Bird is the Word

I kicked a pigeon in the head the other morning while going down the stairs of the subway.

I was running late and trying to catch the express train as soon as possible. It seems the only time I need to catch an express train is when I’m late, and the only way I can ever get on is by hauling ass. Anyway, the morning rush hours in New York City are crazy: the buses are always full, the trains are jam-packed and everyone has some kind of an attitude. Especially on Mondays. It seems none of us are morning people. But for this to happen on Thursday–my favorite day of the week–just makes it worse.

So what happens is I was going down the stairs at top speed, swerving around people left and right–and I don’t feel bad about that part by the way– just like every one else does. I mean people bump in to me and throw their weight around all the time in this city, particularly when they’ve got some place to be, which happens to be All. The. Freaking. Time. So needless to say I don’t worry about pushing people here and there or getting the same kind of tough love in return. It happens, and I usually believe it happens on accident so it doesn’t bother me. But as I’m doing this, I didn’t notice that among all the feet stomping down the stairs heading to the train station, there was a pigeon doing its best to pick off pieces from a large pizza crust in the corner on one of the steps. At the speed I was going, by the time I noticed it or tried to change my pace to avoid colliding with it, it would’ve been too late any way. The poor little fuck. He never saw it coming. And neither did I. (Well, in hindsight I think I did see some of it coming, but it happened as I was already doing it so that doesn’t count.) Well, point is, I kicked it so hard as I passed by it for the next stair that it began falling back a few steps. And even though I immediately looked back to see what I had done it was over: I was already at the bottom of the steps (it seems I looked back while not stopping for a second) and it was already crossing over to the other side. . .if you know what I mean.

I take full responsibility for what happened next. It was definitely, without a doubt, 100% all my fault. If I hadn’t kicked this pigeon and gotten in its way so abruptly, it would’ve never suffered the events that followed. From what I could tell looking back at it, the bird never seemed to recover its balance. Kicking it sure contributed to the problem–and again, I can’t stress enough that I kicked it pretty hard, mostly I think because I was going so fast–but what is truly horrifying is that the mass of people behind me, all around me, crowding the stairs quickly became the stampede under which the bird was caught and immediately trampled. I could see its wings flap here and there, but I just know that with all those people going back and forth like that and heading down the stairs on either side, in the end the pigeon didn’t have much of a chance. It was not surprising to see that it did not get back on its feet after all that. In those few seconds, it probably kept falling back down the stairs, pushed by more people, crushed under the weight of all those heavy soles. 

I feel so terrible. This was all I could think about the whole day. And I’m obviously still not completely over it, since I’m talking about it now, some days later.

Oh God, and do you know what doesn’t help? That when I turned back around to go inside the station there was a bum standing at the bottom of the stairs who starting shouting at me so loud I’m sure everyone could hear: “Yo man, you kicked the shit out of that little-ass bird! Why you did that?! Why you did that?!” Holy shit. I couldn’t believe this was happening. Of all the things that goes on in a single frickin New York minute, my feathery faux pas was playing out in slow motion for all of New York to see. There’s people looking all around now trying to spot the murderer because of this, and of course I hate calling attention to myself and I don’t know how to respond when such a thing occurs. As a result, when this happens I get so caught off guard that I react by explaining the situation with my all of a sudden, brand new 18th century English accent:

“Please Sir, do not fret–I meant it no harm!” is what I said to him. Yes, those exact words. In  a British accent.

It seems my newfound British expressions startled the accuser as well but he continued to repeat my misdemeanor, his voice rising in a crescendo of madness each time. “Ey, that little girl kicked a bird to death! She kicked it to death! Bitch, why you did that?! I saw you did it! Little-ass bird, man!” (Only a bum would think of a giant rat with wings as a “little-ass bird.” It’s a dirty dove at best. But nothing about pigeons are little.)

He flipped me off and I went on my way. And yes, I’ve replayed the whole thing in my head over and over again, sometimes laughing, sometimes feeling bad about the whole thing, but mostly both. *Sigh* Willst thou forgive me, little-ass bird, for this folly? I meant no ill will against thee! Oh, to think thou may have perished, for cause of my neglect–how it pains me so!


3 thoughts on “Bird is the Word

  1. you have no idea how awesome this is.

    in my humble opinion, you can worry about things like this. you’re hustling in New York and *somebody* was going to kick or trample that bird. honestly, maybe I’ve been here too long because my summation is that the bird should have known better. times is hard, yes, but there’s no dearth of discarded food-waste on the streets of new york. why the hell would it choose a crowded subway stair.

    musta been a bird from the suburbs.

    as per the bum, you handled that with aplomb. i mean, i would have paid GOOD money to see that exchange go down. its like something out of Dickens. but that’s how you have to be with bums who are getting in your face. you only really have three options: 1. out crazy them (crank your profane-knob to eleven and let fly. all new yorkers have this ability… its just that we’re like Cyclops from X-men and we keep it tightly under-wraps because it could destroy all civilization); 2. be frighteningly formal and polite — you appear to have done this without thinking. a good sign that you’re a healthy new yorker and will survive a long time here with all your brains intact (this is very effective at setting bums — and other city rogues — off balance and giving you enough time to pivot and walk away); and 3, totally ignore it or pretend you *meant* to do it (of course, we *all* know this move. “kicked the little-ass bird, did I? fuck yeah, and i’ll kick ANYTHING that get’s in my way. I’m trying to make the gotdamned train. i don’t care HOW cute something is… it makes me miss the next express… there’s gonna be a lot of slow-singing and flower-bringing.”)

    any other reaction would have meant collateral damage that FAR out-stripped the actual incident. had you tried to go against the tide to see the bird, or rescue it, or explain to the bum and the angry, rushing, self-righteous assholes around you exactly what happened…oh the can of worms it would have opened.

    no, you did this right. its a shame when it happens but — take it from a guy with a car — if it ain’t a person, and its in the way, you’ll do FAR more damage trying NOT to injure it. that’s just evolution.

    …it would be like being sad if Obama accidentally kicked the crap out of Rick Perry on the way from the Rose Garden to the Oval Office. we call ’em birdbrains for a reason.


  2. Fuck the bird. There are too many of them ugly disease looking birds! They don’t give a shit about you when they take a mean dump on your head. One bird hit me in the head while flying. Ugly shits! Sorry I don’t like pigeon.

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