I parked the car and was making my way across the supermarket parking lot when it happened. Though I’m always attentive about what’s going on in the lot (i.e., people pulling out of their parking spaces without paying attention, thinking their car’s backup camera will do the “heavy lifting” for them), I couldn’t have anticipated the near miss I was about to experience.
Just before I reached the large automatic sliding doors that would land me steps away from “Produce and Floral,” a blob of bird poop landed at my feet, not on but at my feet. (Whew!)
And is “blob” the proper term? Maybe an accumulation of poop has different names depending on the type of animal, just like groups of animals have different designations, like a “murder” of crows,” a “pod” of whales or a “crash” of rhinoceroseseses. (I always have trouble with the plural of rhinoceros, specifically, ending the word. I think it might just be rhinoceros; maybe rhinoceri. I digress.)
Without so much as a gasp of surprise or a “Whoa, that was close!” I sidestepped the white splat and made my way into the store. (For the record, I was getting produce but floral wasn’t on my list.)
As I shopped, two things popped into my head. In reality, one thing popped into my head, and that lead to another. It’s standard operating procedure for my brain, a machine that over the years has proven time and time again that just because something is busy doesn’t make it productive.
Case in point, my first thought: “Why is bird poop white?” For the record, I have since researched this, but I’m not going to cover it here for many reasons, but primarily because you probably don’t care. You’re welcome.
With nowhere else for my brain to go on that topic, it immediately switched to reminding the rest of my body about the first time a bird pooped on me. I was seven, riding my purple Stingray down a tree-lined sidewalk not far from our house.
I’m not sure where I was headed, but if you knew me at seven, you also knew wherever I was going, I was trying to get there as fast as I could. (A simpler time, so we had to find our “jollies” in ways that others can’t comprehend today, and mine was trying to get places quickly.)
As I passed under a large maple tree (I only know that because every tree on our block was a large maple), something touched my shoulder. Thinking it was a leaf or a large bug, I kept pedaling, not wanting to lose the “race against no one” to wherever I was going.
A block or so later, I noticed something: a small, runny white stain making its way from my shoulder down the sleeve of my shirt. Immediately, I panicked (again, I was seven), slamming the brakes so hard I “Tokyo-drifted” (a phrase not yet coined in 1972) onto the neighbor’s lawn. I felt like the action-movie protagonist who has just emerged victorious from a gun fight with the bad guys, only to realize that, in the heat of the moment, he too had been hit, and now sits alone, left to ponder his next move or bleed out.
Suffice it to say, it was one of the most traumatic things that had happened to me to date in my seven years on this planet, and that’s coming from a kid whose Communion candle broke not two hours after his First Communion (“Surely, this means I’m going to Hell,” I thought at the time.)
I’m sure I cried because back then, I cried about everything. (Truth be told, I still cry a lot, but these days, it takes more than a little bird poop on my shoulder or a broken candle to bring me to tears, but admittedly, not that much more.)
Beyond the fact that I had a gross blob (Glop? Dollop?) of bird poop on my shirt (which is bad enough), this event meant two other things to me at that moment: 1) my chances of winning the race with myself to “wherever” was over, and 2) “wherever I was going” was going to have to wait.
Because after panicking and crying and wondering if my life in general had changed forever due to this gloppy, blobby, dollop tragedy, I knew nothing else could happen until I found a way to gather myself enough to return home and ponder my next move … or bleed out.
Fast-forward a couple of minutes. Now clad in another shirt, which was no doubt much like the previous one (again, simpler times, so most of our clothing looked similar, which made me – along with my seven-year-old compadres – look like a troupe of Opie Taylor impersonators), I once again set out for “wherever” at the fastest possible rate of speed, tears (and likely bird poop) now dried and quickly becoming a distant memory as I raced myself through the rest of the day, a day only a seven-year-old could appreciate or understand.
Fast-forward again to present day. I’d made my way through the frozen section, having grabbed the produce I needed, along with several other random items I spied along the way as I darted and dashed from aisle to aisle. Much like the pre-adolescent, Stingray-riding me, I was racing no one in particular to see how quickly I could get all the items on my list, as I cruised through the checkout and back into the parking lot. (Old habits die hard.)
But before I left this entire scenario in my proverbial mental “dust,” one other thought about poop popped up. (Surprised? Neither was I. Again, busy does not necessarily equal productive.) Specifically, it was the concept of “being pooped on” in the larger scheme of things.
Truth be told, between the time bird poop first landed on my Opie Taylor shirt when I was seven, and the recent parking lot near miss, I’d been pooped on (both for real and figuratively) lots of times.
And while it’s always been a disappoint at best, over the years, I’ve been fortunate. Sure, I’ve been pooped on by birds and even our kids when I wasn’t quick enough to cinch up the tabs on a fresh diaper. But as I look back, I was never really pooped on, and here’s what I mean.
I was never bullied or even picked on as a kid (though one time in kindergarten, a third grader threatened to punch me, and then delivered on his threat). I was never really screwed over or “pooped on” by an employer. And I never had to endure the challenges of being “different.”
Also, as a white American male, I’ve never had to endure the trials (again, both literal and figurative) that countless individuals and groups have suffered for so long: the direct hits, glancing blows and near misses they absorb every day because of the color of their skin, their culture, heritage, belief system, gender identification, and any other unfair obstacles I’ve missed, and there are many.
I don’t for a second want you to think I equate a bird pooping on my shoulder with all the injustices happening in our world to good people every minute of every day. I don’t. What I want to convey is that even in the most benign, innocuous settings and events that happen to or because of me, and the countless times when both my body and mind are racing from one thing to the next, I’m thinking …
… and I care. And I’ll do everything I can to help.
© 2021 David R. Haznaw