The Right Coast

August 08, 2005
Superstitious Nonsense, or, Waiting for Waste Management to take the Vampire Bat Away (Family life update)
By Tom Smith

In 2003, my lovely wife Jeanne, I and the three boys, plus one more in the oven, treked down to Peru to visit friends, play eco-tourists in the rainforest, and in my case, fulfil the life-long dream of scaling a really big mountain. We brought back a fair amount of Peruvian Indian art, much of which really is wonderful stuff. Amongst other stuff, however, we brought back an object my oldest boy had picked out at the Indian market in Lima, a scary-looking, dessicated bat, enclosed in a cheap wood and clear plastic box. The bat had hardened into an attitude of snarling death, exposing his nasty little set of fangs. It was without a doubt a remarkably ugly object. But as he had picked it out and I was in a hurry to get out of the market without losing any children to the international human trafficing network, we just bought it and left, and didn't make a fuss over it. Jeanne and I hated the thing from the moment we saw it.

In due course the bat was placed in his room, and thus began what was a tough year for my oldest. Everything is fine and better than fine now, but for a while there, we wondered. Somewhere in the midst of all this, I said something like, "let's get that damn bat out of his room." Jeanne said, "yes. God, that thing really is creepy." So I took the thing from next to his bed, where it was hidden behind some blinds anyway, and stuffed it inside a closed cabinet in the garage, thinking I would throw it away when I got around to it. A couple of years went by. Last week, I finally decided to throw the thing away, having just finished an extremely stupid, but entertaining book I read that touched upon such things as cursed objects. Apparently, they are bad, and you want to stay away from them. So, I decided to toss the bat, hideous thing that it was in any event, not to mention unsanitary. Plus, I am one of those people who likes to throw things away, especially stuff from the garage.

So into the outside trash it went in its very own black garbage bag, and then down to the street to be picked up. Thursday came and went, and no garbage was picked up, not from my house, or anywhere else in my neighborhood. A Waste Management screw up. It happens, though it had never happened before in my 12 years in this neighborhood, but that is just a coincidence. So, naturally, I called. A new driver, they said, and all would be taken care of Friday. Friday, no garbage pick up. The weekend passes, hot weather, and garbage festering in front of 60 or so houses. So I call this morning. Ah, the computers say, they tell me, the garbage has been picked up. Well, it hasn't, I say. I am sure. Complaints are noted, and today they say, all will be cured. I hope so. I now really want the little vampire bat carted away. Not that I think there is anything preternatural at work here. It is just a coincidence. Of that I am certain. Almost entirely certain.

Just out of curiosity, I googled Peru bats folklore and so on. Big mistake. Vampire bats were especially associated in ancient Peru, among the Moche in particular, with their very active cults of human sacrifice. Indeed, some experts think they were monotheists of a sort, worshipping the Great Fanged God, who was at least part bat. Their crescent shaped decapitating knifes (they did a truly huge amount of decapitating) were adorned with bats, showing their nasty fangy teeth. I really can't stress enough, they were really into bats. And yes, shamans are still very active in Peru, carrying on traditions that I suppose date back to such happy times. So, it seems entirely possible we picked up in Lima a jolly, little cultural remnant of the good old human-sacrificing, blood drinking, Great Fanged God worshipping days in Peru. Swell. Great. Dandy.

So, I am hoping, I really am, that Waste Management will come today and relieve us of the wicked little bat. If the garbage truck wrecks on the freeway on the way here, or takes away everything else but mysteriously leaves one bagged bat, or worse, the bat reappears in the garage without explanation, then I really will be worried. Now, I'm more annoyed than worried. Sort of the usual rage at poorly performing utility provider, tinged just ever so slightly with superstitious dread. An odd, and not particularly pleasant feeling. Come on, Waste Management, deliver us from evil.