Becoming Batwoman

An entirely fictitious affair

Did you know that – even when in hibernation – bats awaken every 17 days to go in search of water? I didn’t know that either, until our first bat man taught us that in February. He came a couple days after my roommate ran from her bedroom screaming, “Guys. GUYS. There’s a bat in my room! No, I swear. There. Is. A. BAT IN MY ROOM AND I’VE BEEN IN THERE FOR LIKE AN HOUR AND DIDN’T EVEN KNOW AND THEN I HEARD IT FLYING AROUND AND OMG SRSLY GUYS. I’m scared.”

She’d slammed the door to her room, so we all stood in the hallway not-so-calmly pondering what our next step would be. Unfortunately, there are some rather wide gaps around our door jams and a few minutes later this particular bat zoomed out from a crack and began circling and swooping above us.

Naturally, we squealed and lunged toward the other two bedrooms.

My two roommates ended up in one room, and I in another. I sort of knocked on the inside of my own door, realized that this was absurd, and then yelled, “Ummmm, should I go try to catch it or HEY SHOULD WE CALL SOMEONE?!?!?”

During the next hour, there were some pretty interesting conversations, both on and off the phone.

“I tried all the critter control people, it’s 11pm, and I’m just getting answering machines.”

“Want me to go downstairs and find it? I can put on my hat and gloves and be all covered up so I don’t get bitten!”

“NO NO NO, because you might get rabies if Mr. Bat crashes into your face!”

“Should we call a friend and throw them a key out the window?”

“I don’t have my phone in my room so it’ll have to be someone you know…”

“No one answered. Anyways, the key would just get lost in the snow.”

“I’m calling the police.”


“Sorry, that’s not within the purview of the Ann Arbor police. We can give you the number of a pest removal company, though.”

“I’ve tried everyone. It’s almost midnight. No one will come.”

“Well I’m sorry but this is not something the police deal with.”

“I understand that, but we really just need someone to come to our house to open the front door and help the bat leave.”

“We don’t typically help with animal control.”

“I’m sorry you don’t think this is your problem, BUT IT IS. Police should be concerned with the safety of their citizens. We are not safe in our own house. And you’re trying to tell me you won’t help.”

“In thirty years of working as a police dispatcher, no one has ever called me requesting help with this kind of thing.”

“Is that what you say the first time you get a call about a fire or a burglary or a rape?! What’s your name? I’m filing a complaint in the morning.”

By a little after midnight, we’d all piled on clothes and hesitantly crept downstairs to let in a most wonderful friend. He’d come prepared, wearing an N-95 respirator and carrying a hockey stick.

Alas, success was not meant to be had that night. We gave up after about an hour of fruitless searching. In the meantime, we’d received delightfully unhelpful texts from brothers and friends, including “What about garlic? Did you try using garlic?” and “Hahahahaha this is your batwoman moment!!!”

None of us were particularly enthused about the idea of going to sleep when the bat could have been anywhere, but we searched our bedrooms and then taped each other in, sealing the cracks around the doors.

The next morning we met with our first bat man. He informed us that (1) there was evidence of a whole family of bats in our attic, (2) they were supposed to be hibernating but would wake up every 17-19 days to find water, and (3) it’s illegal to exterminate them.

By Friday we hadn’t seen another bat and had naively decided they’d all returned to hibernation. I invited a friend over to study for the afternoon at our kitchen table. All seemed calm, so in the evening my roommate and I went to a movie, leaving a key for my friend to lock the door behind her when she left. Ten minutes into the previews at the theater, I got a frantic text: “Ahhh! You know you guys have bats?!? Currently shut away in the bathroom, afraid to emerge…”

So we left the movie before it had started. My friend hurriedly packed up her stuff, holding the tennis racquet our neighbor-friend had delivered to her bathroom hideout. Hopefully she was less than completely traumatized.

It was now clear we had bats in our house – bats that didn’t always stay asleep. I had a few scratches of unknown origin, and apparently you don’t always feel bats bite you if you’re asleep, so we started talking about whether we should go get rabies post-exposure treatment, or at least the prophylaxis vaccine. Sigh. We consulted the CDC, WHO, UpToDate, my roommate’s father, and my uncle as we drove toward the Emergency Room. There wasn’t really a “right” answer, but we decided rabies wasn’t something to mess around with.

We were in for a pretty fantastic Friday night. We got to the ED around 10pm, left our car for valet parking, wandered in toward triage, and immediately ran into two friends on their emergency medicine rotations. Of course, one was the fine gentleman who’d come over with his hockey stick, merely 48 hours before.

By the time we each went back to a room, I was so tired I didn’t care in the least about having a sort-of-acquaintance M4 do a physical and take a health history. When he left, told me it’d be a couple hours before the doctor came back to make a decision, I turned off the lights and took a nap in the hospital bed. At 3am, I finally saw a resident who sent in orders for the post-exposure treatment. Tragically, the vaccine doesn’t take effect for at least a week, so in addition to starting the rabies vaccine, we also needed straight-up immunoglobulin. To get enough antibody, most people require about six syringes full on that first night. I was fine until the last one headed deep into my right thing, at which point I politely informed the nurse I was about to pass out. Apparently it was a slightly less-than-normal loss of consciousness, including posturing, animal-like noises, and turning purple, but I woke up a minute later, after a crazy-rapid series of dreams. It wasn’t the first time, so I tried to explain I’d be fine in a little bit and that the supplemental oxygen they were giving me was entirely unnecessary.

They left me alone with my roommate for a while and when we saw I was satting close to 100% again, I slipped off the pulse oximeter and slipped on my jeans. It was 4am and we were ready to go sleep – at a hotel, not our house.

Over the course of the next week, we consulted two more bat men about the situation. We taped our heating vents shut. We blocked holes in the walls. We sealed off our basement. We got nets to hang over our beds.

bed nets

The final bat man did advise us that “Bats…well, you know, they’ll be vocal with ya. If they were in your sweaters in the drawers, they wouldn’t like being disturbed…same thing with the beds. So, you know, just pat everything down before you go in and listen for squeaks.”

When it warms up, we’ll install a one-way door from the attic to the outside. Until then, we’re back to sleeping soundly, peacefully co-habitating with our bat family.



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