I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of the National Audubon Society. Having been raised amidst concrete, any remnant of nature– grass, tree, or bird– is not the least bit of interest to me. However, while I can, in theory, appreciate the role greenery plays in perpetuating a self-sustaining eco-system, the purpose of birds completely perplexes me.
Granted, my experiences in both New York and Oxford have involved the worst member of the Audubon family– the pigeon. While in Oxford, one tripped me and then proceeded to eat the remnants of a granola bar from my coat pocket. And while I did not necessarily need the 140 carbohydrate-laden calories, I objected to its behavior on principle. I subsequently set out to drown it, and only partially succeeded.
On my return to America, though, I thought I was past my homicidal bird days. I was wrong. Yesterday, while waiting for the 1 train, a sparrow decided to take up residence in my Longchamp bag. Despite the fact that my bag was almost entirely closed, it managed to wiggle its way into the contents of my Kate Spade wallet and leave its imprint on my French New Wave readings.
It was not until I boarded the train that I realized the chirping emanating from my handbag was not a consequence of an iPod on loud. And somewhere in between 18th and 110th Streets, I was forced to contend with the little maniacal bugger.
Now I’d like to believe there is more than one way to skin a cat, or in this case, silence a sparrow. And being a resourceful Wellesley woman, who has developed formidable critical thinking skills, I ran through the many options in front of me.
A. I could scream bloody murder and hope that the attractive Columbia grad student absorbed in electromagnetic theory would come to my rescue. In this scenario, he would woo the sparrow out of my bag and free him into the deep dark underground subway tunnels.
However, a boy who prefers abstract physics to human interaction didn’t quite seem like the Don Juan type. And even if he was, I suspected he might have more in common with the bird than with a fellow human being.
B. Perhaps I could unzip my bag, grab the sparrow by its beak, and throw it halfway across the subway car. That would likely result in a few terrified children and cries of “terrorist,” as I unleashed my beast on the New York City underground. And frankly, while I am on the hunt for a job, the last thing I need is a criminal record.
C. Or, I could attempt to lure the beast from my bag using my weapon of choice– caffeine. If this bird was attracted to me, he had to be a Starbucks lover. Coffee is my signature scent, and those who loathe it generally loathe me as well.
Now in this particular case the benefit outweighed the cost: If I underwent the aforementioned mission, a few subway riders would give me some perplexing looks but quickly return to their personal conversations. Yes, there are perks to living in a city where the absurd is socially acceptable.
So with a half-filled Starbucks grande skinny vanilla latte in one hand and an open Longchamp bag in the other, I began waving the cup wildly in the vicinity of the sparrow– who from the looks of it– was thoroughly engrossed in the cinematic analysis of Agnes Varda’s 1962 films.
Intrigued by contents of my coffee cup, the sparrow glanced up and slowly but surely followed the familiar scent from the interior of my bag to the external reality that was the subway car.
Once I had lured him out of the bag, the subway doors abruptly opened. As if in a semi-comatose state, the sparrow fell out of the car and onto the tracks. I watched him hobble a few steps before suddenly becoming aware of an oncoming subway vehicle. He fluttered away, but not without losing a feather or two.
The moral, readers, is simple: Caffeine cures all. It treats hangovers, exhaustion, and bird-induced trauma. However, Joe– as I came to call the sparrow– and I did have a moment of unity because of said coffee cup. I therefore ndedicate my new favorite song to the sparrow that got away: