April 22nd, 2004


I wrote this a while back. It needs editing, but I give it to you as is, no guarantees.
Most of you can tell just by looking at me that I’m a computer geek. Whether it’s the pasty white skin, the bloodshot eyes, or the constant flexing of my hands and wrists, there’s something about me that tells you I’m a computer geek. I get a lot of flak for being a computer geek…until someone needs their computer fixed.

I get far more flak, though, about not going outside. “Why don’t you ever go outside?” I am sure that, somewhere, there is a computer geek that likes to go outside. He takes his wirelessly-networked laptop outside to check his e-mail, post to his blog, and design websites. Let me tell you something about that guy: he’s as rare as a speckled albino rhinoceros-sized wombat. The rest of us computer geeks are kind of like vampires: we avoid daylight, we keep weird hours, and we have strange diets.

“But why,” you ask, “don’t you like to go outside?” Well, it’s a difficult question to answer. First of all, when you haven’t been outside in a while, your skin reacts strangely when you do go out. I don’t know if you’re aware of this or not, but if you go outside, your skin can turn different colors! That can’t be healthy! Second, after staring at monitors for as long as we geeks have, our eyes have become kind of like those cave-dwelling fish that can see really well in complete darkness. Take that same fish out in the light, though, and he’ll bump into things all day long. The sun is far too bright, really. Take me out on a cloudy day and I’m fine.

I’ll be honest with you, though. The third reason is really the only reason for me. I can’t speak for all computer geeks everywhere, but the main reason I don’t go outside is because of birds. Yes, birds. Birds freak me out, man. I’m not talking in an Alfred Hitchcock kind of way where I’m afraid all the birds in a certain area are going to conspire against humanity and start pecking at our heads – I’m really only talking about one thing. How do I put this delicately? Hmmm. Let me say it this way – if there were little bird restrooms along the bird highways that birds would stop off and use from time to time, I might go outside a little more. Yes, I will admit, I’m a little afraid of some bird coming around to peck at my head. When I was younger, I mowed the lawn for my parents. They had a couple of acres, so my dad had a riding mower for us to use. When I mowed what we called the “way-back yard,” swallows would appear from nowhere and start swooping around me, as if to drive me off from their sacred burial grounds. The first time this happened, I remember driving the mower back to the garage all freaked out and telling my dad that birds were swooping at my head and that I wasn’t so sure that I wanted to mow the lawn anymore, at least not the way-back yard. Of course, my dad knew that the birds were just going after all the bugs I was stirring up with my mowing, and he told me so. He also told me that, yes, I would continue mowing the way-back yard. So I did, ducking all the while.

I also learned to fear birds because I had a “pet” one for a while. I dated a girl my senior year in high school whose uncle and aunt had a love bird that was the meanest, crankiest bird you have ever met. I’m told that love birds get this way when they don’t have another love bird around to hang out with. That certainly seems like a possibility, and it also seems like a whole comment on love, too, but I won’t go there. This family had a cat, a dog, and this bird. Strangely enough, the pecking order (to coin a phrase) in this house was like this: bird, cat, dog. The cat terrorized the dog, but the cat was afraid of the bird. For some reason – maybe a teenager’s penchant for believing he is invulnerable – I was drawn to this bird. It cracked me up that it was so cranky. Well, my girlfriend’s uncle said, “Hey, you like the bird? You can have him!” They’d been looking for a new home for him for quite some time, I guess. So I took the bird. I learned quickly to keep my fingers away from his cage. I don’t remember what the bird’s original name was, but I renamed him Frank. Why? Have you ever heard of a comic book character called “The Punisher”? His real name was Frank. This bird was out to avenge every wrong that had ever been done to bird-kind by any human finger ever. Turns out, he was also after cats. I had my computer desk in one corner of my bedroom, and I put the birdcage behind me in another corner. One day as I was working on my computer, I heard one of the most terrifying meows I have ever heard. I whipped around in my chair to see my cat hanging by one paw from the birdcage – the paw was attached to the birdcage by Frank’s beak. Granted, the cat was pretty heavy, so Frank let him drop after a few seconds, but I never saw the cat go near the cage again. The most traumatic times I had with Frank, though, were when he escaped his cage. Occasionally, his cage would need to be cleaned, and even less occasionally he would get out while this was going on. You’ve never known fear until you’ve seen an avenging love bird flapping for all he’s worth in an attempt to exact retribution for all the ills mankind has ever done to birds. Most bird owners will tell you at this point that you just need to grab him and put him back in the cage. Let me tell you something about these bird owners – they don’t know beans about Frank. I’ll tell you what I did – I tricked him back into his cage. If I recall correctly, it involved holding the cage door open while I wiggled my fingers like bait inside the cage. Eventually he went back in, and I was able to lead a somewhat normal life again – at least, what passes for normal for a guy who just lost three years of his life in a matter of 10 minutes.

So I have a healthy fear of birds trying to peck my head. But that’s really not the reason I don’t like them. It’s really all about them not using restrooms. I was at a friend’s graduation party and was talking to her out by her car, when a bird…happened. On her. Without warning. Nasty. She handled it pretty well – she was raised a farm girl – and I got in my car and high-tailed it home. A couple of years later, I was working as a security guard at a special-care home. It involved doing rounds every other hour, both inside and out. Since this was Wisconsin, we often had flocks of migrating birds flying overhead. On this particular occasion, I was between buildings when I heard the distinctive honking of a flock of Canadian geese. I looked up to revel in this incredible sight: hundreds of these beautiful creatures flying in several perfect formations with the incredible Wisconsin sunset in the background. It was simply awe-inspiring. Until it happened. On me. Without warning. On my shoulder. Nasty. I high-tailed it inside.

See, the worst part is that there is no warning. It’s just there, as if it had just appeared. One second, it’s not. The next second – it’s there. I’m not expecting an alarm bell, but would a whistling sound be too much to ask?

This is the reason I don’t go outside much. I can’t help but imagine how my life would have changed if I had been looking at those geese like you normally do – head back, mouth open.

So I don’t trust birds. And I’m a little suspicious of Canadians.

Leave a Reply