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The Lap(se) of Luxury

Despite the fact that most researchers agree that multitasking is inefficient, it has been a way of life for a long time. In the early days, multitasking consisted of walking, talking and chewing gum. Now we are more sophisticated. We have technology to help us multitask more effectively. Today, we walk, text and chew gum. The art of unitasking, doing only one thing at a time, has become a quaint throwback to the days before electricity.

In 1976, at the tender age of six, my unitasking skills were at their peak. By doing the dead man’s float longer than anyone in my age category, I earned a gold medal in the Featherbed Lane Camp Olympics. I had mastered the ability to do one thing at a time, in this particular case it was floating face down in the pool without moving.

The one and only gold medal I will ever win.

Many years have passed since my unitasking heyday. The shine may be off my genuine replica gold medal, but the memory never fades. Just like everyone else, I now multitask my way through most days. I often wonder if I’ve lost my ability to be as still as I was on my gold medal day. Recently, I had an unexpected opportunity to learn the answer to that question.

Hoping to savor one of the last sunny afternoons of summer, I grabbed my book and relaxed on the loveseat in my garden.  The bright blue sky had a few puffy white clouds for decoration. Birds were chirping and butterflies were floating from flower to flower. I had been enjoying the luxury of a lazy afternoon for an hour when I felt a scratching sensation on my right hip. I thought that a goldfinch might have landed on me, but assumed it would fly off. The scratching sensation continued towards my lap. Without looking up from my book, I lifted my hand to shoo away the bird. As I began to brush my hand back and forth, I realized something was amiss. I wasn’t touching feathers. I was touching fur! When I looked down into my lap, the beady eyes of a squirrel were staring back up at me. I froze in terror. He froze with his jaws stretched open holding a black walnut pod slightly smaller than a tennis ball. Our eyes met. I’m not sure which one of us was more surprised; me at the sight of a squirrel in my lap or the squirrel at the fact that he had seriously miscalculated me as an inanimate object.

On a trip to Banff National Park in Canada, we were given a pamphlet with rules for encounters with large critters: moose, bears, wolves and mountain lions. Nowhere in the literature had there been any information on squirrel etiquette, so I did what felt natural; I screamed like a lunatic and began flailing my arms. This was probably not the proper behavior to exhibit when face to face with a squirrel, but it felt like the right thing to do in the moment. The terrified squirrel dropped his booty and leapt over my shoulder. He raced through the yard and scampered to the safety of the highest branch of a nearby tree. Now squirrel-free, I too leapt up. I began shaking my arms and legs then felt my shorts to see if he had stashed any nuts in my pockets.

Never, in all the time I have spent outside, have I had such a close encounter with a woodland creature. Insects and I have been intimately involved for years, but this was my first face to face meeting with a member of the rodent family. I’ve napped in my hammock and been pelted with acorns from squirrels perched in the tree branches above me, but we’ve always maintained our personal space.

After I finished my squirrel dance, my heart rate returned to normal and I called Oregano to tell him what had happened.

When his shock wore off and his laughter died down he said, “You must have been sitting so still he thought you were a piece of furniture.”

Apparently age hasn’t diminished my gold medal unitasking skills. Next time I head out to my courtyard for a luxurious afternoon of relaxation, I’m going to sing and clap while I read. Maybe multitasking isn’t such a bad thing after all.

The scene of our encounter – notice the abandoned black walnut under the table. The squirrel never did come back for it.

About Paprika Furstenburg

I was born with an overly developed sense of humor and poor coordination. The combination of these two character traits has taught me humility and given me the perspective to find the funny in everyday experiences.

71 responses »

  1. Hilarious, Paprika. I admire your skill and have vowed to work on my own unitask talent. Presently I can only sit still if I’m asleep. I’m wonder what your secret is?

    • Good for you, Barb, wanting to work on your unitasking skills. My secret is a beautiful garden and a good book. I could sit still for hours reading in a garden. Hammocks work really well too. It’s not all that easy to move in a hammock so you learn to relax and sit still. Good luck developing your new skills. Keep me posted on how it goes.

  2. Multi-tasking is something quite foreign to those of us with lots of free time….I can always put off until tomorrow what I could have done today and, in fact, that is often the case…as one cannot play golf and do anything else of substance at the same time (except curse). That was a very funny “tail” that you related. I wander what he/she (and you were really close enough to tell which) told his/her
    family when he/she got home. On the off chance that Mr. Zuckerberg has a wider audience than we think, I checked, but there was no Mr.or Mrs. Squirrel posting their reaction to the experience. We have a squirrel who reclines at the junction of a tree branch and the main thrust of the tree in our back yard as if he were on a lounge chair just basking in the sun and munching on his pickings from the black walnut tree. He is very rude in that he discards what is left of the shell onto anyone unfortunate enough to be seating below him. If given the chance, he’ll probably expect a flat panel tv and some iced tea to go along with his snacking. PS For the past few months, there has not been a notification on my facebook page that you had a posting as there was previously. Have you angered someone or is it me that is “up a tree” and unable to receive alerts.

    • These Jersey squirrels have gotten very brazen with their actions. I know they’ve been known to linger in trees and pelt people with nutshells, but this was a whole new level of brashness. Thankfully, he/she was not on my lap long enough for me to determine if it was truly a he or she. Oregano and I also wondered what the squirrel thought of our encounter. Maybe there’s a squirrel blog somewhere with a story about me.

      I don’t know why you aren’t getting the updates on Facebook. I’ve not angered the Facebook Gods. Try “liking” the Good Humored page on FB and see if that works. I know it’s been posting on that. Let me know if it works.

  3. Paprika, I loved your story. Your encounter was hilarious. That poor shell-shocked squirrel. He’d be nuts to return for his booty. I’m not sure how I would have reacted, but I suspect I’d be thrilled beyond belief. Kudos to you for mastering “still waters” skills.

    • Thanks, Judy. So glad you enjoyed my brush with nature. I hope this story does not become the first in a series.

      After I was done being thoroughly creeped out, I did feel bad that the squirrel didn’t come back for his giant nut. There are lots more where that one came from so I don’t think the squirrel will starve this winter.

  4. Hahaha… what it didn’t explain in the handbook is that you only have to watch out for the squirrels with rifles. The regular ones are just fine 🙂

  5. Oh Dog! You have squirrel cooties!

  6. I loved this. I can see you screaming at that squirrel I opened the garbage can one morning to throw away garbage and I lifted the lid and there was a possum sleeping. I screamed and called our police who got him out and received a possum glare for their trouble. You write wonderful blogs. .

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed picturing me flailing around and scraming like a lunatic 🙂

      I can’t imagine your surprise at finding a possum in your garbage. They are such creepy looking animals. Next time, you can just put your garbage in the freezer until the possum moves out on his own.

  7. OH MY – you ARE quite the unitasker! I would have gone absolutely berserk! Those squirrels really have some nerve – they can climb just about anywhere and THEY DO. Wow. By the way, that loveseat and table are adorable – no wonder he wanted to join you 🙂

    • The squirrels really do go anywhere they want and they aren’t very polite about it.

      We love the sculptural quality of that patio set. We also like that it’s not solid so it doesn’t block out the view of the flowers and trees in the garden. Apparently, the one flaw with the patio set is that squirrels also find it attractive.

  8. Can’t get much better! ” seriously miscalculated me as an inanimate object”. “thought you were a piece of furniture.” You described it so well!
    (Oh, by now you probably know squirrel carry plague, hantavirus, and rabies. Not to worry – this one was probably healthy…don’t you love all of your encouraging blog fans?
    maybe get one of those automatic feather fans to wave over your head next time?)
    …loved the benefit of squirrel repellent quality of real books!

    • So glad you enjoyed the post! 🙂

      Thanks to my wonderful and knowledgeable readers, I now know that squirrels carry a host of cooties. Good thing I didn’t think of that at the time or I would have freaked out even more.

      Fall and winter are coming and my time spent reading outside will end. That will give me plenty of time to think of some sort of squirrel notification system for next spring and summer.

    • Deb Weyrich-Cody

      Wow, serious MISunderstanding going on here. What I was trying to point out is 1) squirrels DO NOT carry Lyme. 2) what they do carry is nowhere near as bad 3) that only people who are ALREADY sick have any reaction much worse than the flu and 4) A 3% fatality rate could mean as few as 100 people contracting this thing and 3 of them died as a result. (I am truly tired of 24/7 news channels making a story out of virtually nothing just to have something to hype!!)
      So, as always, the best offence is a good defence… boost you’re immune system (eat, sleep and exercise – we all know the drill; ) and actually read the piece I sent that (very calmly and reasonably) tells you how to avoid being bitten in the first place and what to look out for if you are (who was it that said “An ounce of prevention’s worth a pound of cure”?) Then just throw in a healthy bit of common sense and you’re laughin’, right? (And maybe we should just eat Henny Penny for dinner?; )

      • I’ve definitely got it. Squirrels may or may not be carrying some type of cooties. Those cooties aren’t lethal for a healthy person. I’m not worried about it, but I’d like to avoid any further up close and personal encounters with a squirrel.

      • Deb Weyrich-Cody

        Couldn’t agree with you more! My Grandpa called them fluffy-tailed rats – and, having come to North America on a ship, he REALLY hated rats… Still, I can’t help but wish I could’ve been there to see the realisation dawn on that squirrel’s face [and I’ve had a mouse run up my sleeve, so I’m not laughing at your reaction, (well, not anymore anyway; )]
        Here’s hoping you’re never, given such a nasty start ever again.

      • ? We all have squirrels. They swarm the bird feeder and then complain it’s empty. Fleas are more of a problem than biting
        It was a funny post (written so wellI could just see it happening – hilarious)…with funny comments.

      • I’m glad I was able to write it so that you could visualize and share the experience with me.

        Thanks for adding to the fun with your comments. 🙂

      • Deb Weyrich-Cody

        Hi Philosopher Mouse, [never mind, long story (defusing a comment regarding) tick-nymph bites making you ill with a probabliity factor of about a gazillion:one]

      • We have all sorts of ticks – but not the Rocky MT Spotted or Lyme ones. Just mainly a nuisance and ick factor. Not many people actually worry about ticks.
        Here we do have constant outbreaks of rabies (rodents/wild animals/ squirrels) so you have to keep pets’ shots current.
        And last week there was the hantavirus scare with workers cleaning a hoarder show house. Squirrel fleas are a big concern as the fleas leap off to other animals and humans. (We could use a good winter to kill some of the fleas off.)
        But if you have oak trees, you have the army of squirrels – don’t know anyone who has actually gotten bit – but they do get pretty brave and tame. I can so see this incident actually happening around here…it was like a cartoon show or an I love Lucy episode.
        Thanks for the shout hello.

      • Fleas. Ticks. The lesson here is that people and squirrels should not interact.

  9. This was awesome. I pictured the little guy (squirrel or something else?) from Ice Age staring back at you, freaking out.

    I love that you won a contest where you essentially had to play dead. Well done.

  10. There is no longer any doubt about the gender of this Squirrel, having left his nuts under your love seat. Poor thing! Hopefully, you are not too traumatized to venture out into the vast wilderness of the Furstenburg reserve in the future…

    • I’ll take your word for it on your theory of the gender of the squirrel. Thankfully, we didn’t spend enough quality time together for me to find out that nugget of information.

      I’ve been back out to the scene of our encounter, but I read out there with a heightened sense of awareness and I certainly don’t look at squirrels the same way anymore.

  11. You did what I would have done, scream! One of your best. Very well written. Hummus

  12. The squirrel is a master of multi-tasking; hunting for nuts, eating the nuts, storing the nuts, watching out for cars, watching out for cats, climbing trees, jumping to branches, calling to other squirrels. He may have been having a singular moment of rest when he stumbled upon you. After all, have you ever walked around with a medicine ball in your mouth? That’s a lot of work. Your close encounter has probably cured him of unitasking! Funny stuff, Pappy!

    • No one told him to collect such a large nut. Perhaps if he wasn’t being so greedy with his score, he wouldn’t have felt the need to climb into my lap for a nap. I’m not sure our close encounter cured him of unitasking, but I’m certain he’s not coming near people again any time soon.

      Glad you still thought the story was funny. You got the news flash version at dinner the night it happened 🙂

  13. LOL!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. Have you considered a squirrel-size loveseat so the poor little guy can have some personal space? 😉

  15. I am thinking that squirrel might be one of those that really needs to not be contributing to the grey squirrel gene pool!

  16. So funny. I had a somewhat similar encounter with a hawk. I was bending over weeding apparently very quietly. He landed on the deck stair which was where I was. I looked at him and he looked at me (we were 6 inches apart) and both of us were flapping our wings! You are so right, animals are best at a distance!

  17. The problem was that you were multitasking, getting fresh air AND reading a book!

    • Excellent point! I hadn’t thought of it that way. Next time I’ll have to breathe more loudly while I’m getting that fresh air. Maybe that will keep the squirrels away.

      Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment.

  18. Fantastically written piece, Paprika! I laughed out loud at your account. I think I would have done the same. We had a resident mouse in our house for years (we’d see the, uh, evidence around the baseboards). He wasn’t much of an eater – in fact, he didn’t appear to eat anything – but I knew he had to go when he ran up my arm when I was sleeping. I don’t think I ever went back to sleep that night.

    I wonder if I could multi-task in my sleep…

    • Thanks, Shannon 🙂

      When our oldest cat was just a kitten we had 3 mice get into our apartment. None of them made it out alive. We’ve often believed that after Scooter killed the first mouse, the other two were sent to look for their misssing friend. One night, while we were sleeping, Scooter brought us a mouse as a gift. It was already dead, but I couldn’t go back to sleep. I can’t imagine what I would have done if I had been in your situation with a live mouse running up my arm in my sleep. Yikes!

      • That’s what cats do!! They are the best in their field. We no longer have any…though I wished (at that moment) we had. Yes, his days were indeed numbered after that. RIP, little guy.

  19. FUNNY, FUNNY, FUNNY!!! I was laughing out loud in the doctor’s office where I was reading your blog on my phone!! After the laughter, I got scared just picturing this encounter!!! Put pinwheels all around you next time!! Or wear a beanie with a twirly thing on top!! Can’t wait to read it to Basil who loves when I read and laugh my way through your posts!!! xoxox

  20. I really don’t want to break the mood, but I’ve been told that squirrels actually carry Lyme Disease. Actually, apparently it’s true So you better watch out for any signs of well, anything.

    • Thanks for the heads up about the Lyme disease. Let’s hope the only thing that squirrel was carrying was a nut.

    • Deb Weyrich-Cody

      Isn’t Lyme Disease carried by Deer Ticks? According to the link, squirrels can carry two diseases (related to Lyme) and three out of every hundred people who contract Ehrlichiosis die.
      Quote: “New D.N.A. technology shows ticks found on squirrels were shown to be carrying Ehrlichiosis and Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness.   Both are related to Lyme Disease.

      Three percent of the people who contract ehrlichiosis die.  He says it hits quickly and is difficult to diagnose because of the non-specific symptoms.” end quote. (Which is also why Lyme is so tricky to diagnose.). What they don’t say is how many people in total actually got sick. Lyme affects mostly the elderly and those with compromised immunity (so chillax, and just watch out for those darned ticks, ‘k?; )

      • Thanks for so much information! I will definitely be on the lookout for ticks. My close encounter with the squirrel was two weeks ago. Thankfully, I feel fine. Good thing I didn’t know all this before. I would have been even more freaked out than I was.

      • Deb Weyrich-Cody

        Hm,mm. Thinking perhaps you missed the most important thing that I said; and that was “chillax!” As in, “chill out” and “relax”, okay? He was probably just a baby this spring and obviously distracted by his bounty (remember the squirrel in Ice Age?; ) if you were going to get sick, it would’ve already happened, non? And besides, the poor little bugger’s probably dead of a coronary – you’re a lot bigger (and louder) than he is! Still lmao… My god, you’re SO good at this!! Hugs, Deb; )

      • I’m chillaxed. I’ll just remember to move a little when I am chillaxing outside 🙂

  21. Wow, what an unforgettable experience, Paprika. You must have been sitting *extremely* still for the squirrel to come so close. Our squirrels tend to be hyper-vigilant and hyper-alert. I’m just glad you didn’t get bitten!

    • It certainly was an unforgettable experience for me and probably the squirrel too. I was completely absorbed in my book and sitting very still. Since I was reading on a Kindle, I didn’t even have to move much to turn a page. There’s another argument in favor of an actual book – it prevents squirrel encounters.

  22. This is SO very funny. My underwear would have needed changing if it happened to me!

  23. The poor little guy. I think squirrels are cute.

  24. Deb Weyrich-Cody

    OMG, lmao!!! (What a great way to start the day – thanks: )
    But, um, just to complete the picture, what colour was the poor, petrified recipient of your tender caress?

  25. OH that is hilarious, Paprika. I’m sure the squirrel is still talking about it.

    • I’m sure he’s talking to a squirrel therapist about it. We were both sufficiently traumatized by the encounter. This morning, as I was driving to work, I saw a squirrel run across a power line. All I could think of as I drove under that power line was, “Gee, I hope he doesn’t fall off that wire and into my open sunroof.”


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