It was a lovely day in central Kentucky today: low-80s, partly cloudy, a light breeze. On my way home from work, I drove with my windows down and music cranked, surely making my fellow drivers crazy with my aerodynamic hand dances from my driver’s side window.
Now picture this:
I’ve just pulled off the freeway, and I’m driving down the exit ramp toward a recently-turned-red light. (There are two right-turn lanes and a left-turn lane here, and I am the only car on the ramp.) I glance up and see a large amount of ducks taking off from the small copse of trees to the right of the road. There must have been 40 or so, flying across the lanes right in front of the stop light. I remember thinking that the mass duck exodus was a little strange, but it wasn’t anything incredibly out of the ordinary.
I keep driving, pulling into the center lane, and just a few seconds later, I’ve started to step on my brakes to slow down for the red light, and something calls my attention to the right yet again: there is now one final duck (clearly the slow one of the flock; its fellow quackers were all flying faster and higher, and they took flight earlier) heading straight for my open passenger window. It’s a female Mallard, and It is close enough that I can see its beady, beetle-black eyes and its wide-open beak, frozen in what I can only assume is a mask of complete shock. Inexplicably, in that quick-thinking, photographic-memory type way, I even notice a clump of muddy grass clinging to its left webbed foot—all in the space of less than a second.
There wasn’t even time for me to really think about my course of action at all: I just leaned a little to the right, reached out my hand, and locked my elbow to prep for impact. The bird’s torso slammed into my hand as its right wing caught the corner of my door, and I watched that bewildered, beady-eyed head duck below my line of sight—pun entirely intended—and heard a small, feeble quack as the bird hit the ground. I slammed on my brakes hard enough to squeal my tires, and before I even had a chance to shout obscenities (those came later) or think about the duck’s well-being (that didn’t come later—I hate birds), I heard a scraping sound and looked left to see the duck take flight and head off to join its companions. Now, it was my turn for my mouth to bewilderedly hang open.
Other drivers pulled up beside me in each lane, and I looked at each of them in turn, expecting at least one of them to meet my eyes and acknowledge that fact that a stupid, suicidal duck was just three feet from colliding with my face, or even comment on my quick reflexes and forward thinking from their sleek cars with the windows safely rolled up, but they both just stared straight ahead like automatons, gazing upward at the red light, willing it to change instantly.
The light eventually turned green and I made my right turn and kept driving home, but not without another backwards glance at that copse of trees and a few muttered curses about the foolish nature of winged beasts.
All in a day’s drive, right?