Pigeons: It’s Us And Them.

posted in: Chicago, Day In The Life 1
Me, just hangin' by a two-story Alexander Calder sculpture by the downtown Chicago post office. Photo: Claus
Me, just hangin’ by a two-story Alexander Calder sculpture by the downtown Chicago post office. I have a picture of pigeons from the same day this picture was taken but I can’t bear to use it. Pigeons are just gross-looking Photo: Claus

I was on the No. 3 bus that runs on Michigan Ave., heading south. The bus was full, so I had moved to the front; my stop was coming up and I didn’t want to have to throw elbows to get out.. In close proximity to me was the silver-haired bus driver, this really tall black dude with a pick in his afro, a tiny Asian woman of about sixty, and another white chick like me, who never looked up from her phone a single time and she got on when I did, way up at Chicago Ave.

Our bus got stopped in traffic. There was construction and a couple busses ahead of us, so we had a long wait at the curb at Lake Street. This brief party found ourselves looking out of the bus onto the sidewalk at our right. There were people walking along on the sidewalk, as usual; we hardly saw the scaffolding criss-crossing our view of the sidewalk because that scaffolding has been on that block for nine thousand years. (Maybe they’re just building scaffolding.) And then we all saw a couple boys of about thirteen or so running around chasing a big group of pigeons. The boys were clearly brothers; you could tell by their likeness and how a woman nearby was yelling, “John! Jake! Get back here! Where’s your father?”

The boys were tossing parts of their sandwich bread to the birds and some of the bread landed right outside the bus door. The bus driver shook his head. I jumped back, even though the door was closed, and went, “Eee!” The Asian lady clicked her tongue and gave the boys a fabulously disapproving look, which they will unfortunately never see. Longtime city dwellers know that pigeons are dirty and annoying, that they spread disease and are capable of pooping on your head.  My bus friends and I — being the wizened, hard Chicagoans we are — knew this and watched from our place of wisdom.

“Pigeons,” said the bus driver. “Just rats with wings. Those kids are in from out of town.”

The boys were running directly into the swarm of pigeons that had heard Subway sandwiches were being served at Michigan and Lake. One of the boys tried to pick up one of the birds.

“That ain’t even right,” said the guy with the pick.

We all looked at the sidewalk scene, at the people, the birds, the metal, the concrete, and I felt for the 20 millionth time in my life a comforting certainty: I belong in a city.