There were looks of alarm on the faces of two women yesterday morning when I reached out to open the door to the work room at Central Presbyterian Church. "Don't go in there! We've cornered a chipmunk," they told me.
I tried to imagine what kind of vorpal chipmunk had terrorized the church secretary and another church member. I learned that earlier that morning the chipmunk had surprised the women by running through the church office.
They had chased it around with a cardboard box trying to trap it, only to be shocked and startled when the chipmunk would jump over the box. I don't know who was more frightened, the chipmunk or the women.
I cautiously went into the work room and observed that the terrified chipmunk was really there. I found him hiding behind a radiator. I tried to get a picture, but he would run quickly across the room to another hiding spot whenever he knew I had identified where he was. "Alvin" would not stand still for a photo moment, much less to sign a release form.
We did not have a humane trap in the church building, and a normal mouse trap would have been cruel. Trying to confine him in smaller and smaller spaces would only make the creature more anxious and unpredictable. So I redefined the problem. The goal was not to trap him; the goal was to get him out of the building.
We propped open the windows in the work room, and used yardsticks and a piece of lumber to create ramps to each of the windows.
Then I left the work room, closed the door behind me, and went off to do other work for about a half hour.
When I came back into the work room "Alvin" was sitting on a window sill, eating the peanut butter. I advanced toward the window and the chipmunk behaved predictably by scampering out the window and jumping to the ground. Once the windows were closed the problem was solved. I went outside to check, and was surprised to see that "Alvin" was already trying to figure out how to get back inside so he could eat the rest of the peanut butter.
Constructing a way out of the church was actually quite easy. Now if only a congregation in a denomination that lost 48,474 members in 2005 could be as ingenious about creating ways into the church.