Walking downtown a few days ago, I was heading to the CVS Pharmacy on Race Street to pick up a prescription. As I neared the store, there were at least two dozen pigeons on the sidewalk feasting on some crumbs that someone had dropped for them.
As I approached the birds, a loud truck went by that spooked them. The pigeons took off in a frenzy. I covered my face from their flapping wings but I didn’t have time to cover my hair. I felt something wet drop on my head. Of course, I now had pigeon shit in my hair.
It’s not the first time this has happened. I now keep a few paper towels in my bag just in case it happens while walking around downtown. Even if you think you’ve cleaned it out of your hair, there is nothing more uncomfortable than walking downtown or getting on a bus to go home knowing that stuff is still basically there.
A few years ago while walking down Ninth Street I experienced yet another pigeon adventure. Again, a truck or an automobile had spooked the pigeons who were bobbing their damn heads while walking on the sidewalk. This time I didn’t get shit on — just had a pigeon flap its dirty wing into my right eye as it took off. My eye hurt like hell for two days.
I consider myself a lover of all animals and that includes birds, but more and more I find myself annoyed with all the damn pigeons downtown. I know they’re simply part of urban life, but these flying rats are starting to get on my nerves.
Maybe this is because I’m getting older. When I was younger, I didn’t mind them at all. In fact, growing up on a farm outside of Vevay, Ind., we had two pet pigeons — Pete and Floppy.
Pete was the female pigeon and pretty docile. Floppy was just the opposite. He was mean and aggressive. When you would come near him, he would flap his wing at you. That’s how he got the name Floppy.
Once while in the barn doing some chores, I didn’t notice that Floppy was in one of the rafters.
I didn’t see him, but he saw me.
He flew down and landed on top of my head picking at it with his beak. I reached up to pull him off, but his flapping wings pushed me away.
I ran outside the barn fast enough to the point where Floppy couldn’t hold on. I remember his feet, his claws, digging into my head.
That was a long time ago, and I didn’t have any more encounters with Floppy. I can’t say that’s the case with other pigeons downtown.
I’m assuming they like to hang around bus stops because some bus passengers feed them. I’m not one of them. If I’m eating a pack of cheese crackers while waiting for the bus to show up, those damn pigeons show up having no manners.
They flock down almost as soon as I open the cheese crackers wrapper. They look at me like I’m about to feed them. If I accidentally drop a crumb, they’re all over it like white on rice.
One morning while waiting for the bus, I lit a cigarette. Same thing — pigeons flocking down to see what I’m up do. Are they going to start expecting smokes now? Will they want me to light it for them, too? It’s ridiculous.
In trying to think positive about all the pigeons downtown, I have somewhat found a way to protect myself when I’m sitting on a bus bench and they’re all along me. I walk with a cane and the pigeons don’t seem to like it. If one gets too close, I move the cane towards the pigeon and the thing will back away.
While I never thought something good would come from having nerve damage in my feet and legs, I now consider my cane a weapon against those damn birds. If it ever becomes necessary, I won’t hesitate to beat one to death with it.
While I’m sure I’ve made it clear I don’t like pigeons all around me, I have to admit I’m fascinated with the male pigeon’s aggressive sexual behavior on downtown Cincinnati sidewalks.
They don’t give a damn if you’re looking at them or not. The male pigeon does his mating dance for all to look at and more than once I’ve seen the dirty deed done right there on the sidewalk. I mean I could never do anything like that out in public, and while male pigeons don’t have balls, to some extent they do.
That’s the only fascination I have with these birds, and even this has a downside. I mean, mating on those sidewalks only causes more pigeons to be born. I think we have enough of them.
I’m not sure what can be done about the pigeon population downtown. I suspect nothing. I think it’s up to me — actually up to all of us — to protect ourselves from these birds.
Thinking about the pigeon’s ability to multitask — you know, fly and shit at the same time — I’m now in the market for a hat. While I don’t consider myself a hat person, I think I would rather have a pigeon shit on that rather than in my hair. The hat can immediately be taken off. My hair can’t.
I hope I’m not trying to outsmart a stupid pigeon, but when it comes to these damn birds, you do what you gotta do.
CONTACT LARRY GROSS: firstname.lastname@example.org