Just My Luck

Should I consider it a good omen that a bird shit on me late last night while walking home from the bar?

If so, then good luck has been clamoring to find me this week. On Wednesday, as I was crossing 9th Avenue toward my new barber, I heard a splash near me on the pavement, maybe a foot away from my shoe. It was surprisingly loud, considering the level of midday city noise, and blended in well with the customary filth of the street. Looking up, I saw a row of pigeons on a streetlight suspension wire.

I considered myself lucky at that moment that I had dodged a bullet, so to speak. I mean, there’s a time and a place, right? Apparently that time was about midnight and the place was 82nd and Roosevelt Avenue in Queens.

As the train passed, I felt something light strike me in the chest. I thought it might be some small piece of debris falling from the underside of the elevated tracks of the 7 train, but whatever it was seemed to have stuck there. I could feel its light weight sitting on my chest. Without thinking, I reached up to my chest to feel what it was, and my hand slid across the warm, slippery substance and came away with a bit of bird shit.

It was the color of graphite and much more solid than I had expected, like an exuberant dollop of acrylic paint. And it covered a good three or four square inches of my shirt. It was revolting.

The last time a bird hit me, I was about 7 or 8 years old and standing under a tree. It hit me on the back of my right hand. I wiped it off on the tree trunk without comment and carried on with the business of hide-and-go-seek. With the enormity of New York’s pigeon population, I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often. At least it did not land on my head or on my face this time.

There was a rumor for a while that a bird once shit in Cyndi Lauper’s mouth, back in 2004, while she was going for a long note at a concert in Boston. “My grandmother says it’s good luck,” she said, “but I think it’s disgusting.”

She put the rumor to rest recently: “It is not true that a flying bird once pooped in my mouth when I was singing in a concert. It did not go in my mouth. It went on my lower lip. I could not taste it. I just wiped it off.”

The shit-upon shirt was my spare. Living in Queens and working in Manhattan, I have learned to carry my house on my back; never knowing when I will will get back home in the day, I always have a spare shirt, some basic toiletries, reading material, and sometimes gym clothes in a bag when I go off to work in the morning. So I changed back into my slightly damp shirt from earlier in the day.

I don’t particularly like the shirt. I got it from the clearance rack at Gap, and every time I wear it, I see three or four people wearing the same thing — without fail. I avoid wearing it if I am going out into the city. Maybe the bird was merely suggesting I retire the garment and try one of the boutiques along 82nd Street.


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the untallied hours

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