The Things You Might Learn If You Pay Attention On A Playground

Or: A Sleeping Bat During An Unthinkable Global Crisis

Sophie Lucido Johnson

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Yesterday, at the playground, there was a bat.

Like, a living, sleeping bat, tucked covertly but precariously away beneath one of the ledges that my daughter likes to walk along on the perimeter of a play structure. A bigger kid found the bat first, and I’m a little ashamed to tell you that I didn’t believe him. I mean, when a kid says, “Hey, I think I found a bat,” you generally assume he has found a crumpled bag in the general vicinity of a tree. But then more kids gathered around the “bat area,” and the word “bat” was thrown around with greater confidence, and when I went to take a look, I audibly gasped.

“Oh my God, that’s a bat!”

“I said it was a bat,” said the initial (visibly peeved) kid. Poor kid. It sucks when adults refuse to believe you. In this instance, had been a bad adult. But this was neither the time nor place for me to have any shame, because: A BAT!

The bat was tiny, which has been true of every bat I’ve seen in the wild. This sleeping playground bat was my third. Once, I’d rescued a bat who’d flown into a building while it was migrating through downtown Chicago. The Chicago Bird Collision Monitor woman had scolded me for picking the bat up as though it was a bird, because bats have rabies. Honestly, I hadn’t known this. I think The Office made me not-scared-enough about rabies. It’s actually a terrifying disease, especially if you are the type of person who grabs bats off sidewalks. But anyway, that bat didn’t bite me, and it didn’t have rabies. A woman named Peggy on a bicycle came along and gingerly placed the downtown bat in a paper lunch bag, which went in her bike basket, along with probably twelve other lightly thumping lunch bags, containing other bats who’d flown into buildings but would probably be OK in the end.

I’m noticing that this is the same kind of bat.

Spending an hour waiting for Peggy and staring at a terrified bat taught me a lot about bats, which is true for anything you spend an hour staring at. I give my Art History students an assignment…

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