I run into a lot of bizarre and dumb situations—more than my share, in fact. At first I used to think, “Hmm, maybe I’m hallucinating. Perhaps I hit my head on the cinderblock wall adjacent to my rickety school-provided bed.” But bizarre, stupid, weird and oft-scary things keep happening around me at such a frenetic pace that I either have severe head trauma that is causing me to constantly hallucinate, or I have some kind of “unlucky dummy field” surrounding me.
By now, I hope that you’ve inferred that I must have a set of examples to prove my point, and if this was indeed your thought process, then congratulations! You have at least one firing neuron with corresponding synapse! Have a shiny penny!
The most recent (and arguably most frightening) oddity I’ve run into was something I encountered during a visit to the mall. While I was nonchalantly walking about the promenade, I passed the “Select Comfort” mattress store. Outside the shop was one of the most horrifying things I’d ever seen in my life—a person inside of a mattress. There were no armholes, nor were there any visible eyeholes in this “costume,” just a place for the person’s legs to stick out at the bottom. Presumably, he/she had to wriggle into this mattress, hopefully with assistance, and then… what?
So this leads me to the question, “Since when do mattresses have black panty hosed-legs and pink fuzzy bedroom slippers?” There seemed to be no real point of having this mattressed “person” outside of the store. All it did was merrily flounce up to people and wobble and flop around in an alarming fashion. I began to worry that this “thing” would end up causing coronary embolisms in the individuals that it was trying to “amuse,” until it occurred to me that perhaps the person was actually not encased in a mattress voluntarily and he/she was just trying to get help. That, or this was just some freak-of-nature weirdo who gets a perverse thrill from dressing in a mattress costume and terrifying people at the mall.
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Later, while doing some work in my room, I heard what sounded like a dumpster full of toasters being dropped from the ninth floor of a building. I had to stop the CD that was barely playing over the static-ridden speakers of my school-provided laptop in order to hear this racket outside, and there it was again—a distinct and very loud crashing sound that ended in a cacophonous “moo.” Apparently this time the dumpster had landed on a cow. But then I realized there are no cows on campus except for when fraternities decide to play pranks, and I was pretty sure that that sort of thing hadn’t begun yet. So, I went to the window, and I saw that what I had been hearing was not, in fact, Bessie being crushed to death. No, it was just our marching band outside practicing. Bizarre, no. Weird, no. Sad, yes.
I’m not trying to say that Wake Forest/Winston-Salem is inherently weird and sad or anything, although that is certainly arguable. Unhappily, I wasn’t able to escape these upsetting incidents over the summer, either. For instance, while I was interning at Fox 18 WCCB in Charlotte, I accompanied Andy Dominianni to Gastonia to cover a story. For those of you who are not North Carolina natives, thank your lucky stars. But anyway, Gastonia is to Charlotte as Yadkinville is to Winston-Salem: WEIRD PEOPLE LIVE THERE.
Anyway, the station had received a call that Social Services had taken a woman’s child into custody. We’ll call the woman “Fanny McDoodles,” mainly because frankly I don’t care enough to remember her real name. It turns out that Fanny and her live-in boyfriend “Cletus” had a problem with a bat infestation in their attic. For over three years, thousands and thousands of bats had accumulated in the attic—according to the Gaston Health Department, the guano layer in the attic was over three feet deep. Because this was (obviously) a health hazard, Social Services removed Fanny’s child from the “home.”
Ironically, though, the child’s live-in babysitter whose (allegedly) real name was “Barbie” remained in the house, even after the child had been removed. Fanny and Cletus told Andy and I that they couldn’t afford to move elsewhere, even though Fanny (who was unemployed, mind you) COULD afford to smoke an entire pack of Marlboros while we were there. Regardless, Fanny told us that the bats seem to enjoy tormenting the family.
“Them (insert colorful metaphor here) bats come out at night,” she said. “They come out from around the furnace. If you ain’t watchin’ where you’s goin’, you’ll step on ‘em. They make a crunchin’ sound. It’s naisty. They get all up in my bed, they land on my chest, and they gets in her hair,” she said, pointing to Barbie’s stringy mane.
So what had Fanny and Cletus done to try and get rid of the bats? Everything except for calling an exterminator, of course! They had tried throwing smoke bombs in the attic, spraying Raid up there (after all, bats are just big bugs), putting fake owls in the attic, and they also tried locking the cat in the attic. I imagine that the bats probably ate the cat. The icing on the cake: Fanny told us that she had once hooked a garden hose to her car’s exhaust pipe and snaked it up into to the attic in an attempt to asphyxiate the bats. Apparently the exhaust backed up into the car and killed the engine, as Andy and I later located it in the backyard, propped up on cinderblocks and very obviously non-functional.
I’m a reasonable person, really. I don’t ask for much. All I ask is that these strange ungodly things would stop happening around me. Take it from the Gaston County Health Department and me—bats are unhealthy to be around. And so are people in mattress costumes.