By Mitch Gilley
It’s funny what you end up daydreaming about when you have to prepare a giant bin of fruit every day, the fruit bat’s nightly ration. For us, a huge refrigerator is close to the top of the list. We use a large variety of fruit, including but not limited to organic apples, bananas, sweet potatoes, pears, honeydew melon, blueberries, papaya, kiwi, etc. All these things ripen, and thus spoil, at different rates at room temperature. We refrigerate what we can, but we currently have nowhere near enough space for everything.
Once in the new facility, however, this will no longer be a problem. One of our biggest supporters purchased the fridge of a fruit salad chef’s dreams, one of such size that we don’t even have the space to use it here in our current facility. It’s being safely stored at the moment, but it wasn’t stored easily.
On the morning of the day it arrived, February 14th (Valentine’s Day), we’d gotten word a couple days before that the fridge had been purchased for us, which was really great news. We then speculated on when the delivery might occur but assumed since it was coming by freight it would be at least 2 to 3 weeks. The thing weighed a monstrous 450 pounds and was possibly too large to simply bring in through our shipping hall door, so we needed to take some measurements and find a place to store it until we moved. Thankfully, we had plenty of time.
Then, only two days later, a semi truck pulled up in front of Bat World’s facility. It couldn’t be the refrigerator, we said. The donor had just bought it. No way it comes in that fast. And besides, freight trucks sometimes get overloaded and can’t make it to all their stops in a given day; there was a fair chance that this shipment, which couldn’t have possibly been the fridge, wouldn’t even arrive today. The truck must be delivering groceries to the bistro across the street from us. So, reassured, we went about our business.
Then we saw the driver headed to our door, and the afternoon rapidly went downhill from there. He handed me the freight bill which listed an unspecified item (they often do; it’ll say “appliance” or the like rather than be more specific) with a weight of 450 pounds. Sure enough, when he opened the door to his trailer, there it was, looming monolithically over us. It only took a second to see that not only was it going to be too heavy for Amanda and I to move ourselves, but it was also very possibly too big for the shipping hall entrance.
While the driver began unloading it, we went to work doing whatever we could to widen the entrance. There was a light fixture taking up a few inches in the shipping hall that I hastily removed. From there we switched to clearing out the hall as much as possible and discovering that even if we could get the fridge inside, the doors would be unable to close.
The worst part, for me, was that prior to coming to Bat World, I’d spent eleven years working in a warehouse, where part of my responsibilities had been to handle the unloading of the larger, heavier and more awkward shipments that came in: huge bundles of steel, tower sections, and anything else that would make insurance companies tremble to see balanced in the air on a forklift. There, I could have literally unloaded this thing in about thirty seconds. It stung more than a little to be so stymied by a refrigerator.
It wasn’t just us; the driver didn’t have an easy time of it either. To get the fridge over the curb and on the sidewalk in front of Bat World’s facility, he had to drag it with his pallet jack all the way to the end of the block and up the incline at the crosswalk, then walk it down the sidewalk back to our entrance. And that, per his company’s insurance regulations, was all he could do for us. It was up to us to get it the rest of the way.
So there it sat, so close, yet so far. The thing was even mounted on wheels, but it also sat on a skid, and thus the wheels weren’t actually touching the ground. It was all very frustrating until Amanda seized upon an idea: our contractor who is overseeing the work on the new facility must know somebody who could help us! They’d surely have access to the right equipment as well! One apprehensive phone call later – as we had absolutely no Plan B if they couldn’t or were unwilling to help – and a crew was en route. Good guy, our contractor.
I left at this point to go home, as the bats were set for the day and there was nothing else I could contribute. In doing so, I missed the fun that came later, such as the crew that didn’t speak English, or the mailbox being removed from the glass door to see if that allowed room, and when it didn’t, both glass entry doors were removed from their hinges. Amanda stood by holding and handing out any tools they might need and hanging onto screws that had to be removed from the doors, trying her best to help in small ways despite the language barrier. There was also the removal of the fridge from its skid by sheer muscle power, which makes the ex-warehouse worker in me both cringe and nod approvingly at the same time. Even with a proper crew rather than two mere bat rescuers, that couldn’t have been easy.
For their efforts, which resulted in the fridge safely squeezed inside and the glass doors and mailbox all back in place, Amanda gave them the closest thing on hand in an attempt to show gratitude: a few pieces of individually wrapped Valentine’s Day candy. It was her sincere hope that they didn’t misinterpret her small gift.
In the end, the fridge ended up safely stored in the far end of the shipping hall where it sits now, completely blocking one of our shelves, a reminder of the surplus of space we’ll soon have at the new facility and the uncommon generosity of our supporters. It will make feeding Peekaboo and her cohorts easier in a million different ways. Our stocks will be all in one place, we won’t have to track ripeness or spoilage for each different kind of fruit as it’ll all be preserved and all of it can be procured at once, maybe as far as two weeks in advance. It’s hard to believe, but then, as we well know, that is one huge refrigerator.
Still, every time I’m in the shipping hall now and see it, only one thought comes to mind: Someday, and soon, we’ll have to move it again. Science has about a month to perfect teleportation before be move, and I for one am holding out hope.
Do it for the bats, science. Please.