It’s funny when it happens to the other guy

I was watching one of the local television news programs from Seattle the other night when a report aired about a flock of birds in downtown Eugene, Oregon.

What made this bunch of blackbirds newsworthy is that they had taken to dive-bombing (and pecking) pedestrians on Eugene’s city center sidewalks.

I felt a little guilty, laughing as I watched unsuspecting person after unsuspecting person get beaked on the back of the head.

Interspersed into these scenes was a clip of a local woman who obviously learned from experience. She was carrying her briefcase on her head, and wearing gloves, sunny day or no, and the birds pecked her case instead of her cranium.

When the segment ended, both of the plastic-looking anchors — one perfectly coiffed male, one perfectly coiffed female — were smirking. It annoyed me a little that my reaction was the same as theirs, but hey, funny is funny.

Except when it happens to you.

I was taking an early morning run the other day. It was the perfect time, about 20 minutes after the work rush had ended, and about an hour before the denizens of the neighborhood began prowling around, crowding up the sidewalks. I was the only person out for blocks.

Which made me easy to spot, I guess.

A very noisy crow started squawking at me as I lumbered under the tree he (or she, who can tell?) was roosting in. Crows are like that sometimes, so I kept moving. Unfortunately for me, so did the crow.

And let me tell you, my bird was a heck of a lot bigger than those little Oregon birds on television.

I speeded up, cardiovascular rate be damn-ed.

The crow speeded up and took a run at me.

I swear I could smell his (or her) breath — like something flattened and dead — as the angry bird squawked closer to my ear than a crow has ever been before.

I was nigh on to panicking by this time.

I’d seen Hitchcock’s film, “The Birds.” Maybe I wasn’t as pretty as Tippi Hendren was back when Fat Al was scaring the hello out of Americans, but I was just as freaked out as little Tippi had ever been.

My jog turned into a run — I can still sprint for 40 or 50 yards before my stride collapses into a middle-aged hop and skip — and I negotiated the empty main drag that cuts through the neighborhood in three lengthening strides.

The crow followed. That’s right, he (or she) crossed the doggone street to get me.

Another dive at my skull missed, but not by much.

I started cursing.

Words I’d learned in high school, augmented by phrases I’d learned in the Armed Forces as my drill instructor commented at the top of his voice on my soldiering abilities.

At just the moment I unleashed a second, screeching torrent of verbal imprecations, questioning the bird’s parentage, I almost ran over a very frightened looking older woman, dressed casually but stylishly for her morning walk. She was frantically shying off the sidewalk, trying to get away from me, her face a mirror of my terror.

Only she wasn’t afraid of no crazed crow. She was freaked out by a middle-aged man who needed a haircut, running toward her while screaming curses over his shoulder, into the empty air.

I could tell by the look on her face she didn’t see my doppleganger crow.

Oddly enough, as soon as the woman appeared, the crow shut up. The street was suddenly so quiet we could have been at a Ralph Nadar pep rally.

I thought about stopping, briefly, and trying to explain, but I feared that might get me arrested. The lady was gone, you could see it in her eyes.

All of the bad television programming about serial killers she’d watched over the years was in her face. I ran faster, despite the cries of my lungs and legs. I didn’t stop until I put a turned-corner between me, the killer crow, and the terrified matron.

As I was walking slowly back to my apartment, eyes scanning the sky for big black birds with evil intentions, I flashed on the news program. The birds from Eugene.

I no longer thought it was funny at all. Why?

Because this time it had happened to me.

Everything looks different from the inside out.Your comedy can quickly become my tragedy. And vice versa.

We all read the obituaries but there will come a day when we won’t read it, we’ll be in it.

The deranged crow reminded me that there is more than one perspective on damn near everything.

I try to remember that lately when the conversation about politics, even amongst my friends, gets ugly. And lately that happens a lot.

I’ve never seen Americans so divided, so sure of their opinion and intolerant of any dissenting one.

The left and the right.

As Yeats, arguably the 20th century’s greatest poet, wrote once, in a slightly different context, “The center will not hold.”

At this point in time, he wouldn’t get an argument from me, the crow, or even the frightened female stroller whose daywalk turned into a nightmare.

Dennis Wilken is a former Port Orchard Independent reporter.

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