The Chip Shot

Business Casual
Susan Percy

It happened pretty fast, but this is the sequence of events as I recall them: I walked out the kitchen door headed for the office one morning, realized almost immediately that I’d forgotten something and walked back inside.

Hank the cat, whom I had not noticed was right on my heels, came in, too – with a squeaking chipmunk in his mouth. The door slammed behind us, and the noise startled Hank enough to cause him to relax his hold on the chipmunk, who bolted, skittered across the floor and ran behind the refrigerator.

I said something insightful on the order of, “Look, it’s a chipmunk.”

That was not news to Hank, who was looking simultaneously puzzled and annoyed as he sniffed around the refrigerator. It was, however, news to my husband, who was not actually sniffing around the refrigerator, but was beginning to look puzzled and annoyed himself.

It appeared to me that we’d have to move the refrigerator and begin the humiliating spectacle of chasing a small rodent around the room. We have actually done that before, and it ended badly for all of us.

But my husband, in a fit of what I mistakenly identified as gallantry, assured me he could take care of the problem. All I had to do was leave the house and leave the chipmunk removal to him.

So Hank and I exited – he went out to sleep on the patio, and I went to work.

Although there are times I envy my husband his home office and easy commute – he walks about 15 steps from the coffeemaker to his computer, while I’m battling the crazies on I-85 – I have grown comfortable with the enforced work/life separation that comes from having a place of business several miles away from my place of residence.

I’ve had the experience of working from home. The good things about such a situation don’t change much: relaxed dress code, free parking, flexible hours. Nor do the bad things: no tech support, no well-stocked supply closet, and – here’s the toughest one of all – no respect. No actual understanding on the part of family members and friends that you might really be doing serious work, casual attire notwithstanding.

At home, you are much too accessible, too conveniently available to greet the plumber, to sign for the neighbor’s package, to take delivery of the new washer, to evict unwanted small animals from behind the refrigerator while the rest of the working world goes about its self-important business elsewhere.

When I came home that night, I inquired about the chipmunk. “He’s gone,” my husband assured me, offering no details.

“That’s wonderful. How’d you get him out?”

It was simple, he said. At lunchtime, when he left the house, he closed off the kitchen, leaving only the door to the basement open, so the chipmunk could go downstairs and find the makeshift pet door the cats use.

“Did you draw a little map for him, so he could find his way? Or put up an “All Chipmunks Exit This Way” sign?”

He chose not to dignify my questions with answers, but assured me there was nothing to worry about.

So the next morning, as he opened the kitchen cabinet to get a box of cereal, the chipmunk jumped out, landed on his foot, ricocheted off, then made its way back behind the refrigerator.

Again, my husband indicated he would take care of it – unless, of course, I wanted to take a few days off to hire and supervise a professional chipmunk removal crew. I recognize a lose-lose situation when I see one, so I backed off.

For a couple of weeks thereafter, we experienced the odd chipmunk sighting and occasionally heard what I have come to recognize as that very distinctive chipmunk squeak. Neither Hank, the original chipmunk-napper, nor his cohort Daisy was of any particular help. They might react to the squeak or do a little perfunctory sniffing; but their interest had clearly waned.

At first I was uneasy, watchful, careful where I stepped. But I gradually got used to the idea of having a chipmunk in the house. It was OK.

Finally one day we realized we had not seen or heard the chipmunk for a week; nor had we had any indications of his demise. (Not too many gory details here, but a previous chipmunk episode taught us that if you think something smells like a dead animal, you are probably right.) The chipmunk-in-residence had simply faded away.

Categories: Business Casual