An old VW Bug painted like the state flag of Texas, which I spotted on the streets of Austin a few weeks ago

Once upon an abandoned parking lot in 2005 there lay a dead bird and an industrial-sized snow scraper atop sweltering Texan asphalt. It was the middle of March and I had just moved to Austin three days prior without a single job prospect or acquaintance as far as the eye could see, and this mammoth snow scraper had become my weapon of choice in lieu of a knight in shining armor on speed dial. About an hour earlier, I’d set out to Home Depot with the simplest intention of buying an extra can of “Orange Rose” paint so I could finish my living room walls, but the universe had other plans… Just as I was turning onto a highway access road and hitting the accelerator, no less than 30 young birds alighted off the ground at a nearby street corner. I’m sure there is a mathematical equation that could explain how my speed times their velocity and the gusty winds equaled fatal contact, but who needs numbers when you’ve got visceral dings, splats, and oozes of green slime?

That’s right, several dozen infantile birds pounded down against my windshield in a blinding fury, and on one of my very first days in a new city I found myself faced with goo-covered wipers and feathery carcasses wedged between the front grates of my car.

I felt a strange mix of guilty and assaulted (if you’d only heard the chorus of loud dings on my windshield, you would understand why), but in a very immediate sense I felt nothing more than a need to take responsibility and get these strange hood ornaments off my car. I could have wallowed and refused to leave the radio-blaring comfort of the driver’s seat, or I could have cried and called home for advice; but, instead, I got creative. I grabbed the longest snow scraper that still remained in my car after a lifetime of Massachusetts winters and I wielded it in front of me like a rapier, whacking all the bird detritus possible off my car. Once victorious, I dropped the snow scraper and got the heck out of there; and, I don’t think I’ve been back to that parking lot in all my six years as an Austinite.

I find myself thinking about this fateful day a lot now that I’m on the verge of a big move out West, and every time this aviary anecdote comes to mind I’m awed by how young I was back then. My youth of yesteryear is all the more comforting, however, when I think about the scary parts of my upcoming move – namely the concept of relocating half a country away from friends and the adult life I’ve made for myself without having a job lined up. The image of that long, purple snow scraper lying beside a bird in a parking lot almost roots me on, though, reminding me that if I could fend off road-kill grossness and find comforts on the worst of days back then I can handle anything now… Do you have a similarly defining moment from your past – no matter how silly or serious – that gives you the confidence to tackle tough tasks in the present? Whatever it is, I hope you’re able to tackle any flying objects or animals the wind blows your way.


  • Posted June 4, 2011
    by Pat Oey

    That ability to NOT call home was a watershed moment that I can relate to. Congratulations. This kind of story is just what every parent wants for their children (not the horror of it, but your reaction to the horror)–to know they will be all right, no matter what.

  • Posted June 5, 2011
    by Jennifer R. Coté

    Aw. Thank you, Pat! It is so nice knowing that my lesson learned is what a parent would hope for (minus the bird slime, I’m sure). 🙂

Leave a comment