Saturday, February 04, 2006

In Praise of Squirrels

I was driving down a rural highway today and saw a black squirrel wandering out of the brush and over the shoulder onto the road. He was well ahead of me but I knew at once that our current rates of approach forecasted a collision course. Bad news for him of course. Nary a threat to me and my '94 Grand Marquis. We've been through worse.

In fact just a few weeks ago, during a heavy snowfall I was driving around at night in an un-plowed parking lot and with a tremendous 'thud-thud--huh-what the?--thud-thud' drove merrily off a 9-inch curb and into a giant octagonal sunken playground. That's right. In the middle of a massive parking lot that services multiple Brampton Ontario municipal buildings they dug out a big 8-sided playground, 9 inches below parking altitude and disguised the damn thing to appear, while under snowfall at least, like more parking lot. It was a bitch to get out again but I did. It took all night to build a makeshift ramp out of ice-slabs but I did it. If only I were a wonder-twin (Hall of Justice cartoons - remember?) it would have been so much easier. I would have said, "Form of... An ICE RAMP!" and poof! I would have turned into an ice-ramp. Oh. Wait. But then, who would have driven the car?

I'd forgotten all about those crazy wonder twins until a while ago my buddy and me were at a bar and noticed that one of the draft beer taps was left in the on position with no bartender around. Perfectly good beer was free-flowing all over the place. The tap was mounted at the back of the bar - out of our reach. I waved frantically at the bartender - a tall studly handsome gorilla type bartender - and, catching his attention, pointed at the mounting puddle of wasted beer. He sauntered over, turned off the tap and then approached me. Saying 'Thank-you' was evidently too much a challenge to his vocabulary so he simply pointed his fist at me. Somehow I understood this rudimentary gesture and mimicked it. Our two fists came gently together. He nodded and walked away.

"Are you guys wonder twins or something?" asked my buddy.

"Yes," I said. Then turning back to the retreating gorilla, yelled, "Form of - an ICE TOASTER!" or something equally witty. I'm sorry. What the hell were we talking about?

Ah, yes. The squirrel - I'm not heartless, you know. I glanced in the rear-view mirror to confirm that no motorists tailed me and prepared to take evasive action if necessary. But as I suspected, this was not necessary. The squirrel demonstrated a grasp of the situation and took matters into his own hands (paws?). He picked up the pace and scampered across the road well ahead of me. Clever little guy, eh? Much cleverer than the average teenager I tend to encounter on the streets. They always manage to cross the road at just the right time and just the right angle to get themselves in as many motorist's paths as possible. One night I approached an intersection - green light for me - while a couple slow-eyed teens lingered on the sidewalk glancing nonchalantly at my approach. At just the right moment they sauntered out onto the road and strolled across my lane, carefully pretending not to see me, their drawers barely clinging to the southern end of their hips (to their credit they wore reflective underwear). I was not in the mood to yield to an intentional belittling from a couple of too-cool teenage dopesters. So I maintained my speed and direction and thought - too hell with them. Very worst case scenario - they die as they richly deserve and I go to prison. Free meals and lodgings and I can write my novel 12 hours a day and become a wealthy published author sooner! What the hell? I won't get raped. I'm a 300 pound bearded man for pete's sake. Maybe I'll do a little raping of my own. But alas, no such opportunity. The little bastards, at the last possible moment, lost all manner of coolness and literally leapt out of the way. Missed them by inches. They surely crapped their pants. How those jeans would still manage to cling to their hips after that - with a load of crap in them - I have no idea.

So squirrels are arguably smarter than teenagers. Or is it unfair to compare teenage boys to adult squirrels instead of to teenage squirrels? Right. You may have a point there.

Squirrels also have a rather crafty flair for irony. True story: A young associate of mine declared proudly his very own theory he'd come up with. I'll warn you he's a rather stereotypical young jock - talented but not much of a philosopher.

"I'm convinced of something," he exclaims. "Squirrels don't poop!"

"Um... Okay... What makes you say that?"

"Do you see squirrels frequently? Here and there?"


"Ever seen one taking a poop?"

"Um. No."

"Me neither. Because they don't."

I then went a good year or more without seeing him.

"How's the squirrel theory coming along?" I asked him, after the long absence.

"Squirrels poop," he said, dejected. "One got into our house somehow. He pooped on my desk."

"Wow. That's harsh. You think he was trying to tell you something?"

"I dunno, man."

This is not terribly uncommon as far as I know. A squirrel got into my house once. And here's a testament to their cleverness. Not only did he find his way out again, but he went out of his way to let us know that he'd gotten out okay. Smart, sense of humor and considerate! Squirrels rock.

Our doberman chased the little bastard all around the house and into the basement. Once there was nothing left on shelves and tables to knock off and break, he darted into the work-shop/furnace room and hid from the dog. We figured he must have got into the house that way - through the heating system and we hoped he'd find his way out by the same route.

Sure enough, while at the dinner table, we saw a small figure appear in the backyard just outside the patio doors. A squirrel. He sat their looking in. It was the squirrel. We knew it was him because he had a clump of sawdust on is nose - sawdust from our workshop floor.

"Goodbye you little bastard," I said.

He turned and ran off.

I'm currently outlining a short story called The Squirrel Solution. A squirrel breaks into a man's home and ends up teaching the man a valuable lesson. Helps him solve his problem. That's all I'll say about that for now. Don't want to ruin the ending.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ha! Very cute. I used to tell my friends all the time that squirrels did not poop.