There we were, settling down to watch the Christmas episode of The Office. Just as Dwight was pummeling Jim with snowballs, I heard a soft whump outside. It sounded like a drunk beggar falling into one of our porch posts--an event not inconsistent with this neighborhood. I glanced at the front door, expecting to see a bleary-eyed face peering in at us, but there was nothing there and the dogs seemed unconcerned so I turned my attention back to The Office. Soon I was distracted by an odd play of lights outside in the street and then I noticed a car pulling down the driveway--a cop car. "Ah," I thought, "Now the whump will be explained."
Jon had barely started out the door to talk to the cops, when the phone rang. It was the next-door neighbors. The usual method of communication with the neighbors is text message or facebook. An actual call to our home phone + cop car in the driveway meant something very serious indeed and I answered the phone fully expecting to hear about rape, murder, or fire. Not even a robbery would warrant this much excitement. My neighbor said, "Patience, there is a bear outside." I thought, "How strange. She must have said 'rapist' only I heard 'bear'." I asked her to repeat herself and this time there was no mistaking the word "bear." An actual bear, a big black bear was not only in the neighborhood, but had been seen going down our driveway.
Beehive, who lives at the corner, saw the bear at the bus stop, and the cops were already there. Meanwhile, the next-door neighbor stepped outside to see what the cops were up to and just about ran into the bear who was now headed down our driveway after which he may or may not have approached the porch and banged into something (the whump) before blundering through our other neighbor's back yard and damaging a fence after which he took to the streets again. The cops' strategy seemed to be to use their lights to shoo the bear back to the mountains, although all they succeeded in doing was to drive him further into town. The bear was last seen outside a fancy pants restaurant in the "downtown" section of my neighborhood. Where the bear went after that is anybody's guess. He was never caught and I suspect he just wanted a night on the town and maybe a little tapas. There are, in Charlottesville, enough wooded areas to conceal a bear for a good long time.
As you can see from my photos--one is of my street, the other the view out my bathroom window--the mountains are close to this side of town. On the other hand, we do live in the city and while this isn't the first time a bear has found his way to the city, it's still very unusual.
In a way, it's a lame story: a bear passed my house, made a whump that I didn't even bother to investigate because I was absorbed in a TV show and I never even saw him with my own eyes. The funny part is the collective tizzy into which it sent the neighborhood. All our cell phones started buzzing simultaneously, while the house phone rang as everybody called everybody else to warn each other. Facebook lit up like a firecracker as everyone who was adjacent to the bear that night posted a status update about it.
Beehive was stellar. The next morning, at the school bus stop, she stopped every single car that passed the corner and warned them about the bear. When the school bus came, she got into the bus and warned the driver and she posted this sign in the bus stop.
So don't say you weren't warned.