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Little Bat of Bethlehem a tale of crisis response


In the spirit of the holidays, I bring you a story combining the trappings of the season with a lesson about the importance of adequate crisis response in protecting investments. With--sadly, as the story is from my experience--perhaps a side examination of reputation risk.

As with many holiday tales, this one starts with tradition--in our case, an annual December trip from Chicago out to the hinterlands to chop down a Christmas tree. This particular year, as every year, the tree was brought home, lovingly decorated and, as Christmas trees are meant to be, prominently displayed in our living room.

The following Saturday brought extreme cold, and our car's battery gave up the ghost. My wife, Kathy, was sure a mechanic was required, but with a manly flourish I assured her I could take care of this problem myself.

It was simple. I pulled the old battery, took a cab to the nearest auto parts shop, got a replacement and put it in place. But, with Kathy's limited experience with cars, my obvious automotive expertise earned me considerable guy points.

That evening I was reading in the living room while Kathy wrapped gifts at the dining room table, when from the Christmas tree there arose such a clatter, I sprang out of my chair to see what was the matter. As I looked for an ornament I thought had fallen, with my face about a foot from the tree, a brown missile shot out of the fir, zipped over my head and headed out of the living room and on down the hall.

I recall my immediate response being perfectly natural, probably involving a little shriek. Not surprisingly, my outburst prompted a query from Kathy. I replied, coolly as I could, "THERE'S A BAT IN THE HOUSE!"

(Bats, I've since learned, hibernate, and evidently this rascal, after choosing our Fraser fir for his long winter's nap, dozed straight through the tree chopping, the dragging to the car, the drive back to Chicago, the trip upstairs to our place and the tree-trimming, only to awaken after a week in our nice warm condo.)

At this point, I remembered my brother talking about his bat experiences in Minnesota, even recalling the takeaway: Bats will use their echolocation to find open doors and windows.

I opened the door to the balcony, then pondered how to drive the airborne rodent, now circling the master bedroom, back toward the living room and the open balcony door. Arming Kathy with a broom, I made my way toward the guest bedroom to find my tennis racquet--the bat wrangler's obvious tool of choice.

Racquet in hand, I'd just stepped back into the hall when the intruder exited the bedroom, buzzed past my face and flew back up the hall. Bleating an alert to Kathy, I crept back toward the living room.

By the time I met Kathy in the living room, there was no sign of the bat. We assumed he'd flown out the door, though uncomfortable uncertainty remained.

Ultimately, this holiday crisis caused little damage, other than to my reputation, leaving Kathy quick to tell others of my fear of bats. In truth, I'm not particularly frightened of bats. Rabies, however, does get my attention. And, of course, the entire experience made pretty quick work of all the guy points I'd stockpiled that morning with the car battery thing.

We haven't chopped down our own tree for a couple of years now, though abandoning that tradition had nothing to do with the bat. Rather, suffering from colds a couple of Decembers back, Kathy and I learned that we could get a perfectly nice tree at a garden center a mile or so from home. We do have some new holiday traditions, though. Each year, a toy bat has a prominent spot in our Christmas tree, while nearby sits a beribboned tennis racquet.

So, there it is, the tale of The Bat Who Came for Christmas. All that's left, I suppose, is to offer you season's greetings. And suggest you be ready for anything.

Senior Editor Rodd Zolkos can be reached at: