It’s Always Been A Matter Of Trust

“One, two, one, two, three, four.” – Billy Joel, 1986

1966 Plymouth Valiant. The car I was driving when I hit that first bird.
(image by sicnag, cc-by-2.0)

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.

A female Mourning Dove incubating her eggs on ...

I’m sorry, really I am. I mourn you
( image -Bruce Tuten, cc-by-sa2.0)

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.

Bird - Duck - Mallard

You saw me coming. Why?
(image by blmiers2, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

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.


Smart enough to avoid me.
(image: jennicatpink,cc by-sa 2.0)

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.

24 Comments on “It’s Always Been A Matter Of Trust”

  1. Be honest, why do you hate birds?

  2. Laura says:

    This is just like that Hitchcock movie, only backwards.

    • omawarisan says:

      There was no one else on the road, except for a car more than a block away, when the duck thing happened. I think Hitchcock was in there doing his cameo appearance.

  3. benzeknees says:

    I couldn’t hit the Like button for this post because hitting birds is not a good thing, even if it’s their fault. If you like to hit birds, then you need to drive the deserted highway in NW Ont. in the fall. The highway is full of prairie chickens & they are so dumb they absolutely do not move even if you honk your horn & do everything in your power to get them off the road. Eventually you give up trying to miss them & just drive. But you have to watch your rear view mirror, sometimes the car behind will pick up the bird you’ve just hit & take it home for dinner!

  4. I get the sense that your life often resembles a Chuck Jones cartoon. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

    Except for the part where you kill innocent creatures.

    But you’re doing that for the sake of the greater good, which one presumes to be far more noble than whatever Wile E. Coyote was up to.

    Wow, your life often resembles a complex, existentialist Chuck Jones cartoon.

  5. We Found Him Captain! says:

    Your father sounds like a real piece of work! Where did you find him?

    • omawarisan says:

      Hoboken, I think. I was kinda young then.

      • We Found Him Captain! says:

        Thanks for the Billy Joel skit/song ” It’s a matter of trust” I had not heard it in years. I think he’s my overall favorite singer/ musician. I like all his stuff, my favorite is “uptown girl”. Your mom is my uptown girl. Did you know that?

  6. Birds on the road freak me out. I find myself chanting behind the wheel, “fly, fly, fly away. Go now. Fly, fly, fly away”. They always move at the last second. I think it is their version of “chicken” (pun not really intended).
    I was once late for work as the police stopped traffic on the highway and escorted a family of ducks across the highway and down the offramp.

  7. It’s not that surprising birds would occasionally get in the way of something as big as a car when they occasionally get in the way of something as small as a baseball (SEE: Randy Johnson).

  8. Oh, I hate birds. I secretly laugh when one flies into my car’s path.

  9. My husband has hit chickens before. That is why chickens should learn not to cross the road.

  10. Freaking birds. The pigeons in New York practically let you walk on them.

  11. Blogdramedy says:

    My dad taught me to drive. too. His best advice? Be a defensive driver. Focus on what’s in front of you…and not the mayhem that’s happening behind.

    Not that the havoc behind was created by me. No. Never.

  12. Debbie says:

    Yikes, this takes me back to the ONLY time I’ve ever hit a bird. It wasn’t pretty. The thing just flew right into my car as I was tooling down the highway. Feathers went everywhere! Glad to hear I’m not the only one who’s done this!

  13. spencercourt says:

    Fortunately, at 62, I have yet to hit anything more than bugs and butterflies. A few close ones with squirrels, but my philosophy is that it’s better for the squirrel to get it than me.

  14. planetross says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever hit a bird … except for that emu.
    … fly emu fly! … but it didn’t for some reason.
    poor emu.

    note: I didn’t really hit an emu … very hard … I’m taking poemutic license on this one.

  15. […] I’ve written of Canada’s big joke on the United States – sending their geese across our border. More recently, I documented an incident where I nearly hit a mallard duck with my car. […]

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