Something is wrong in the animal world. It may not be happening everywhere, but at least in my neighborhood it is. It seems that animals are not afraid of us humans like they used to be. Birds, for example, are no longer afraid of people. It used to be if you walked out of your house, they would fly away. Now you walk out of your house and maybe they’ll stop what they’re doing and look at you. If you walk toward them you get some attention, but they’re still not moving. Only when you get right near them do they fly away.
Driving is even worse with birds. It used to be that once a bird could see you coming down the road, they would fly away. Now you’re coming at them at 45 miles per hour and they don’t even blink an eye. You get about 25 feet away and maybe they hop off to the side a little, but not fly. You get about 10 feet away and it’s like they’re playing chicken – is the human going to stop before I need to fly? I have been driving at times like this when I’ve actually said “Fly!” out loud, sometimes more than once. When they finally fly up out of the road their little legs are still dangling when they pass over the windshield to safety. That’s how close they are to getting hit; their landing gear isn’t even up yet. What’s with the hopping in the road? If I could fly, I wouldn’t be hopping. Just get out of the way.
The same thing has happened with other animals, too, not just birds. Cats, squirrels, possum and critters you only see at night, none of them get out of the way until the very last minute. I’m not about to crash my car to avoid one of these guys, and I have hit a squirrel before, but why the defiance and refusal to get out of the road?
When we were kids, we played sports in the street. We played whiffle ball, street hockey, kick ball, catch, pretty much anything in the street in front of my house. We didn’t get a significant amount of traffic on our street, mostly just the people who lived on the street and the occasional visitors. My parents had always told us to not only get out of the road when a car was coming, but to actually get onto the sidewalk. On our street, both sides had sidewalks. When we were younger, up to about 10 years old, we did what they had told us and got onto the sidewalk when a car came. However, as we got older we started just moving to the side of the street and not onto the sidewalk. This made some people slow down more than they normally would have, which sometimes got us upset because they were holding up our game.
As we got to our teen years, we got bolder (or more stupid if you prefer). When we were playing and someone yelled “Car coming”, if we were in the middle of a play, we just kept on playing. Sometimes we didn’t move until the people were pretty close to us or until they beeped their horn. Some people smiled and waved once we finally got out of the road and let them pass, others scowled at us like we were criminals in a police lineup. To get back at those people when we were playing street hockey, we’d pass the ball under the car to the other side as they went by. We thought this was hilarious and that we were pretty cool when the ball made it to the other side without getting run over. That is, until someone gave the ball too much lift and it hit the side of the car. Needless to say, the driver was not at all happy with us and told us they were going to speak to our parents about the incident. Whether they did or not I really don’t know. However, we were more careful after that…for about a week, and then we went back to our normal routine.
A thought recently came to me out of nowhere after one of these defiant bird encounters. Maybe those birds that won’t fly, those squirrels that won’t run and the other animals that won’t get out of the road, are teenagers. They’ve gotten bolder, so when one of their buddies yells “Car coming!” in their language, they just keep on doing what they’re doing. Maybe they’re all sitting there laughing at us, thinking how cool they are that they just missed being hit. Or maybe they’re thinking how hilarious it is that they made someone stomp on the brakes and perhaps swerve out of their way. Perhaps, as in the human world, no one in the animal world wants some old guy in a car holding up the game. Even if that game is a game of chicken.