Sunday, April 26, 2009

Newspaper column

When I was handed the keys to my very own home a few years ago, I didn’t think there would ever be a time that I’d look back on my apartment-dwelling days with fondness.

After all, I had suffered through some pretty bad landlords.

There was the guy who barged into my bedroom while I was sleeping to give a tour to prospective next-year renters. And the one who took more than two weeks to replace the fridge when it broke. Or the woman who said she’d be over “in the morning” after the furnace blew one frigid January night.

No, I didn’t think I’d ever miss having a landlord.

Until I realized homeownership can get very costly when problems arise.

Especially exterminators.

Earlier this week, I found myself desperately wishing we had a landlord on speed-dial when I heard what sounded like a conga line traveling through the inside of one of our bedroom walls.
I froze and listened. It was way too loud to be something as small as a mouse. And it wasn’t covering a lot of distance, so I ruled out a squirrel. But the racket was ridiculous, so I irrationally determined it to be a mountain lion.

My husband called a professional and, at my pleading, reluctantly asked if we could pay extra to have the creature humanely re­turn­ed to the wild.

Apparently the guy laughed.

Then, much to my horror, he told us to set aside $450 or wait a few days because the animal, “Would probably get so stressed out that it would have a heart attack.”

It was the wrong thing to say to someone who prefers to scoot spiders outside rather than squashing them.

So I tried to think up ways to tackle the problem myself while my husband pleaded with me not to. He envisioned me removing the cover to one of our air vents and seeing a badger charge out into the house in a rabid frenzy as I desperately tried to scoop up our daughter and the dog and make it to a door before being attacked.

The next day while he was at work, everything was quiet. I tried to come to terms with the fact that there would eventually be a foul smell emanating from the wall that I wouldn’t be able to do anything about.

Then I heard the sound again. It was in my daughter’s room now. In the wall behind her crib.
I moved the bed aside and peered into a vent near the floor to see a beautiful shiny black bird with a yellow beak.

Then, as if it could somehow understand me, I softly explained my intentions and told it to stay put as I let the dog outside, turned on some cartoons downstairs and got a screwdriver and a shoebox.

All of my gumption melted away once the vent cover came off. I suddenly I realized I was trying to grab onto a wild bird and not freak out.

What would happen if it started flapping and got out into the house? There would be poop and feathers everywhere as it bashed its head into the windows in a panic.

Inevitably, that’s what happened. Within moments, the bird was flapping around my daughter’s bedroom, landing on the highest surfaces — skewing picture frames, spinning the ceiling fan and knocking over the stuffed animals on top of her bookshelf.

With a little coaxing, it eventually flew out a window, but not until I was completely shaken. It might as well have been a mountain lion the way my heart was pounding.

But, in the end, I felt empowered. We didn’t need a landlord or an exterminator.

Then again, I didn’t realize homeownership would require so many unique skills.



Margo said...

LOL. That happened to me once when I was younger- I had a bird fly through the back door, and somehow end up in my bedroom.

At least you were able to get it out safely. If it happens again, you could try setting a box near the open vent, and setting a piece of bread in there. Put the box right up close to the opening, so the bird can't fly out. When he goes in, throw a blanket over the opening, and carry it outside. Much easier than chasing it around Allie's room. :)

wallaby75 said...

Your uninvited visitor was a starling. My Mum had to contend with a bat in my bedroom when I was about 3. Small, squeaky, pointy teeth, leather winged bat. Now that was scary!

Anonymous said...

Great Job Kelly, I know you feel better!

Jaclyn said...

When I was about 11 or so, we had a bat fly into our house. I was scared out of my MIND!! It was in the kitchen w/me, my sister'd shut herself in the bathroom off the kitchen (thanks a lot, Jul!) and everyone else was in the living room. So I did the only thing I could think of; shut myself between the back door & the screen door. Ok, so it didn't WORK, but it gave me the illusion of safety.
Fortunately my step-dad threw a towel over it and took it outside and released it. But it was pretty frickin' scary while it lasted!!
Glad you -humanely- got rid of your guest.

Allison said...

Over christmas, we had a BAT in our house. it flew into the fireplace somehow and freaked us out.

Bats are SCARY.

erica said...

Wow it sounds like a lot of people have had to deal with bats. At least it wasn't that. And I'm glad you managed to free the bird AND save $450. Nice work! And I'm sure the bird appreciates it as well.

the_plainsman said...

Great job, Kelly!

That vent looks like some sort of unused chimney flue from when the bedroom had a fireplace. Next time one of you is up on the roof, might be a good idea to check out the opening and put a screen across it so it does not happen again.

Kelly thinking, "Did he just say next time one of us is on the roof?"

Anonymous said...

Awww it's a cute little starling. Poor thing was probably so frightened. I'm glad you didn't need to resort to an exterminator.

Ray said...

Wow, you're so brave. I would have been so scared! =P Great though that you didn't have to spend those $450 dollars.

aj said...


I'm so glad you got the little guy out!

the_plainsman said...

Just thought about this again, why it could not get out, then remembered that most birds can't fly straight up, and only some like woodpeckers & related can climb up, it must have been totally frustrating for him/her! No wonder it was fluttering around in there for so long!

Abbie said...

I once discovered a starling in my closet. Wedged inbetween the molding and the wall. Very, very dead.
I was cleaning my room which definitely needed some help when I was younger, and thought it was the leg of a stuff animal peaking out from the gap. So I touched it with my toe. And it was soft... until my toe found the end of the beak.
I refused to go in my room until my step-dad got home from work about 6 hours later to take him out. Apparently he had been there a while because his brain had dried up and was rattling.
I felt so bad that I hadn't heard him, but there were gaps in the eaves of our roof and birds would fly in and make nests all the time, so I never thought much of it when I would hear scratching above my room.
I've held a guilt-filled grudge against starlings ever since...