… no, really! They are.

See? Look. Here’s a nice picture of Sciurus carolinensis, the Eastern Gray Squirrel:

Cute, right?

For those of you who have never seen them, we in the Princeton area have mystical, magical Black Squirrels, which natives to the area claim to be rather unique to our region, but in reality they are nothing more than a melanistic variety of the Eastern Gray Squirrel and can be found anywhere the gray squirrel can be found (seriously, look it up).

Nevertheless, they are cute, see?

There are white squirrels and brown squirrels and tan squirrels and probably some kind of weird rainbowy squirrel out there, not yet discovered in the rain forests or something.

Anyway, my point is that squirrels are cute. They have those bushy tails that seem more like a cloud than a tail. They have the cute little paws. They’re cute when they leap through the air and thrust their tails out behind them to direct them from one tree to another in feat of flight that is nothing short of amazing. When they hop or jump or prance (whatever you’d call it), their tails wiggle in such a cute way.

Trust me. They’re cute.

Well, that is until you come face-to-face with the one that broke into your office over the weekend and wreaked havoc and messed up papers and ate your pretzels that you were counting on for lunch on Monday. Then they’re not cute. Not cute at all.

That’s what happened this weekend.  For those of you reading this in the future, I’m talking about the weekend of December 13-14, 2008.  I came into the office today, December 15, 2008, to find that my office was a mess. The aforementioned pretzel bag was shredded and pretzel bits were all over the floor. Papers that had been somewhat neatly stacked on my desk were strewn about the room (really, I knew exactly where every scrap of paper was in that pile when I left on Friday night). The bag of sunflower seeds I had on my desk was across the room, though it was not open or damaged in any way. There was a hole chewed in a box of Oatmeal Raisin Flax cookies, though the structural integrity of the plastic bag within seemed to be intact.

There was squirrel poop on my keyboard, desk and intertwined in my telephone’s wire.

It was exciting.

I then went on a search of the entire suite, looking for the culprit.

The leaves from the fichus tree were all over the floor. Another plant was knocked over, dirt spilled all over the carpet. I knew then that I was bound to come up against a mighty foe. Fear taking over, I ran to the kitchen, panicking a little, but was relieved to find that the squirrel bandit had not touched the coffee; if it had done anything to the coffee, the rest of this story would not be very pretty. Trust me.

I eventually found the vile beast, resting comfortably on one of the cushioned chairs in the conference room (you know, the spinney chairs with thick cushions that can help you sleep more comfortably when the PowerPoint slides are up on the big screen). The conference room was a mess and I looked to the ceiling to find that the squirrel had clearly chewed its way through the ceiling tile, as the tile was sporting a round-ish opening that had tooth marks in it. Putting two and two together, I came up with the supposition that this was the point of entry.

Anyway, the squirrel was not moving at all and I began to fear that I had a dead squirrel to deal with. But as I approached, I saw the tail flick slightly and knew that the fun was about to begin.

I decided that my massively large brain which had just put two and two together so successfully should be able to get the squirrel, with its puny little brain, out to its natural habitat. I headed back out of the room and opened the door to the outside. I setup a barricade of sorts to try to guide the squirrel to the door, forgetting, of course, that barricades are to squirrels what those rock climbing carnival rides are to the freaks who climb real mountains with nothing but a pair of cleats, an ice pick and a backpack… a mere amusement. But nevertheless I busied myself at setting up the obstacle course such that it might guide the squirrel to the door and its ultimate freedom.

Returning to the conference room, I walked over to the chair in which the squirrel was still lounging, plotting its defense to my oncoming offense. I arrived at the chair and reached toward the chair’s back, intending to wheel the chair and squirrel to the door because I believe in providing comfortable rides to all of the Earth’s creatures.  Wouldn’t you know it – the ungrateful squirrel leapt off, running out of the conference room. I managed to run after it just in time to see it leap effortlessly over the conference room table I had turned onto its side as my blockade. I considered leaping the overturned table myself but just then my sciatica acted up and the approaching rain caused my pre-arthritis to flare up, so I instead moved the table out of my way.

Damn old sports injuries from when I led all those teams to championships in little league….

Still not learning my lesson, though, I dragged the sideways table over to block the path to the hallway that leads to the kitchen and ultimately my own office. That accomplished, I followed the squirrel into the really-cluttered office of one of my colleagues (our marketing guru, who also claims to know where everything is in the daunting, leaning piles in her office). The boxes and papers and other debris in this room made it near impossible for me to find the squirrel, so I stood there, holding my breath, and waited for the squirrel to make a mistake. Eventually, the tiny-brained beast moved a little, just enough that my super-human hearing (just ask my kids about it) figured out where it was. I moved over and shook the box and the squirrel took off again, once again ignoring my wide-open doorway and my blockade and running instead to a cubicle, right next to the wide-open door. It hid between the cubicle wall and a filing cabinet, cornered completely.

I stood there and tried to reason with the squirrel.

“Herman,” I said, for that is what I named him. “Herman, it is time for you to go back out to the world, to find your friends and family and be with them for the holidays.”

No response.

“Can you please give a guy a break and just leave so that I can get back to my real job?” I pleaded… but still no response. I even tried singing but I think that simply agitated the squirrel even more, so I stopped.

Apparently, Herman is not a fan of “Carve That Possum,” though I can’t imagine why.  It’s not like I was singing a song called “Carve That Lousy Squirrel That Decided to Come into My Office This Weekend” or something like that.

Anyway, seeing how the squirrel didn’t get into the whole communication thing, I pulled out the computers that were being stored in the cubicle and then grabbed a coat rack.

No, I had no intention of jabbing the squirrel and you should be ashamed of yourself for thinking that I might consider doing so.

Instead, I used the coat rack to shake the filing cabinet because my massively large brain told me that the squirrel was cornered and probably a little bit more unpredictable than it might normally be. So, I shook the filing cabinet, I banged on the cabinet and the cubicle wall and the desk. Eventually the squirrel ran out and right past me. Then it ran past the wide-open door and continue toward the fancy barricade I had set up. It once again leapt the table and ran down the hall. Feeling a bit perturbed, I leapt the table, too, performing a triple somersault in the air and sticking the landing (alright, I made that last part up… I just jumped over the table.)

The squirrel ran into my server room, which I had inexplicably left open. My large brain cursed loudly, due to the many wires and servers and boxes and tables that were there for the beast to hide in and on and around. I opened the other two doors to the outside world and as I returned toward the server room I saw the squirrel run across the hall into another office. I quickly entered the office and closed the door behind me. “Aha!” I shouted, feeling I finally had the upper hand.

So, let’s take a second to make sure you’re with me…

I am now in an 8 foot by 12 foot room with several boxes, a filing cabinet, a bookshelf, a desk and a computer… with a terrified squirrel who had been rampaging the suite all weekend. And I closed the door behind me.

Caught up? Good.

So, I did not know where the squirrel actually was but I figured I could open the window and remove the screen and the beast would have no choice but to flee to its freedom. I bent down and did just that, opening the window and pulling out the screen. Looking at the filing cabinet that was mere inches from my face, I saw Herman hiding there behind the cabinet, holding onto the wall and staring at me with his wild, glowing eyes. I smiled and reassured him that everything was going to be alright, but I don’t think he believed me. I took the screen from the window and stood up, backing away slowly. I told Herman he could leave, but he didn’t move. So, I used the screen and touched the corner of it to his tail. No movement. I shook it and jumped up and down. Still nothing. I banged it against the wall. Still nothing. So I started singing again.  Loudly.

“Carve that possum, carve that possum, children! Carve that possum, carve him to the heart!”

Terrified, or perhaps sickened, the squirrel jumped out from his hiding place and ran first toward the window, then back and behind the desk.

“The window is right there!” I bellowed. Having had enough of this game, I walked to the desk and pounded my fist on it. I kicked the desk. I shook the chair. I slammed my fist against the wall. I sang the chorus of “In a Gadda Da Vidda” and then threatened to start singing “Carve That Possum” from the beginning again. I don’t know which of these did the trick, but the squirrel ran out and leapt through the window to his freedom. I went over to the window and watched him run away, satisfied that my massively superior intellect had won out over the squirrel. Closing the window and replacing the screen I sighed. Then I yelled, for the doors to the suite were still wide open! Running out, I managed to close them all before Herman decided to wage a counter assault on me.

I guess the ending to this story is happy. I mean, the squirrel got outside and I can honestly say that I am at least slightly smarter than a squirrel. I didn’t get to eat my pretzels, so that’s bad news, but other than that and a slightly chewed up ceiling tile, there was no real damage.

I watched through the window for a few minutes as Herman and several other squirrels ran around, jumping and prancing and hopping around the field outside the office.

They were so cute! But they can’t help it, since squirrels are, by definition, cute.  See?

Appendix 1: Full Lyrics to “Carve That Possum”

Possum meat is good and sweet
Carve him to the heart,
I always find it good to eat,
Carve him to the heart.

My dog did bark and I went to see
Carve him to the heart,
A great big possum up that tree
Carve him to the heart,

Chorus: Carve that possum!
Carve that possum, children!
Carve that possum!
Oh carve him to the heart!

I reach up and pull him in,
Carve him to the heart,
That possum he begin to grin,
Carve him to de heart,

I took him home and dressed him off
Carve him to the heart,
I hung him that night in the frost,
Carve him to the heart,


The way I cooked that possum sound,
Carve him to the heart,
I just parboiled then baked him brown
Carve him to the heart,

Put sweet potatoes in the pan,
Carve him to the heart,
The sweetest eatin’ in the land
Carve him to de heart.