The Columbidae on Columbus
As a general rule in my life, I do not intend to harm anyone or anything. I am sure there are some ex-girlfriends that would object, but overall, I think I am successful in adhering to this rule. Recently, however, I put a pigeon in a harrowing situation, and I am still uncertain of the outcome.
My wife and I were having a nice dinner at Cafe Tallulah, on the northwest corner of Seventy-first Street and Columbus Avenue. We had a prime table in the corner of the restaurant by the windows where we could watch people come and go, just as if we were in Paris. Over the course of dinner, I happened to notice a pigeon sitting in the street close to the sidewalk. Every so often I would glance over to notice that it hadn't moved. It would just sit there, looking around. A car zoomed by very close to the pigeon. My wife noticed the concern on my face.
"There's this pigeon sitting on the side of the road," I said. "It hasn't moved in like twenty minutes."
"Maybe it's hurt."
"It's gotta be. I mean it—oh, shit! A car just drove right over it!"
The pigeon didn't get hit by the car, but I could now see it was in very real danger. A table of tourists, sitting a few tables down from us, right in front of the pigeon, looked on, mildly amused at the drama unfolding.
I walked through the open floor-to-ceiling window onto the sidewalk and gently stepped toward the pigeon, trying not to startle it. It didn't seem to be concerned by my presence, so I lightly tapped it with my foot. It stood up and started to walk away, giving me a look of disgust as it did so. But, it made it onto the sidewalk just as it got to the corner near the crosswalk. I walked back to the table and sat down filled with the feeling one gets at a good deed done. I humbly accepted all of the felicitations from my wife. We concluded that it must have lost its ability to fly.
I started back to my dinner only to notice the pigeon step off the sidewalk and start strutting toward the other side of the street. C'mon. The light turned green and my heart sunk. I heard the rush of the oncoming traffic. The pigeon showed no sign of either speeding up or slowing down.
As the pigeon reached the middle of the street, a car zipped over it. The pigeon raised its wing and kept walking. Another car zoomed over it, clipping its wing. It kept going forward with its wing in the air, moving like a quill pen signing a signature as the cars whizzed by.
I put my head in my hands and looked on in horror. The table of tourists took it all in as if it were a Broadway musical. Seeing my face and hearing the car horns, my wife turned around just as the third act started. The pigeon approached the bike path on the other side of the busy street. It was the final obstacle of its self-imposed exile from its post outside the café. A biker darted by the bird, as if nothing was in his way.
In ten seconds, it was all over. The pigeon was safely across the street. A few cars stopped at the light, blocking my view, so I stood up again and walked to the sidewalk to make sure the little guy was okay. It took stock of itself for a few seconds, then sauntered over to the northeast corner of Columbus Avenue and sat down, away from the commotion of the avenue.
I returned to my meal, relieved that my actions didn't get a pigeon killed. As we left the restaurant to head home, I noticed that the bird was still where I saw it last, taking in the sights.
The next day, as I was walking home from work, I decided to walk to the corner where I last saw the pigeon, somewhat hoping—albeit fruitlessly—that it would still be there. It wasn't. But, as I walked down the street, every pigeon I came across quickly hurried in the other direction from me.
The word was out.