Friday, June 15, 2007

Good Samaritan

There was these pigeons — I know, rats with wings — over in Penn Station while I was waiting for the train. Anyone who's lived in a city for more than, say, a week has to be totally over the birds — even old men on park benches don't bother feeding them — and just perplexed by the attraction they seem to hold for others. In the suburbs, there's no way you can sneak up on a robin or a crow before they'll fly off; pigeons are so used to people that they won't even move if you're about to step on them. But what was special about these birds is that there were three of them, and one was sort of lopsided. I'm no veterinarian, but I think it had a broken wing, kind of slouched over and wobbling. I'm gonna name him George, after one of my pet damselfish, a gimpy, depressed fish who spent his short time in my aquarium nitrifying the environment and getting his food stolen by the other fish.

Avian George had his own tormenter, a white speckled pigeon, tall and upright — I'll call him Butch — who kept jumping on his back and pecking at him, because Butch is a total douche. The third pigeon, Calvin, more or less watched the fight from a distance. Kind of like the crowd of humans around. I was torn — I think most of the people there were torn — part of me wanted to break up the pigeon fight; part of me was eight years old, wanted to take George home in a little shoebox and nurse his wing back to health; part of me wasn't really sure what to do. Not that it's not my fight, but what do I know about avian morality: they're not sentient in the same way that I am, and what right do I have to impose my morals on them? Not to mention, what right do I have to side with George over Butch — maybe in pigeon-land, Butch has ethics on his side here. The good news, if you can call it that, about my moral waffling is that no one else had a strong urge to help out George, or maybe just turn the train platform slightly less violent, either. A few people sort of walked up to the fighting birds, but being a city pigeon, Butch hardly noticed. No one actually swatted at Butch with their Daily News (which might be illegal, anyway) or ran at the birds or threatened them. I waited for the train to come, figuring that either the locomotive would scare Butch off, or the throng of passengers disembarking would. But no. As far as I know, Butch is still there, wailing on George.

I love how it's so freaking easy to make huge moral pronouncements about stuff like, say, Israel and Palestine or ideological demagoguery, but when it comes to actually having to step up and take some action, I just watch and write about it later. No one steps in for right and justice. And it's a couple of birds: like, what are they going to do to me? Flap around? I certainly hope I never have to... none of us bird watchers ever have to help another human in trouble, because they're screwed.