Saturday, March 23, 2013

Return of the Squirrel

Recently my wife and I were in her car, sitting at a red light. From the passenger seat I glanced over and noticed a squirrel start to scamper up on a tree in the yard of the house on the corner. I remarked aloud to her, in an imitation of Dug the dog from Up, saying in that voice "Squirrel!" The windows in the car were rolled up, and the tree was probably around 20 feet away so I couldn't imagine the creature heard me, but almost on cue the squirrel froze, only a couple feet up the trunk, grasping the bark and defying gravity. Although its body was vertical, its head turned and looked straight at us. It stayed there, motionless, not breaking its gaze upon us. However, I doubted we were the actual focus of its attention and there must be something else behind us that was holding its interest.

After several seconds of this ostensible eye-contact I raised my hand and waved at it jokingly, saying in a low voice "Hi squirrel," figuring this would be ignored and dispel the notion it was, in fact, looking at us. My wife admonished me immediately not to taunt the animal, but I didn't think my action was threatening even if it did see gesture.

The squirrel broke its pose and ran down the tree and into the street at the car, stopping about six feet away.

I could see it held a nut in its mouth. As to whether that could be used as a weapon was unclear, but I glanced over at the lock on the car door to make sure it was down. My wife repeated her message, saying with some level of alarm in her voice, "See, I told you not to taunt it," and asking where it went (as it dropped out of her view). I started to say it was stopped in the road but then it darted at the car, disappearing underneath. I turned and faced her with a wide-eyed expression that conveyed the situation.

The light turned green for us and slowly she moved the car forward, still uncertain as to the creature's location. As we made a left turn I looked over my shoulder and out the rear window to see if I spotted any sign of it.


It stood to reason that it ran under the car and out the other side without us noticing, but as it had just demonstrated its prowess with clinging to things when it was on the tree our semi-panicked minds entertained the notion that it had attached itself to the undercarriage. But it couldn't hold on at speeds over 40 miles per hour, could it? Of course not.


Still, when we got to the parking lot down the street, when I opened my door and waved a hat under the door as a decoy. No nut-wielding squirrel leapt out, so I exited the vehicle tentatively, and even bent over to try to see if any beady eyes peered back at me from the shadows below the car. I didn't see anything, but I couldn't be entirely certain the creature wasn't smart enough to have hidden behind the wheels.

After the drive home on the freeway we figured even the strongest squirrel in the world couldn't hold on for that long against speeds around 70 M.P.H., but when I got out in the garage I stepped cautiously out. You can't be too careful. It's not out of the question he might know the squirrel from our Northern California trip six years ago (documented in this post).

When thinking about this, initially I regretted not having snapped a photo with my phone, but upon reflection I suspect the situation could have gone much worse had I done so; if the squirrel responded to a simply wave by charging, I dare not think what sort of response the sight of a device pointed at it might have elicited.

This entry may have been composed from the emergency room.

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