I am always amazed by the way many people react when they encounter some of nature’s smallest and weakest creatures. Watching a burly, macho man jump, scream, or bolt at the sight of a mouse or an insect really cracks me up. Why the panic? Why the fear? We must concede that it’s extremely unlikely that a mouse that runs by us will drag us off for lunch. Bumble bees really aren’t interested in attacking people; they just want the pollen. No need to run for cover (unless you’re allergic) if one of them buzzes by on its way to a ﬂ oral banquet. Still, overreacting happens, and such reactions, in a variety of situations, have provided me with more than a few laughs over the years.
Once, when I was in high school, my buddy invited me to Sunday dinner. His family’s home had a connecting door to the next house in the row, which was occupied by his grandfather, his mom’s sister, and her family. The sisters were very close, so it was not unusual for them to share a meal. What was a tad unusual was dessert that day. After we enjoyed a delicious roast beef dinner, out came the homemade chocolate cake, along with a box of freshly made doughnuts from a place called Donut Land, just outside of the Philadelphia city limits. As we were about to enjoy the pastries, my buddy’s aunt reached over to grab one of her favorite vanilla-cream doughnuts, with the white powdered-sugar coating. After sipping her freshly brewed Maxwell House, she calmly lifted her treat and broke it in half so she could bite into it without getting powder all over her face. As she glanced at the inside of the pastry, she made direct eye contact with a cream-ﬁ lled roach, who wasn’t quite dead and obviously enjoying his last few moments. Her scream made the crystal chandelier shake. The other adults gasped. My buddy and I laughed, as you might expect of two knuckle-headed teens. When the smoke cleared, we enjoyed the chocolate cake. Hold the doughnuts!
Then there was the time when my wife, LuAnn, and I were newlyweds, and we decided to eat lunch at a local Burger King in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania. The place was clean and very well kept, despite what is often expected from a fast food joint. As a real stickler for cleanliness, my wife appreciated this, as well as the various ﬂoral arrangements neatly set in rectangular boxes on counter-like surfaces around the restaurant. After picking up our Whoppers, fries, and Cokes, we chose a particularly attractive table next to one of the counters topped with a ﬂower box. As we took our seats, it wasn’t our intention to disturb anyone – or anything – but apparently we did. A little gray mouse streaked along the counter top and suddenly leaped into the ﬂower box as though jumping into bed for its afternoon nap. With an abrupt shriek, LuAnn deserted her Whopper and bolted for the door. I took mine with me and enjoyed it at home. We lived in that neighborhood for 10 years, but LuAnn never visited that Burger King again. I, on the other hand, was more forgiving.
These experiences can’t compare with one that occurred in Indianapolis in 2003. My company had purchased a new computer program meant to revolutionize how we tracked customer contacts, purchases, and sales ﬁ gures. So the boss had all of the sales staff meet at our Indianapolis ofﬁce for two days of training with the program developers. At the end of the second day, which was a Friday evening, we all headed to a very fancy restaurant downtown. This place was really something to behold. It was designed with an outdoor motif and ﬁ lled – or should I say “stuffed”? – with taxidermied animals like deer, antelope, and birds of prey; and they were all displayed in natural settings. You felt as though you were enjoying a gourmet meal in the middle of the woods, with all of the beauty but none of the pitfalls. The menu included a wide variety of meat dishes, including elk and venison, along with an ample supply of non-game meats.
Our party of about 20 sat in a prime location with several animals nearby, including a stuffed bobcat perched directly above us in a tree. Another nice touch was the fact that we were seated next to a party of 12, celebrating the 95th birthday of their sweet grandmother. We all chatted freely with one another as we waited for our food, and they were very cordial, making us feel right at home. After we consumed more than a few adult beverages, our food arrived, and we dug in. The meal was great. Granny’s group had simultaneously received their orders, and everyone was happy. About 10 minutes later, we were startled by the screams of all of the women at Granny’s table.
It seems an unstuffed – live – and very clumsy mouse had lost its footing, plummeting from the tree above, plunging headﬁ rst into Granny’s dish of beef medallions!
Pandemonium erupted. The table was overturned. Food was ﬂying all over the place. Other guests started screaming, as did a few waitresses. After the initial shock, most of our group dissolved into uncontrollable laughter. Two managers ran over in an attempt to quell the chaos. The scene was reminiscent of a Marx Brothers movie. The head manager did his best to gain control and said there would be no charge for their meals – even going so far as to offer them a new table and fresh food, mice not included! It all was refused; Granny and company made a beeline for the exit. We, however, settled down to ﬁnish what turned out to be a delightful meal.
I don’t know what happened to that little mouse after its free-fall into Granny’s dish, but I know he gave a bunch of people a night to remember.
Charlie Sacchetti is the author of three books, “It’s All Good: Times and Events I’d Never Want to Change;” “Knowing He’s There: True Stories of God’s Subtle Yet Unmistakable Touch,” and his newest, “Savoring the Moments: True Stories of Happiness, Sadness and Everything in Between.” He was raised in Philadelphia and lives in Cinnaminson, New Jersey. Contact him at email@example.com.