Thursday, September 12, 2013

Fear and loathing in suburbia

I want to begin this post with a terrifying encounter between man and beast. I myself was a witness to this event. To be completely accurate, it was between woman and small creature, which doesn't sound anywhere near as dramatic; but I promise, there was terror.

It was a typical day in the office, and we were all heading back to our desks after a meeting. (I can't remember what the meeting was about; that part's not important.) I shared a small office with another woman, and was the first to return. As soon as I entered the room, I could hear a loud, frantic scratching sound, coming from beside her desk.

I crept forward. I don't think I had a theory about the source of the noise. I love horror movies, so I was probably thinking of sewer mutants, carnivorous leprechauns, or ten-legged monsters spat directly from the bowels of hell. It was, after all, just a normal day at the office.

My coworker had a stack of cardboard boxes wedged between her desk and the wall, and the noise was coming from there. I pulled the boxes the boxes aside, revealing a hole in the wall, from which burst the creature:

Wait, wrong photo. That's from Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. Let me try again.

I pulled the boxes aside, revealing a hole in the wall, from which burst the creature:

Yes, that is the right photo. A scruffy, frightened house sparrow popped out of the wall, its chest heaving. My coworker stepped into the room, screamed, and raced back out again. I could hear her voice ringing around the office, "A bird's loose in the building! A bird!!" Doors slammed, people dove for cover.

Two other women were brave enough to help me usher our unexpected guest outside. One held the back door open, the other stood where the hallway forked to keep it from heading that way, while I shooed it outside. The intruder departed, and order was restored.

My coworker was not pleased with me. "I can't believe if you hear something scratching behind the wall, you just go and let it out? You didn't know what was back there! It could have been anything!"

"But it was just a sparrow," I pointed out. "A tiny helpless sparrow."

"But what if it wasn't?" She glared at me for a moment. "What if it was a squirrel?"

By now, if anyone has read this far in my tale, you might be thinking, "I thought this was supposed to be a tale of terror. Instead we get a bunch of women running from a house sparrow."

Really, it is a tale of terror. You just have to flip it around. It's the sparrow that was terrified.

I could have selected from half a dozen other stories, that I have been told or witnessed over the years, but I wanted one with a happy ending. The snake on the road that someone swerved into the on-coming lane to hit, not happy. The bat that got in someone's house and was beaten to death with a vacuum clear, not happy. I did hear of a backyard standoff between a groundhog and a man with a kitchen chair, which ended without bloodshed; but I only have it on hearsay, and would be tempted to embellish.

It seems that a lot of people are afraid of wildlife. I wonder if urbanites are more likely to have these phobias than country folk. Have fears and phobias been increasing over the past few decades? Are people becoming afraid of the natural world itself? I don't know the answer, but it's a topic I'd like to spend more time on in the future.

Part of me is incredulous that anyone could be afraid of a house sparrow. But I also have a phobia, a shameful secret that I will announce to the whole world tomorrow, with my next post!

1 comment:

  1. Boy, am I glad it was just a tiny sparrow, and not that "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" thing! My guess is that people have always been afraid of wildlife. I can't sneer at them; I would faint if a spider got on me. I cannot be rational about spiders; I wish I could. I'm ashamed of how many I've gotten your father to squash for me. It's sad whenever an innocent creature dies because it's inspiring fear in a human. Urbanites are probably more frightened of other things than wildlife they seldom even see, except on The Nature Channel. MOM