Improbable Island Message of the Day (MoTD)
That's no cat
Okay so for this month's Monthly Memento, we need a little bit of backstory.
I've just taken in two new black cats, named Carl and Nola. They are cuddly and nice, and they mean that we now have five cats in our house, jesus fucking christ. Before I took them in they were kinda the neighbourhood strays; they'd do the rounds getting pettings and love and food from everyone, and keeping down the vermin. Then the weather got cold and the street kinda started going "So who's gonna take them in." Me and Emily, of course, because cats know we're suckers.
Anyway. In between it getting a bit nippy and us taking Carl and Nola in, we put out a box for them to shelter in. It's made out of an old plastic filing-cabinet type affair, with a hole cut in it and some blankets inside. When we took Carl and Nola (WHO HAS THUMBS BTW OMG SHE'S ADORABLE) in, I was too lazy to remove the box from my porch - or, indeed, the little bowl of cat food next to it (between this sort of shit and the van rusting immobile outside my house, my neighbours love me). The other day I noticed the food missing, and some paw prints in the snow. "There's another cat," I thought, "but I'm still going to take away the box and the food dish, because I have never seen the creature in the flesh and am thus indifferent to it, because my moral compass has no sense of object permanence." And then, I never took the box in, because I am the special sort of lazy that is too indifferent to even perform a task based on indifference.
This morning, as Emily was getting her ride to work, she and her co-worker slinked cautiously past the box before calling me to inform me that there was a very large, very rotund, and very angry raccoon getting all #occupy on our porch.
I murmured something about okay I'll sort it out later, and went back to sleep. Emily sent me a Facebook message, waking me back up.
Emily: So the raccoon is actually in the box
Emily: Don't try to move it it might have rabies
Emily: Call animal control
Me: Let's keep it
Emily: Seriously though. Make sure its gone before you try to grab the box
Emily: It is fat
Emily: Maybe play some loud music out study window or bang some pots
Me: Figure I'll frighten it off with the leaf blower
Emily: Just promise to be careful. No heroics, please
Emily: There is no shame in running from a raccoon of questionable rabies status
Me: Heroics? It's a damn raccoon!
Me: It's not fucking Osama Bin Laden!
Emily: Yes, a raccoon that has squatted on your land
Emily: It attacks the gate to your castle
Emily: And threatens favored guests
Me: I'm not even out of bed yet
So, after I grumbled my way out of bed, the plan to scare off the raccoon with the electric leaf blower (which, incidentally, cleans my workshop up real nice but is pretty crap for actually blowing leaves) went into effect. I would - in theory - thrust the nozzle of the leaf blower through the box's aperture, give it a few good blasts to get the raccoon good and scared, then retreat inside to let it know that it was safe to run, repeating as needed until the balance tipped and the raccoon decided that the outside world was less scary than the inside of its box.
Now, about raccoons. Raccoons have excellent
public relations people. As an Englishman, I was expecting cute-and-cuddly creatures with awesome little hands and adorable burgular masks. Americans who've dealt with raccoons can probably see where this is going and are grinning at my gullibility already.
If you're reading this on a phone or laptop, plug in some headphones or something - the tiny speakers in your device won't respond at all to the frequencies involved. This is what happened when I tried the leaf blower thing. (edit 2023: that was a video link that bitrotted into a camgirl site and there's no video anymore, boo)
Yeah. That unearthly, impossibly deep, half-dog, half-lion growling/barking you hear there is what raccoons sound like when they're not cartoons. That shake of the box wasn't me activating the leaf blower, it was the raccoon lunging for it and going "FUCKING COME ON THEN, YA BASTARD!"
I carried on with the plan and got the raccoon good and proper pissed off, but the little fucker wouldn't come out of its box, no matter how much I agitated it or how long I left it to let it know the coast was clear. It liked my box, and wasn't moving.
Of course I was keeping my Facebook updated this whole time. I come back inside to a whole bunch of suggestions, ranging from a rag soaked in ammonia to DUDE JUST CALL ANIMAL CONTROL ALREADY YIKES, and I figured well, I don't have any ammonia, but I do have some bleach. Soaked a rag in bleach, tossed it into the box, the box shook and growled angrily, failed to disgorge a raccoon.
I came inside again and figured I'd leave it a bit, let the raccoon have a good long think about whether it wants to stay in a bleach-stinking box fighting off leaf blowers left and right. And I waited. And waited.
Me: He's still in there
Facebook: You needed to use ammonia
Me: I could go get some ammonia and throw an ammonia rag in with the bleach rag, but that would create chlorine gas and kill the animal horribly. I don't want to kill it, I just want to subject it to incredibly unpleasant things until it flees as a traumatized shaking mess, because I like to be humane. I'd end up reaching into the box to take the bleach rag out before throwing the ammonia rag in, and I like my fingers.
Facebook: You have discovered the honey badger of raccoons
I'd made the box to be very comfortable for Carl and Nola. Soft, thick blankets. Nice layer of insulation. Warm. Safe. Loving, for lovely kitties. Carl and Nola never once
used the box, but the raccoon evidently fucking loves it.
"Right," says I, "It's time to science this shit up." I donned my most intact jeans, leather jacket, gloves, steel toes, and ventured back out onto the porch, leaf blower in hand in case I needed it - and I pushed the box gingerly with my foot over to just outside the window of the study where I conduct all my Island-related coding shenanigans.
Me: he growled like a motherfucker the whole way
Me: this raccoon really is incredibly angry now
Facebook: CALL ANIMAL CONTROL D:
Facebook: When I had raccoons in my house they took care of them very efficiently
Facebook: Killed them dead
Closing the study door so the cats couldn't get in, I opened the window and laid a computer sound system atop the box. One of those ones with a subwoofer and two little satellite speakers. I aimed the subwoofer's driver straight down, cranked up the volume, plugged in my phone, opened up my tone generator app and went through the full range, from 2hz to 20khz and even beyond, way out of the range of my hearing (apparently even in my thirties I can still hear up to about 22.1khz and down to just above 11hz, which made me feel good about SOMETHING today).
The raccoon made some half-hearted growling noises, and did not budge.
"Come on," I moaned at it. "Just leave
, you bastard. If I ring the animal control people they'll just kill your stubborn ass dead. I'm trying to do you a favour,
here. At least this shit is only probably
a breach of the Geneva Convention." I banged on the lid of the box with the handle of a screwdriver. "G'wan, gerroudofityabastard!" Growling and barking and box-shaking and general threats and abuse. "Go on! Fuck off! Gerrout me fuckin' box!"
A youngish couple walked past, with their dog. They looked over the scene in front of them, made very brief eye contact, then looked away and hurried on.
"Fucking hell..." I moaned. Hairy, bedheaded, bearded man leaning out of window, swearing at a box, playing extremely loud, weird noises to the neighbourhood. On a sunday morning,
of all things.
This continued for some time. Midway through the process I abandoned the tone generator and opened the function generator app, experimenting with sine waves, square waves, boppers and white noise, trying to find a frequency or a set of resonances that the raccoon would find unpleasant enough to make him leave.
I changed the function to a looping sawtooth that rose and fell between 20 and 30 hz, which created something vaguely like the growl of a very large animal, and started formulating other plans.
Plan four: don as much protective gear as I could, and go outside and just kick the fuck out of the box until the raccoon left. Crude, and dangerous, but straight to the point. Then I remembered the last time I had to have a bunch of rabies injections
, and went "Nah, fuck that."
Plan five: wait for the raccoon to get hungry, then steal the box back while he's gone. Until such time as I can catch the box without its guardian, that would mean basically just staying indoors as a cowering hostage, while the raccoon smugged it up in my fucking cat box.
Plan six: tape the box closed and post it to Donald Trump. While I'm sure the angry, snarling, pigheaded, mooching little parasite would get exactly what he had coming, it wouldn't be fair to the raccoon.
I fussed around with the tones a little bit - by this point I was actually feeling pretty dizzy and ill myself, collateral damage from my own sonic attack. As I was despairing of ever shifting the raccoon, I decided to bang on the box some more.
No growling. I shut off the tone.
Fucker must have legged it while I was adjusting the frequencies.
Which means I'd been playing horrible noises to an empty box on my porch for the last five minutes.
I got up, and almost fell over. I felt nauseated, dizzy, generally fucked-up - I knew that certain sorts of sounds could do this to you, but it was still surprising.
I can only imagine what sort of state the raccoon must have been in, but damn, he stuck it out admirably. Gotta respect the little guy. Well, the not-so-little, hairy, angry, growling, spitting, bitey guy.
And so, this month's Monthly Memento is a Raccoon In A Box. You can bang on the box during a fight - bang on it enough times and the raccoon will burst out and savage anything nearby. You'll probably
do better than your enemy, but we're talking about an angry raccoon here so no guarantees.