partial scholarship. If only I knew then what I know now, that professor and I would have probably been out back behind the English building late at night, laughing with a handful of tiny rocks.

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