Monday, November 9, 2009
The afternoon air was chilly. Not terribly cold, but cold enough to make me uncomfortable. My wife and I were walking westward on the right side of East Carson street. She walks faster than I do. Often, on a crowded sidewalk, this puts her out a few feet in front of me. Such was the case on this afternoon. At 15th and Carson I watched a shitty old Honda, which was traveling east, make a right. There was nothing remarkable about it. It was a simple turn. The driver used his signals and moved at a slow, responsible speed. My wife was already past the event and not watching. I was watching because I’m easily distracted. As the car began traveling down the narrow side street, a flock of pigeons left the pavement. Pigeons are not valuable. Pittsburgh has no shortage of them. People typically don’t empathize with them. As the car drove down 15th, however, I could not help but sympathize with a particular bird that had not escaped the shitty Honda. It was not dead. It was not flattened. From a solid distance of 20 feet, the bird’s injury was obvious. It leaped out from under the Honda and flopped about madly on the street. It arced up and fell repeatedly, never clearing more than five feet. It flopped and beat its mangled wing furiously. I hoped that it might be able to straighten it out like an inverted umbrella. Very quickly, it became apparent that would not happen. It was more likely trying to throw the wing off completely, just to rid itself of the painful, useless burden. I paused for a moment watching the bird’s agony. I wanted to help, but had no idea how. I certainly have no qualifications to treat the bird’s injury myself. Beyond that, I can’t imagine a veterinary professional offering any help for this animal beyond euthanizing it. Lamentable as pigeons may be, this pigeon’s suffering was no less real or compelling than any human pain. My wife was getting very far ahead of me on the sidewalk. I pulled my eyes from the spectacle and caught up with her. I didn’t mention a word of what I had seen. I didn’t want to burden her with it.