It was an unseasonably cool Sunday evening in July, and, like the weather, I was feeling a bit out of sorts. I was looking for a new job and getting used to the pressures and angst of being in my first serious relationship.
Walking on 78th Street between First and York, heading to the subway station after spending the weekend at my girlfriend’s place, I saw a torn piece of paper on a telephone pole. I leaned in to read the piece of paper. A queasy feeling came over me.
Missing: Green Parakeet! The sign described this person’s particular green pet parakeet. The joy that the parakeet brings to that person’s life. How the parakeet likes music. How it was a wonderful and loyal companion.
I kept reading the sign over and over again. Finally, when my shock began to subside, I sat down on a stoop and pulled out my cell phone. I dialed Michele’s number. “You won’t believe what I just saw,” I said when she picked up the phone. Earlier that day, when we finally made it outside after our usual Sunday sleep-in, Michele and I decided to take a walk. A burst of bright sunshine greeted us when we went outside. We took a moment to let our sleepy eyes adjust, and then headed East toward the FDR highway. There was a slight tension in the air. In recent weeks I had contemplated a job change. Finally after four and half years at the same company, and recent difficulties, I was beginning to go on interviews. It was a new experience for me and I was incredibly anxious. Michele was extremely pragmatic. She sympathized with my situation, but insisted I was doing the right thing and that with confidence and a determined outlook, I would escape a bad situation and discover a positive one.
So I was very pensive, gathering my thoughts and contemplating my next move. We got to the 78th Street overpass along the East River. Joggers, rollerbladers, and sunbathers were out en masse along the narrow path by the FDR. As we made our way down the stairs toward the path, I began to feel dizzy from the heat. My recent anxiety had eaten away at my appetite. I leaned against the rail for a moment and Michele asked if I was all right.
I said I was fine and suggested we lay out on the grass along the highway. We found a spot next to a small tree. Despite the proximity of the FDR, and the frantic sounds of cars speeding by, I was able to nap away my troubles. When I woke up, it seemed I had been asleep the entire afternoon. But it had only been a half-hour. I sat up and actually felt refreshed. For the moment, my troubles took a backseat to the gloriously sunny afternoon. We decided to move on and head toward the park. As Michele packed up her things, a flurry of green caught my eye.
I turned to look and was shocked to see it was a green bird (I was used to only seeing pidgeons along the highway.) It flew clumsily above my head and for an instant I lost it. It came around again and landed on the tree. “Check that out,” I said to Michele.
“Wow,” she said. “What is that, a bird?”
“I guess,” I said, sounding unsure even though I was quite positive it was a bird. Our conversation was stilted; we were mesmerized by this stranger in our neighborhood. Other than the fact that it was green, it was difficult to make out any more details. All we knew was that it looked exotic.
Suddenly the bird flew out of the tree, took a nose dive and flew back up again. We were silent as our eyes followed the bird’s meandering path. It took another nosedive, but this time it didn’t fly up again. This time it landed. In the middle of the FDR. “Oh shit,” we shouted. Before we could say another word, the bird started to take off, but was caught by the fender of a speeding car. The bird was tossed over the car and landed on the road again when another car hit it. And another.
We stood by helpless. By this point, there was little left of the bird and little that we could do. We paused for a moment, shocked at what we had seen. We looked around. Should we tell someone? But who would we tell? We walked toward the park in silence. I’m sure we were both thinking the same thing. What are the chances of seeing something like that occur? If it had been something more familiar, like a pigeon, perhaps we wouldn’t have been shocked. For the rest of the day, other than the occasional “I still can’t believe we saw that,” we didn’t discuss what happened.
That is, until that evening when I saw the flier on the telephone pole. We debated what to do, whether we should call the number on the flier or not. Maybe this wasn’t his bird, we said. But we realized that was probably impossible. How many green parakeets go missing on the Upper East Side? In the end, we decided to spare the owner the agony of knowing his pet’s fate. Our reasoning, whether wrong or right, was that maybe that person will hold onto a glimmer of hope that his green friend would fly through his window one day. Better that than sharing the gory details of its demise. I turned off my cell phone and continued toward the subway. Soon thoughts of that poor green bird were replaced by fears of an impending job search, joy of a serious relationship and satisfaction for living in such a unique city. But even now, almost a year later, I occasionally think of that bird’s last moments, and hope it cherished its brief brush with freedom in New York.
(The initial feeling, here on MBN’s Panel for the Ethical Treatments of Civilians, was that calling the Parakeet owner is the right thing to do. Generally speaking, people want to know what happened to the person/thing/pet they have lost.
What would you do? Call or not? Click here to answer.