The Chipmunkshank Redemption: “That joker was fast!”

September 30 was stunning. Overnight, a front had brought wind and rain. The front pushed out lingering warm, humid air a leftover from summer.

At 10, I was scheduled to meet with our Kids Director, Jen Williams. She was in the initial stages of planning a couple of community events for young families with children. 

The morning was so beautiful, I asked Jen if she would be opposed to meeting outside. She agreed, and we sat on the front steps to the church’s Welcome Center. We socially distanced in the cool fresh air.

I had left the middle door to the Welcome Center propped open. Our meeting was going well. Jen’s plans would be a good alternative for families with young children.

But, in a blink the productiveness of that meeting changed. 

My body was positioned toward Forest Avenue. I couldn’t see the open door. 

Out of the corner of her eye, Jen had seen a chipmunk scamper across the brick pavers and enter the doorway.

She calmly stated to me, “I don’t know if you want to know this, but a chipmunk just entered the building.”

I got up, and thought in my mind this is just what I need today. I entered the Welcome Center. Sure enough, the intruder was present. 

I took a couple of steps to my right, and he took off heading toward the Preschool. He quickly crossed the threshold of the double doors entering that wing.

Student artwork drying on the ancient carpet rustled as he rapidly skirted over these freshly created masterpieces.

He made a sharp right turn into Room 200, and with his heart pounding, the chipmunk hid.

Luckily for me the room was empty. The students were out on the playground. I can only imagine the chaos my new friend would have created if the room had been full of students.

I stood frozen at the door way. My brain trying to figure out what to do. I wanted to sprint a way to get help, but if I left the room I would not know if he decided to stay put for a few minutes or escape to a room that was full of kids.

Finally, my brain told me to call the church office. I needed the bravest chipmunk searcher in the world, our chief building caretaker, Ronnie Johnson. 

In our office, Kim Tingler took my call and located Ronnie. And Diane Ladd notified the Preschool Director, Katie Swartz. It seemed like hours before they arrived at the room. 

Once we had a body to keep an eye on the room, I sprinted to get a dust mop. I figured the head of the dust mop would cover the door entrance. We could shut the door, put the mop head at the base to create a barrier in case our friend bolted toward the door. I was thinking containment.

So, we set that up, and Ronnie and I entered the room. I had the broom handle, and I used it to poke along the walls of the room where all sorts of hiding places existed. 

As I poked, I clanked against things making noise. Sure enough, a poke into to the back right corner of the room sprung the chipmunk. He was a blur, a streak of lightning.

The chipmunk zipped along the wall parallel to Forest Avenue, but he finally gave us a real break. The chipmunk entered the tiny restroom. 

However, he had plenty of cover in this space. A trash can, two cumbersome wooden steps, and the toilet created an obstacle course for me. I moved, and he countered my move.

Ronnie handed me a trash can to align on the floor in front of the door. I was in perfect position. I could see him, and he could see me. 

I was ready to nudge him into the trash can when that chipmunk disappeared. He vanished. Poof, he was gone.

Neither Ronnie nor I saw him scoot by us. It was like the floor had opened or a guardian angel for chipmunks had received a text from God:  “Hey swoop down into Room 200 at the Trinity Preschool, two old geezers have one of your lads cornered in a bathroom.”

Ronnie and I were stunned. We never saw the chipmunk come by us. 

We decided to recheck the room again. We poked. We moved furniture. We tilted and lifted things. But, we never saw the chipmunk.

If he was in that room, the chipmunk must have put on his nerves of steel. Or maybe, he was thinking—ok, I’ve got this. These two old slow geezers will never trap me. I’ll just let them think that I am Houdini or that God did send down a guardian angel to rescue me.

In truth, our evening building caretaker, Bobby, spotted the chipmunk back in the Welcome Center late in the afternoon. Bobby opened the same door the chipmunk had entered earlier in the day. However, Bobby can’t confirm that the chipmunk like Elvis had left the building.

I have rethought this intrusion quite a bit. 

I have asked myself what could I have done differently?

Well, for starters, I would have kept that door shut.

I wish I had grabbed a pair of gloves and a broom. Maybe I could have captured the chipmunk with those confidence builders.

But, the intruder has also made me laugh. 

That bathroom scene was a classic. I moved, the chipmunk moved. Ronnie was behind me coaching me. I would have liked to have seen our faces when that chipmunk vanished from the bathroom.

And, I will never forget Ronnie’s comment—“that joker was fast.”

Sometimes in the speed of life, we feel trapped.

No matter where we look—we see no options, no solutions, no way out.

Who knows, maybe the good Lord was using this encounter to point out to me—Hey, you knucklehead, there are lots of people out there who feel like a chipmunk trapped in a restroom. 

What are you going to do about it? 

How are you going to help them?

Maybe all they need is an open door, and an open heart.

The chipmunk’s point of entry, photo by Bill Pike

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