My Best-Ever Excuse For Being Late to Work

I have something very important to tell you.

On a sunny morning last October, I was getting ready for work. I had to get there early because I was going to administer the PSAT to our freshmen, and their hours start earlier than that of our middle schoolers. No problem! I’m a morning person and I’m highly responsible.

After changing my A/C filter (highly responsible), I slipped on my Adidas slides to dispose of the filter in the dumpster. My plan was to walk out to the dumpster with the A/C filter toss it, then come back in, change shoes, grab my coffee, and head out.

This was my plan.

My plans changed.

Dramatically.

About ten feet outside my door, I saw on the sidewalk what looked like a dead baby mouse. “Baby,” I said sadly. I have a bleeding heart for all animals, so I stopped and squatted next to it. Its eyes were open, but I couldn’t see it breathing and there was a tiny bit of blood on the corner of its mouth—I guessed from falling from whatever kind of nest it lived in. It didn’t look like any mouse I’d ever seen, but not a regular squirrel either—gray, super soft-looking fur, a black stripe down its arms, and a long fluffy (but skinny) tail.

Using the corner of the A/C filter to prevent me from getting any diseases it might have, I verrrry gently poked it—if it was dead, I reasoned, I could move it to the bushes, where mother nature could complete the circle of life somewhere other than the sidewalk.

I hadn’t stopped to consider what I would do if it was alive.

This creature IMMEDIATELY ran up the A/C filter I was holding, RAN UP MY ARM, AND THEN PARKED ITSELF ON THE BACK OF MY HEAD.

I froze. I knew that if I reached back there it could bite me, and if I shook my head or panicked (which is what I wanted to do) it could run across my face and bite me. For whatever reason, I was able to channel my father—who is unshakably calm in emergencies—and not flip out as I considered my options.

Two competing realities played one after the other in my mind.

I have to go administer the PSAT right now.

I have a squirrel on my head.

I have to go administer the PSAT right now.

I have a squirrel on my head.            

Eventually realizing that I could not, in fact, drive to school and administer the PSAT with a squirrel on my head, I decided to take action.

First, I needed to see where the squirrel was. I didn’t want to go inside and risk this thing getting lost in my house, so I got out my phone. I tried flipping the camera to selfie mode, but I couldn’t see it. Maybe it had jumped off and I didn’t feel it! I decided, then, to take a video of the back of my head to be able to get a better angle.   

Then this happened.

Did you see the A/C filter in my hand?

Did you see me lift up my ponytail to try to get the squirrel to start a new life on my fence?

DID YOU SEE THE END FRAME?!

I had to get this off my head.

Giggling like an actual maniac at this point, I went over to my car and got a towel out of the back . Wrapping the towel around my hand like a baseball mitt to keep myself from touching it, I gently pulled my squirrel friend off the back of my head. Then I set the squirrel on the ground, ready for it to bound off into the forest and find his mom.

It did not.

It stayed there, frozen.

Writing this now, with more information, it may have been better to leave him there and trust that he would be OK. But at the time, I was worried. What if he didn’t know how to get back to his mom? What if the blood on his mouth was an injury he couldn’t recover from on his own?

So—are you ready for this?—I picked up the towel with the squirrel in it, took it inside, set it up IN MY BATHTUB (I closed the drain and toilet bowl), left a saltine cracker (because I thought a squirrel would eat what I eat when I’m sick?!?!) shut the door, stuffed a towel in the space between the door and floor, and WENT TO WORK.

(Squirrel friend is nestled in the towels. Note saltine.)

I walked in to school miraculously only minutes before the PSAT administration was to start. I opened the door to our little pod of classrooms where my assistant principal—Tom, we’ll call him—was waiting for me.

“I’m so sorry I’m late,” I said.

“Totally fine,” Tom said. “Everything ok?” He gestured to my feet, which is when I realized I was still wearing my crusty Adidas slides. I had never changed out of them.

“There was a squirrel on my head,” I told him on my way inside the classroom.

“Oh, nice,” Tom said, already typing on his computer. Tom is used to my idiosyncrasies and probably interpreted “There was a squirrel on my head” as some idiomatic expression I’d made up and not informed him of its meaning.

***

That afternoon, after sending the squirrel-on-my-head video to pretty much everyone on my contacts list, a friend of mine who used to volunteer at a wildlife rehab facility messaged me. She identified it as a wild flying squirrel and used to work with them at the rehab facility (I know—what are the odds?). She said to not give it any food or drink for 24 hours (luckily it didn’t eat any of the saltine I’d left out) and leave it wrapped up in towels over a heating pad on low. I did.

The next morning, I checked on it.

Dittle hands!

And that day, during my conference period, I drove back home to get the baby squirrel, fixed it up in a shoebox, and dropped it off at my local wildlife rehab center (they’re only open for drop-offs in a small window on weekdays). Shout out to the Texas Wildlife Rehabilitation Coalition!

I filled out the form with my email to be updated on the squirrel’s condition, but the form also said updates aren’t guaranteed, and I never heard back. So I’m choosing to believe that my little squirrel friend got nursed back to health, got little squirrel braces to fix its mouth, and is now back in the wild, munching on berries or seeds or saltine crackers, left out by well-meaning, slightly manic redheaded teachers.

The End.

P.S. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel so I can get paid for you to watch this squirrel on my head.