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Thursday, September 17, 2020

I've become an agoraphobe


I once met a woman who had to rent out an entire restaurant just so she could go out for dinner. She was agoraphobic. Basically she only left home when forced / encouraged. She had all of her daily needs delivered to her, after ordering them online or over the phone. The UPS man, the grocery delivery person, the mailman and the Purolator courier knew her well. They left her purchases inside the covered porch, where they would not be damaged by wind, snow or rain. As per her instructions, they rang the doorbell and left, without saying hello.

Since the middle of March, many of us have been pretty much confined to our homes. I don’t know about you, but I think I am developing agoraphobia, to an extent. The only time I leave home (or the cottage), is to buy groceries. I don the mask, the hand sanitizer and I check off the items on my list, quickly and efficiently. Following the arrows on the aisles. Keeping my 6-foot distance from the other shoppers. I see someone I recognize, but I don’t call out their name or start a conversation. Why? I don’t know. I just keep moving. Trying not to touch things that I will not buy. Thinking about all of the hands that have touched, and all of the mouths that have potentially coughed on the things that I have put in my cart.

I know that it is entirely possible that I have become a bit paranoid. It’s amazing what the brain will do when you restrict its interaction with other human beings. I see the Farmer, of course, and other members of our “10”; our 5 daughters and their mates, pretty much. My mother. My sister. But when I’m out in public, I tend to be a bit freaked out, lately.

This isn’t the first time I have noticed a strange reaction to interacting with the general public following a period of self-isolation. In the winter of 2017 I worked on a compilation of columns, publishing a book. In April, after basically being home since December, I went to a networking event. I remember feeling slightly offended by the first person who made eye contact and asked me a question. I felt my privacy had been invaded. Weird? Yes. Normal? Probably. This was my first exposure to people outside my family group, in about 5 months.

I am nearing 5 months now of just family contact. I suspect the next time you see me out in public, I might be acting a little strange. It’s ok – we are all adjusting to the new normal. And we might be a little “weird” until we get used to each other again.



Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Just call me Batwoman

 The scritch-scritch-scritching between the walls was waking me in the middle of the night. At first, I was quite convinced that it was a squirrel, climbing the back wall of the cottage, entering through the last remaining unfinished section of the house and burrowing between the walls under the gabled roof. When I heard the noise, I made a fist and pounded the wall until, like a rowdy neighbour, it finally stopped. But I was wrong. It wasn’t a squirrel. It was a bat.

One night, I heard the noise coming from the closet. I opened the huge barn doors and out flew my little noisy friend. S/he soared awkwardly around the room, confused by the cabinets in its centre and the mosquito nets hanging over the beds. Finally she found a comfortable roost on the rafter, where she sat and stared at me. My heart pounding from the adrenalin, I remembered my father’s advice. I turned all the lights off inside, turned the patio light on, and slid the door open. Immediately a swarm of mosquitos and other bugs formed a cloud under the porch light. The bat flapped out the door and into the night to enjoy an easy meal. I slid the door closed and went back to bed, my heart rate returning to normal.

Two hours later I was awakened by the soft BOP of something against my forehead. The bat was back. And this time she was IN THE MOSQUITO NET WITH ME, flapping around aimlessly. She had been using me for bait! She must have been as alarmed as I was because when I opened the net she flew straight to the patio door as if asking to be let out. She didn’t return that night.

I shared my bat invasion story online and a friend offered me a spare bat house. Yes! That’s exactly what I needed, I thought. Four of us sat on the balcony that night and watched the bat swooping overhead, consuming her 1,000 mosquitoes per hour. I definitely want her to stay. Just not in my cottage. I can do without the toxic bat droppings turning to guano dust and polluting my environment.

The tiny little bat shack (about the size of a Kleenex box, open at the bottom), came with instructions. It said we should install the house about 4 metres off the ground on a structure that is 20 feet away from anything else, facing South-East. I hauled the ladder out and had the Farmer climb up and nail the house to a tree that had no low branches to confuse the blind bats. I took a picture (as you do), and posted it online.

Immediately I was scorned for my bat house placement. Apparently it cannot be on a tree, not because of branches, but predators. It needs to be painted with flat black non-toxic paint to gather heat or the 24 bats that can fit inside (24?!) will freeze to death. Ok. Back up the ladder we go.