Friday, November 24, 2006

The Saga of the Squirrel: Act 1

Some background – I am an Assistant Principal at a New York City Public High School. The following story has absolutely nothing to do with the city’s Department of Education; it is only about a squirrel. All of the people involved really exist, and this tale is absolutely true.

The Setting:

A large High School Building near a park. The building, erected in 1941, has all the characteristics of that time – huge windows, double height ceilings and wonderful marble work in the entry way. Built before modern ventilation, all classrooms have enormous, double hung windows. The top sashes cannot be opened without the aide of a “window pole,” an item consisting of a wooden pole 9 – 12 feet long and 1.5 inches in diameter topped with a hook used to pull top sashes down and then push them back up. Basement classrooms have full sized windows by dint of concrete lined window pits that reach from ground level to the floor level of the room outside the window. The pits are probably eight feet wide from window to wall, and let in a good amount of light, as well as other things.

And now our tale ...

Once upon a time, a squirrel managed to get into one of the basement classrooms. Smart thinking staff members opened a window in a back “cage” (closet created with wire mesh walls), and shut the squirrel away from the main classroom. Classes went on in the outer room while the squirrel quietly explored his surroundings and decided that they were good. Every day we checked on him and periodically, thinking he was gone, shut the window. This went on for several days with him periodically reappearing to torment us. This guy wasn’t having any of that open window leading to trees and nature, he had discovered that high school students are a veritable font of snacks and, as far as we can figure, he made his way out of the cage each afternoon and munched happily on our kids’ leavings.

Meanwhile, a Squirrel Savvy teacher had gone out and purchased a Hav-a-Heart trap which we left in the cage. The squirrel, however, was more savvy than the teacher and, not needing the food in the cage, ignored it and went for the candy crumbs and sunflower seeds scattered about the classroom by considerate students.

Finally, after days of ignoring the humans in the room, he came through the rather crude cardboard barrier we had erected at the bottom of the cage door, and ventured in to the classroom while class was in session. This terrified our urban students, and they fled for the safety of a wildlife-free classroom. Something had to be done.

Our intrepid and creature-loving teacher decided on a more forceful approach to squirrel removal. Reclaiming his trap, he baited it with fresh peanut butter, and bravely ventured back in to the classroom. There he waited. And waited. And waited. All the while our furry friend had gone in to seclusion beneath the radiators. In those dark corners he lurked, waiting for us to leave him alone. The teacher was having none of it though and he requested that cheese be brought. The lovely ladies in the cafeteria complied, providing a whole meal worth of cheese for all involved in the venture, as well as the squirrel. Then the idea of toasting the cheese was suggested – the scintillating aroma might entice our friend out from his hiding place. Yours truly ran off to retrieve the toasting materials, and when I returned I was greeted with an urgent “hush!” Slipping into the room, I let the door close quickly and silently behind me, catching my skirt in the process. There were now three humans in the room – our squirrel savvy teacher, our fearless stockman and me with skirt caught in the door, unable to move.

I looked around the room, and saw that our furry friend had emerged from his hiding place and was sniffing about, looking for a snack. He wandered about the room sniffing here and there, but alas it was early in the day and no food had yet been deposited on the floor. After a while, his nose guided him to the trap. He approached from the side, sniffing experimentally. A paw snaked out and tried to snag the tasty treat inside, but he was thwarted by the fine mesh of the trap. Circling, he tried from the other side, to no avail. Finally, while the humans held their collective breath, he ventured in to the opening and sniffed at the food. Daintily he started licking the trigger. Oh so gently his tongue lapped at the peanut butter while all the while his front paws remained suspended in mid-air.

The humans looked at each other. This was, after all, an East Harlem squirrel. He was street smart, and not about to get caught in some silly old trap. Our Squirrel Savvy teacher motioned to the stockman who passed over the window pole. Slowly, moving with deliberate care, Squirrel Savvy held the pole like a harpoon, and moving as carefully as Queequeg going after that famous whale, he sighted on the trigger and snapped the trap closed! All rejoiced as our furry friend was paraded to the nearest exit, and taken to the nearby park, where he was released to join his brethren – and live to torment me another day.

Thus ends The Saga of the Squirrel. Act 1

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KnittyOtter said...

Too Funny!

I can't wait to read act two. *L*

Cookie said...

City kids afraid of a squirrel? o.0

Susan said...

Oh too fun! And you tell it so well, I could see everyone holding their breath. Chapter 2 please.