There was a package on the porch so I stopped at the gate in our driveway and left the car door open while I ran and got the package then opened the gate and got back in the car. The whole operation took less than two minutes—maybe even less than a minute. I didn’t time myself since I wasn’t in any great hurry. I only ran to get the package because, well, I don’t really know why except habit. Also I didn’t want to leave the car idling any longer than necessary even though it was in park and not going anywhere. Back in the car I glanced in the rearview mirror. I also did this out of habit but it’s a lucky thing I did because that’s when I realized I was not alone in the car.
There was a Carolina wren perched on the backseat.
I like birds. I really do. But I only like them from a distance. Birds, any birds, up close make me nervous. I will happily admire your pet parakeet, parrot, or Cooper’s hawk as long as it stays in its cage. Don’t invite it to come out and perch on my shoulder or hand or I will freak out. I realize “birds” is a very broad category but the one thing they all have in common is they all have beaks and their beaks are very sharp and that makes me nervous. I was pretty young when I saw Hitchcock’s The Birds and it made a big impression on me, as did Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes*, but that’s another story.
I should also say that Carolina wrens are one of my favorite birds. They’re tiny little birds and I see them at my feeder all the time. They have long, pointy little beaks and because they’re too small to eat the safflower seed I put out they dig through it, flipping seeds everywhere, looking for little bugs and other tasty bits. I love watching them because we’ve got a solid pane of glass between us. But up close, with no protection, I was terrified that little wren in the backseat was going to stab me in the neck with its pointy beak and not only would I bleed to death but I’m driving a rental car and there’d be a major cleanup fee. It’s all I could do to not floor it while driving the approximately twenty feet from the gate to the back of the house where I park the car. But I managed to make it safely, then jumped out. The wren stayed where it was. Maybe it was slightly confused about who I was and why the car was moving. This might be one of those cases where people familiar with animals will say, “It was probably more afraid of you than you were of it” and I can honestly say NO IT WAS NOT. Once out of the car I immediately opened all the doors and ran away to go close the gate and let the wren decide if it wanted to leave or if I was going to have some documents drawn up so it could take over the ownership which someone else would have to get it to sign because there was no way I was getting near it again. After the gate was closed I carefully checked the car. The wren was gone. I could relax.
But checking the car for birds every time I get in is now added to my list of things I do only out of habit.
*Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes opens with the following message: “In 1963, Alfred Hitchcock made a motion picture entitled The Birds, a film which depicted a savage attack upon human beings by flocks of the winged creatures. People laughed. In the fall of 1975, 7 million black birds invaded the town of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, resisting the best efforts of mankind to dislodge them. NO ONE IS LAUGHING NOW.”