From the street, my old jobsite looks unassuming. From the front door, or just inside the lobby, it looks sturdy. Sheltering. The building is only thirty years old, but it looks as though it has seen it all for centuries, and been shaken by nothing. Sometimes I think that the architect must have had a very twisted sense of humour. Or perhaps he'd just worked in hotels for awhile.

I learned to stop and gauge the night by the look on my predecessor's face just before and just after she saw me standing there. Professional/relieved was a bad combination. It generally meant "wedding party on the floor." Or, worse, "church group on the floor." But that's a story for another time. That night, it was a wedding party. The fact that she couldn't wait to leave should've told me something. But I am dense, and optimistic when I know there is no escape. The hotel never quite managed to cure me of that.

Forty-five minutes into my shift, a call on the Nextel. I answered, expecting a noise complaint - the hotel was, for the first time in my (limited) experience, at full capacity. We'd had to "walk" an airline crew -- find them rooms, at hotel expense, in another hotel. I was finished with my first round of the building, so I wasn't too worried when I answered the call. And then my manager proceeded to say something that blew my calm straight to hell. "There's a bat in 825. Would you go remove it?" I almost dropped the Nextel. "Don't we have someone for this?" I was trying not to yell at her. "We sure do," the answer came back. "Security". Ahh, hell. I was afraid she'd say that. I haggled with her for a little bit, but in the end, it was either I went and removed the bat, or they'd call in the pest control people, the ones who take care of rats and snakes and the like ... who would kill it. I had a feeling my friend Den, who rescues bats, would never have forgiven me if I'd let that happen. So off I trotted to the eighth floor.

I was lucky. The guests, though they were huddled against the far wall, weren't the hysterical type. I was dreading opening the door and having a frantic, angry bat dive-bombing me or something of the sort. Instead, the bat was calmly hanging upside down from the curtain, apparently paying no attention to the humans it was terrorising. Gathered in the way it was, it was maybe the size of my palm. Not, of course, that I was about to stop and measure it. It was a light brown colour -- that generic wood colour that cheap student violins come in, if that helps. Not rich enough to be maple, not yellow enough to be pine. I was expecting anything from chocolate to black, for some reason. I grabbed a towel, had one of the girls get a bag ... and then threw the towel over the bat, wrapped it up, and popped it, towel and all, into the bag. Whereupon the thing began to make noise. A lot of noise. (This thing had never heard that bats were only supposed to make sounds that were outside the human range of hearing.) It chittered ... lots of sharp, short, high-pitched squeaks. And growls. Let's not forget the growls. I kept my eye on that mouthful of teeth, and took it through the back way, outside. When I unwrapped it, it took maybe three full seconds, gave a last squeak and a short hop off the towel, and then I grabbed the towel and bag and didn't stop to say goodbye.

Believe it or not, that was the smoothest part of the night. I got back inside just in time to greet two women who were coming into the hotel, complaining heatedly about a group of "punks" outside who were making obscene gestures. Turned out, the groom and the rest of his bachelor party attendees had had far too much to drink. He was half-dressed at best, and his friends were attempting to get him back to his room. I sped them on their way a little. Perhaps that was my mistake.

Not twenty minutes later, another call on the Nextel. The manager sounded positively choked this time, but she only asked me to check out a disturbance on the 16th floor. So, what could I do? I headed up there. Stepped off of the elevator to see that group of guys again, gathered in a little cluster. I looked at them, they parted ... and there's the groom. Oh, dear gods, there's the GROOM! Wearing nothing but the smile I hope his bride was still wearing when his friends filled him in on things later that day. Suffice it to say, I escorted him back to his room -- and wished, while I was at it, that I could lock him in.

It always amazed me. Children are dreaded visitors in a hotel. They find the service elevators, get into the laundry and kitchen, press every button on the guest elevators, make noise, and congregate on the stairwells. But they're still angels compared to supposedly-grown men with too much liquor in them. The children were never so shock-inducing. And the bat was prettier.

So ... yeah. I was security at Bedlam, two nights a week. I often thought it was either going to break me or drive me to sanity. Which one did it finally succeed in? That's anyone's guess.

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