The Thing About Pigeons

My worst nightmare

I have a thing about pigeons.  Birds in general, actually, put pigeons in particular.  They’re little more than winged rats in my opinion and that flapping noise—ugh!—it’s enough to give me a heart attack.

My parents took my brother and me to Venice when we were 12 and 14, respectively.  Being a rather romantically-inclined teenager (go figure), I loved Venice— I loved the little stationary shops, the canals, the Murano glass and I even loved the campground that comprised our rather rustic accommodations back on the mainland.

San Marco’s, however, I hated.


One word: pigeons.

Why? Why would you do this???

There are literally thousands of them—probably tens of thousands—and even worse are the tourists who encourage the diseased vermin by smattering travel-worn khakis with birdseed and lying down in the middle of the square.

After a day of touring, my brother and I were allotted half an hour for souvenir shopping before we had to catch the ferry.  I’d spent all day drooling over the Murano glass and trying to decide if I should get earrings or a bracelet or if I could possibly afford both.

Ever the pragmatist, I at last decided on a tiny silver watch with Murano glass flowers inlaid in the face.  The only problem was that I’d seen the watch in a shop we’d passed twenty minutes earlier, and said shop lie on the other side of the San Marco’s Square.

As such, in order to get my watch, I’d have to cross the pigeons.

Terrified by the prospect, I considered a similar but vastly inferior watch in a nearly shop (a shop that did not require crossing the square) but the flowers were pink and purple; I wanted blue and red.  As my brother counted his Euros for a pocket-sized gondola, I decided to go for it.

Amazingly enough, I survived.  And I got my watch.  But the experience was terrifying, and even now, ten years later, I’m still terrified of pigeons.

I know this because on my way home from the bus stop yesterday, I came across a raging flock of presumably rabid, presumably feral pigeons feasting on a pastry outside of the Vietnamese bakery on Washington Ave.  To avoid the ferocious fowl, I would have had to cross the street in the middle of the block, thereby subjecting myself to any number of head-on collisions and almost-certain dismemberment.  Considering my aversion to pigeons, however, I felt that this (getting run over) was the lesser of two evils (ie. getting pecked to death by dirty, beady-eyed vermin).

I didn’t realize that I had frozen on the sidewalk (or that I was visibly shaking) until a man on a bike road up behind me and said “It’s okay baby, come on!  Let’s ride right through!”  He zoomed ahead, scattering the pigeons with all the zeal of Moses parting the Red Sea.

Shielding my face from the ravages of the would-be eye peckers, I hurried behind my knight in not-so-shining armor and found myself arrived safely at the corner a few moments later.

I’d probably still be standing there if not for the Moses of Washington Ave. so you can direct your collective thanks to him for my continued adventures in blogging, dating, and surviving the wilderness of South Philadelphia.

(What’s that?  You were hoping to read about last night’s date this morning?  Well, that makes two of us…  The thing is, I’m still trying to figure out what happened during last night’s date, and whether or not it even counts as a date because it would seem that your favorite dating columnist has finally met her match and not necessarily in the romantic sense of the word.  More on that next time…)

5 Responses to “The Thing About Pigeons”

  1. Tech Support

    Counted my Lira, not Euro’s. (This was before 2002 when they finally decided a common currency would make sense) How do I not remember this story. Do you still have the watch?

  2. shreejacob

    Aww…a real life modern knight in a not so shining armour! I didn’t realise they existed in this day and age! I sorta feel your fear, because I have a genuine case of phobia with insects! However, I can’t see any knight riding through a cloud of already flying moths…
    I do hope you write about your date that turned into a non date!

  3. Zak

    Wait, was the knight-in-not-so-shining-armor cute? Did you ask him out? Moses of Washington Ave. would’ve made a great dating blog name, right?

  4. stevesw

    Yes, flying rats. But:

    On a first date we went to my date’s favorite cafe. We were sitting at a small outdoor table, and the food had just arrived. Suddenly a pigeon landed in the middle of our table. A brazen European pigeon, not some lame, easily frightened pigeon. My date was in shock. The pigeon looked at the bread sticks and started to waddle over to them. I smacked the bird on its butt and off it flew. Of course my date started to apologize, but I stopped her with, “The food here is a tad rare.” We laughed the rest of the evening; a great date. However, I have tried to avoid outdoor tables ever since.


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