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Lessons learned from birds that tried to kill me

It sounds crazy, but I once thought birds were trying to kill me.

A few years ago, I had three separate run-ins with murderous birds. They haven’t been after me since. But they may just be waiting.

That’s the way it would work in an Alfred Hitchcock movie. The birds are quietly gathering on monkey bars behind me waiting for the right moment to swoop down and peck my eyeballs out.

My first run-in happened while I was riding in a car at night. A hatchback-sized white bird, wings fully extended, swooped down and looked at me like I was lunch. BAM! At the last possible instant, the bird bounced off the windshield — two feet from my head.

Later that year, I was driving to work, when a robin flew in front of my car. It struck the windshield — right in front of my face — with a horrible, hollow sound, like a bat hitting a baseball that drops just beyond the infield for a hit.

Even more horrible, the robin didn’t bounce away. The lifeless body lay on the hood against the windshield. I tried swerving and taking sharp turns. I even tried turning on the windshield wipers. But this grisly hood ornament wouldn’t fall off. 

Why was this happening to me? I consulted a bird expert.

“This — uh — friend of mine says birds keep flying into his windshield,” I said. “He thinks birds are trying to kill him. It isn’t true. Is it?”

No, the expert said. Birds fly at cars because they focus on food and sex so much they don’t bother to watch where they’re flying. Yeah, I said, I had that roommate in college.

I could accept his explanation. But I’ve also seen too many Hitchcock movies in which the appearance of birds means great doom. So I got a second opinion — I talked to a psychic.

Birds don’t symbolize doom, the psychic said. Rather, birds hitting my windshield represent my inflexibility in solving some problem — he didn’t say what problem.

“You can see the how to solve the problem through the glass, but you stubbornly try to solve the problem only one way,” he said. 

As a result, I kept cracking my symbolic bird skull into the symbolic glass. What I needed to do, he said, was to find a new way to solve the problem; I needed to go around the symbolic windshield to get into the symbolic car interior.

When that happens, I thought, birds will start flying into my car through open windows. Then they will kill me.

A few weeks later, a bird flew at a window of the newspaper where I worked. The window was open. The bird flew inside. Isn’t this what the psychic predicted? If my symbolic interpretation was correct, the bird being inside meant that I would soon see how to solve my unknown problem. The stars and planets lined up before me and were showing me the answer. What an epiphany! What a moment! What a —


I dived under my desk seconds before the bird slammed into the wall next to me. Had I been sitting there, I would have had a bird in the ear.

Suddenly I realized the psychic was wrong. These birds didn’t symbolize anything. They WERE trying to kill me! The first two kamikaze strikes were just warnings. This bird, loose in the office, meant to do me in.

The bird was still fluttering and gathering strength for a second strike. But a co-worker came to my rescue. She jumped on office chairs, intently watching the bird’s flight. Finally she leapt five feet off the ground and grabbed it — with her mouth.

Extra, the office cat, named for the legendary cry of street corner newsboys and for her six-toed feet, probably saved my life with her heroic grab. It was the most startling example of the natural food chain in that office since the staff, gathered like a pride of lions around a freshly killed gazelle, devoured a large box of cake doughnuts.

Upon further reflection, maybe the psychic was right. I did have a problem and was only looking at one way of solving it. But after the bird flew around the window and came inside, I found a different way to solve the problem — exactly as he said.

My lesson: You don’t have to kill murderous birds with your car’s windshield alone. Hungry, six-toed office cats will kill them, too.

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