July 30, 2014

Day 59: Pigeons

a pigeon
When I was little, my mom would sometimes take my brother and me to the pond to feed the ducks. It was always a delightful experience, watching the ducks recognize slowly what was going on here. They would waddle over singing a chorus of pleased quacks, but always politely waiting their turn for the potato bun that expired last month.

Feeding pigeons is nothing like that.

Now, I don't want you to  misunderstand me: I personally have never fed a pigeon. I'd much sooner stand still on the left side of an escalator, an act of deliberate suicide in the DC metro area.

But I've seen people, mostly tourists, feed pigeons and have witnessed the ensuing chaos first hand. It usually starts with a woman or child with an unassuming piece of bun, innocently hanging off the end of their single patty. No one likes an extra bun butt, so you really can't blame them for wanting to get rid of it.

And you really can't blame them even for thinking the pigeons might like a bite. Most of these tourists probably come from small rural towns with duck crossing signs and Brady Bunch picnics.

But the second that smidgen of excess carb leaves their fingers, well, it's not the puffy yellow picture of euphoria that the unfortunate victim was imagining.

Because pigeons aren't like ducks, leading their fluffy little chicks across town. Pigeons actually don't even have chicks; pigeons spawn directly from the ground. They crawl up out from the mud like locusts, fully feathered and ready for ambush. It's a little known fact that the eighth plague of Egypt was actually pigeons, a fact that was lost in a translational error. (Moses wasn't big on proofreading.)

As soon as that bun is airborne, it's sheer pandemonium.  Flocks of pigeons materialize, some right out of thin air. And then come the reinforcements, already positioned for action, navigating the city streets in fighter pilot formation until every pigeon in the city is raining down on the poor soul, who by this time has already thrown the rest of his patty over his head while fleeing the scene.

But there's no use in running. The pigeons will always find you.

They rule the city, the pigeons. They spend their afternoons doing formation exercises around the park, swarming over our heads just close enough so that they don't hit us but so that we know that they are there. Their beady little red eyes stare down at us from the city treetops and from underneath park benches. They patrol the streets, letting us know that they are watching.

And with ruffled feathers, my nemesis waits.