Thursday, March 8, 2012

Pigeon English: Learning to Trust in the Process

(click image to enlarge)
Photo by Ed Townend

Thus far this morning I've rescued two pigeons trapped within the walls of our seventeenth-century apartment overlooking the Lewes High Street, where one can often see clusters of pigeon folk perched on buildings or swooping by with wild abandon.

This makes half a dozen that I've similarly assisted out of our home the past couple years. We had a roofer, a posh chap, come round last Saturday who patched a previously unnoticed hole in the rear of our building when we told him of our pigeon visitors. He assured us, with what seemed a touch of optimistic bravado, that there weren't any more pigeons within the building, that they'd all flown the coop before he patched the hole. 

Famous last words.

If he were wrong, it would mean that any lingering pigeons were likely to be trapped inside of our walls and would eventually die a slow, painful death with no access to food or water. Thus my forcing myself to get out of bed just a few hours after I'd gotten there. I went to bed at 4.30 a.m., having been inspired to stay up producing the "Welcome to Mindful Living Guide" video now resident in the MLG sidebar.

As Jonathan Morrow of Copyblogger said in his article yesterday, empathy is the antidote to snobbery. Jonathan was speaking of a certain smugness which some social media adepts feel towards the lesser adept social media masses.  

Snobbery doesn't work so well with regard to pigeons.

But replace it with a weary-boned discomfiture and we might be getting closer to the mark as it pertains to intermittent fluttering of wings scraping the inside walls of our apartment which is, at once, our home, Mufidah's and my shared office, and the place where we hold regularly scheduled courses and workshops, and see one-to-one clients. Yet there wasn't time for discomfiture to develop to any great degree, as I was concerned they were dying that slow, painful death, their presumed entry/exit hole having been repaired last Saturday.

So empathy was the motivating factor to my getting up and quickly donning clothing suitable for extracting the first of our visitors from the pigeon-crawl space behind the upstairs cupboard which houses our boiler. Likewise, a quarter of an hour later, when I heard another pigeon's scrabbling toes and flapping wings within a drawer beneath our kitchen cupboard (downstairs) in which we keep our toolbox, power tools and such.

You might think this would be a bit shocking, hearing a pigeon in a kitchen drawer, except we've come, at this stage in our residence here, to no longer be surprised in the slightest.

But what amazed me about both of these pigeons, and others I've liberated before, is their incredible trust in the process. Both pigeons were coaxed out of the woodwork by my telling them in the smoothest pidgin English I could muster after three hours' sleep that their best, and perhaps only, way out of their deadly predicament was to come to me, to meet me halfway, so that I could kindly show them the exit, either the second or third floor windows.

The first I smooth-talked out from between the walls. He then sauntered casually out of the boiler cupboard, flew to the window, perched there for a moment, and then departed with incredible grace, seemingly with a tinge of nostalgia for the place which, seconds before, was his death row.

The second pigeon also remained calm atop our toolbox while I carefully slid the drawer out as far as I could without smooshing him between the back of the drawer and the wood just above. Then I carefully plucked out a couple hammers, a collection of allen keys and other such tidbits which were keeping me from being able to slide the toolbox forward enough to be able to lift it out of the drawer. This finally accomplished, I did a bit more smooth-talking as a means to convince this pigeon that despite the fact that I was going to try to catch him, and come at him with clawed fingers, that he was to trust wholeheartedly in the process while I gripped him, carried him across our combined kitchen/living room floor, and gently gave him lift out the window so that he'd ascend rather than flutter and fall to the busy street two storeys below.

And he did trust. He neither tried to claw nor bite, but let me pick him up with little fuss, and kept his cool all the way to the window. He then departed, displaying, like his predecessor, true grace under pressure. Hemingway, if he didn't, instead, undo them with his manly grip, might well have been proud of them both.

Do you hold up under pressure as well as our visiting pigeon folk do? If so, tell us how you manage in the comments below ...


  1. Extracted another pigeon today from the tool drawer in our kitchen. Landlord, building management agent, and pest control company duly enlisted. The roofer's waiting in the wings.

    And this seventh pigeon — or third in four days — likewise departed with grace, though having left behind a shit-load of green pigeon mess which needed cleaning up, within the drawer as well as the various tools and supplies therein.

    Perhaps I'll write a book entitled: On a Wing and a Prayer — How to Practice Pigeon Patience while Exhibiting Grace Under Pressure.

    What do you suppose the market is for such a book? And should it be marketed under the self-help or household management category?

    Feel free to chime in below ...

  2. Okay, Sean, so now that supposedly all pidgeons have been rescued, does that mean no more can enter since the roofer has fixed the hole? Just curious, Mom

  3. No, that would be counting the last of our pigeon days prematurely. The building management agent has enlisted a pest control company to figure out where they're still getting in. The chap's been once already — a very nice guy — but he was too big to fit through the window onto the parapet and, so, says he'll be bringing along a crew member whom they don't feed for just such a job (he adds these types tend not to stay with them for long and so the firm suffers a rather high attrition rate). So, Skinny Joe's meant to give it his all tomorrow. All things Behind the Blue Door move slow as treacle, consuming lots of our time and energy, and we've learned not to, well, count down our pigeons before they've finally, for good, flown the coop. Happy Sunday, Mom! We're off, soon, into the great outdoors.