Over Memorial Day weekend, I visited my grandmother down the shore. Saturday night, after the beach and dinner, I took a drive to find an abandoned hotel I remembered from riding in the car with Grandad, back when he was in the habit of taking the way back way everywhere. Mostly, I was curious to see where the hotel was in relation to the house in normal people distances.
I found the hotel, but I also found The Popcorn Zoo. Twice, actually. The place where I was chased across a parking lot by a chicken. My brother, not lucky enough to take shelter in the car, was sent into the very open-plan petting zoo, where he quickly learned that the popcorn he was holding wasn’t for him.
We hate The Popcorn Zoo.
All of this is to say that I’m not much of an animal person. I’m probably all right with your dog. Your cat and I likely tolerate each other. I don’t understand why people have birds. And I’ll look at pictures of your rabbit if she’s funny. But people who keep farm animals — like chickens — in suburbia…well, I probably shouldn’t keep going.
So, you can imagine the surprise/horror/near pants-wetting when I casually threw my things in my car after a nice Sunday at the pool only to see something small and black move on my passenger seat. I immediately assumed it was a bat. It was 5:30 in the afternoon, but my brain had just exploded, so I didn’t know animals anymore.
Let me pause here and say that I’m a relatively steely and capable person. Human emergencies, no problem. I can deal with gross stuff, hard stuff. But throw a living thing that’s hand-sized and in distress in my path, and I turn into this:
While I was being startled by my new bird companion, it was busy being startled by me. Which meant that instead of flying out the open sun roof* it came in, or the newly thrown open door that I was now cowering behind, it flew in the direction of the driver’s side door. Like, right into it. Where it bounced off and landed under the seat, in that hard-to-reach place where change and pens go to die.
Not knowing what to do, and certainly not up for touching or moving a bird, I was ready to abandon the car for good and go home. I couldn’t get the bird out, so the vehicle would just have to be lost to me for either forever or until nature found a way to let me have my stuff back.
Luckily for me, I ran into my friends Luke and Abby at the pool**. Even more luckily for me, they hadn’t left the pool before Birdgate 2012 started. So, I was able to flag them down. And flagging them down is the only reason I am home.
While Luke and I made “eeewww” noises and tried to “help” by frantically opening car doors to allow for flying room (me) and whipping off shirts for comfy bird transport (Luke), Abby got the situation under control. After Abby started poking around a little with my snow brush and not stirring anything, I was looking a little bit like the crazy friend who thinks there are birds in her car. But I was steadfast in my “there’s a bird in my car, and it didn’t fly out,” claims. And eventually, I was able to really, really, really work up my nerve enough to creep over to where I saw the bird last, using the driver’s side door as a shield. You know, it case it tried to fly at my face or got stuck in my hair.
Once we found the little guy/gal, it was pretty pathetic. Tiny legs in the air, labored breathing, a little twitching, and a tight space. Abby was against poking it with the snow brush again, and Luke offered his t-shirt, but the removal tool of choice was the Yankees hat I got on Cap Day.
Working gently and slowly, Abby managed to flip the bird over while I alternated between maintaining a safe distance behind the car with Luke and periodically hiding behind the driver’s door and letting her know the bird’s position. But it was still trapped. So, I screwed up all my nerve and, on Abby’s command, moved the seat forward enough that she could scoop the bird up with the brim.
Seconds later, she arced the hat into the air, and the bird was up and out of the car, where it took off. Luke cheered its flight and narrated its fall to the pavement with a simple “Oh.”
Our friend had a triumphant 10 feet. Hopefully he/she got a few more today.
From now on, I’ll be leaving the sunroof in the cracked open position when the car’s unattended.
And I seriously Lysoled my hat the second I got home.
*That’s the life lesson part of this. You may want to think twice before leaving that sucker wide open, regardless of the odds.
**Sunday is Pool Day. Tell your friends.