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Bats in the Belfry

by Frances Giles

In my past as a registered nurse, I worked for many years in a hospital that had apparently been built under pretty lax codes. It was meant to be a Holiday Inn, Jr. but never opened as such. Through the years staff and patients suffered the results of all of the shoddy work.

One startling incident that occurred was a sudden infestation of bats. They made themselves known on the fourth floor before migrating to the third. They didn't reach the other four floors, luckily. Shrill screeching was the first indicator that something was amiss. That came from the horrified lungs of a fourth floor evening shift nurse. At first no one seemed to believe her when she told of flying bats emerging in droves from a long uncovered vent on the south end of the hall (very casual maintenance staff), that is, until the very long haired maintenance man (this was in the early 80's) went to investigate and was set upon by a few of the flying fangers. He screeched, too, although in a deeper tone.

Panic ensued, staff members were threatening to boycott work unless something was done immediately. Naturally patients got wind of the little visitors. Screeching, remember? I thought it was kind of amusing until they migrated to my floor, the third. I had a new curly perm and little useful knowledge of the habits of bats, so I feared for my hair. Experts were called in and it still took what seemed like a very long time to get rid of our unwanted guests. Grates were replaced and sealed around the edges and peace reigned once again. Rabies shots were no longer a topic of fear and trepidation.

It was a small source of private amusement that bats in a psychiatric hospital was almost a cliche. In no way do I mean to denigrate the mentally ill, though. No one was bitten and the awful Ruth Buzzi hairnets were discarded ASAP.


Frances Giles
"True Confessions and Mild Obsessions" August 13, 2015 Column

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