Planet Earth

When Pigeons Break the Pact

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorJul 11, 2014 8:07 PM

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Birds lead hazardous lives. They are preyed on by cats. They fly into tall buildings, glass windows, airplanes, cell towers, and wind turbines. All of this happens mostly out of our sight. In New York City, where I live, people go about their business while pigeons flutter all around us, sometimes annoyingly, but largely ignored. One of the great urban mysteries is how all these pigeons dodge cars at the last second. Except when they break the pact.

Last night, while playing with my 7 year-old son in our local school yard, the pigeons seemed unusually active. It was around 7pm. I watched several chase after each other. Maybe they were playing, too. I went back to pitching the soccer ball to my son, who wanted to practice his kick ball game. He kicked a line drive to my left that I almost snared. I broke the ball's momentum and it dribbled a few feet from me. I casually strolled over to snag it. As I bent down, a baseball ripped into the back of my right calf. At least that's what I thought it was. But when I looked around the only other kids in the school yard were way over on the other side, playing soccer, oblivious to my pain. I could barely stand up. I looked all around for the perp who I was sure whizzed a rock in my direction. Again, nobody in sight. Then I saw the gray, brownish lump pick itself up off the ground a few feet from me, before flitting away. A few hours later, I had to explain this to emergency room doctors, who looked at me with quizzical amusement. "Never heard that before," one told me. She diagnosed my injury as a partially torn tendon. I got fitted with a splint and temporary cast, was handed a pair of crutches and sent home. My pigeon-induced injury has elicited many chuckles from friends and family today. Meanwhile, I saw an orthopedic specialist who said my tendon is fine. But the bird that collided with my calf at high speed (it must have!) left a deep, debilitating bruise in the muscle, perhaps a tear, the orthopedist said. The MRI on Monday will say for sure, he thinks. Meanwhile, I can barely move. I have an oversized walking boot for when I leave the couch. I feel bad that I won't be playing kickball with my son for at least a few weeks, likely more. I'll also try not to feel stupid as I explain the injury to everyone who looks at my walking boot. But I'll suck it up and maybe embrace the quirkiness of the injury. As the Rolling Stones said,

To live in this town you must be tough, tough, tough, tough, tough!

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