It’s Always Been A Matter Of TrustPosted: April 10, 2013
“One, two, one, two, three, four.” – Billy Joel, 1986
My dad taught me to drive. Yes, I took drivers ed, but I drive the way my dad taught me.
We were out for a drive one afternoon when a bird zipped across the path of the car. I hit the brakes. “Never do that” my dad told me, “no one wants to hurt an animal, but you don’t want to cause an accident either.” He went on to tell me that animals will mostly get out of the way. “Birds, no one ever hits them. Don’t worry about it.”
I took it as a matter of course. No one hit birds. My dad told me, that was enough to make it so. But when I thought about it, it just made sense. If I got too close to one of them, the bird could go up or down in any direction. I’d ridden in cars for sixteen years, I’d never seen anyone strike a bird with a car.
So that was the way it was for me. It was a fact, until I hit my first bird. It was a mourning dove; I hit it during my senior year of high school. I felt terrible. My date was really not happy about it and fixed blame on me. I tried to explain that the bird could have gone in any other direction to protect itself, she wasn’t buying.
Over the years, I’ve hit a number of birds. It keeps happening. No one ever says to me “you won’t believe this, I hit a bird.” If that conversation happens, I’ll be able to offer a lot of empathy. A number of the more well-known song birds have fallen to my vehicles. Sparrows, blue jays, robins. Cardinals, lots of cardinals. I hit two cardinals in the same day. The brown ones never venture out in front of my car, only the red ones. I’ll leave it to you to decide what that implies about the sexes.
And then came the other morning. A typical work morning, up at 4:30, out the door at 5. It’s always darkest before the dawn. There aren’t many hours darker than 5 a.m.. Driving along a road that would later be very busy, I saw something in my lane. It was a duck. A mallard duck. Green head, orange feet. You know the type.
He was just standing there. I was just driving, believing he’d move. The duck didn’t know the deal. Or maybe he was playing chicken. The gap was closing. I knew he’d move.
The duck didn’t move.
At the last moment I realized the duck wasn’t going to move. The car shuddered as the anti-locks hauled the car to a stop. I didn’t feel the impact, I figured I’d missed it during the storm of my work gear flying around in the car. As I started to think about how it’d happened again, the mallard finally went airborne. Another moments hesitation and I’d have progressed from song birds to waterfowl.
Why me, birds? I’m not out to hurt anyone. All I want is the courtesy you give everyone else. I count on you to move for my car, that’s what is safest for both you and me.
I’ll do my part, you do yours – ok?
‘Cause it’s always been a matter of trust.