Originally published 11/17/2011 on Momaha.com
In general, I am a fan of birds. Most of them are beautiful and graceful and can fly which, let’s face it, all of us wish we could do.
Cardinals and blue jays are my favorites. They are beautiful and colorful birds that you don’t see very often. When I see one, I usually stop what I’m doing and admire them until they fly away.
We even have a pet bird. Well, at least the kids have claimed it as our pet. It’s a hawk and his name is Jerry.
He (or she, we haven’t actually checked) enjoys hunting the empty lot near our home for mice and snatching sparrows out of the sky. He loves to perch on the lamppost outside our back windows. Once he devoured his prey on the top of our swing set while our kids watched in fascinated silence.
There are some birds, however, I could do without. Like the barn swallows who dive bomb me while I’m mowing the yard. Or the sparrows who crap all over our deck.
But there is one bird in particular that I hate and never want my children to see. It’s small and slender and has no feathers. It is most commonly known as “the finger.”
I saw this “bird” on a day that was already on the top 10 bad days of the year. A woman backed up and hit my car in the church parking lot right after I dropped off our two older girls for religious education. No one was hurt which was good, but now I had insurance companies and repair shops to call. This dad was already busy enough!
About an hour later, I returned to church to pick up the girls. On our way home, a guy in a small, red SUV believed I cut him off when I merged into his lane. I was pretty sure there was plenty of room between our vehicles and I didn’t feel like I did something wrong, but the long blare of his horn suggested that he did not agree. “Daddy,” one of the kids said from the back, “why did that guy honk at you?” “He thought I was driving wrong,” I replied.
At the next light, I moved into the left turn lane and the guy pulled up right beside me. I noticed him out of the corner of my eye but ignored him partly out of embarrassment but mostly out of indifference. What could I do now anyway?
When the light turned green, I noticed his vehicle did not move. I continued to ignore him so he honked his horn to get my attention. Even though I knew what was coming, I couldn’t stop the natural reflex to turn my head in his direction.
And there was that nasty, ugly bird.
Now, I can appreciate someone getting upset for being cut off on the road. It has happened to me before. Heck, it has happened to all of us. But do you really need to flip the bird at somebody in a minivan that is likely full of kids?
He left that middle finger pointed directly at me for about 5 seconds while he yelled what I presumed was an obscenity-laced tirade about my driving inabilities and then slammed on the accelerator to speed away. Unfortunately for him, it had snowed earlier that day so the road was a bit icy and, for a moment, his vehicle went nowhere.
I reached for the door handle. A person can feel tough encased in 2 tons of metal and get away with acting like a jerk, I thought, but how about face-to-face in front of my children? How tough will he feel when I ask him if it’s worth it to flip me and our kids the bird? And, yes, a small part of me wondered if I would feel better slugging the guy, something I have never done before.
Before I got the door open, his tires gripped the pavement and he squealed away. The kids, luckily, saw none of this because they were engrossed in a movie on the DVD player in the back. I shook my head, chuckled to myself for the incredibly stupid idea I had to confront the guy, turned left and continued home.
I’m sure all of us at one time or another has flipped the bird at somebody while driving. Traffic is stressful and some people probably shouldn’t be allowed on the road. But, isn’t there at least a little etiquette? Everybody knows you never flip off an old lady or a guy who looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Its time we add people in minivans to the list.