08 June 2006

My 30 Harrowing Seconds As A Bag Lady

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So the other day, I was on my way back from the Vogelasiel….The "Vogelasiel" is a local bird sanctuary where I've been helping feed baby birds since spring began. Usually, I take the bus there and back, but as I hadn't been to the gym that morning, I thought a little excersize wouldn't hurt me and I decided to walk home.

When I'm at the Vogelasiel, I spend my time running in and out of various cages, feeding various birds. Invariably I get pooped on. It's just one of the hazards of the job. Baby birds poop right after you feed them, and they tend to turn around and poop right on you. It's their way of saying "thank you"….Also, in nature when they are in nests, they poop back in their mother's face and she takes the poop in her beak and chucks it out of the nest. This is obviously what they expect me to do. Now I might be a crazy Critter Lady, but I'm not quite that crazy yet, so instead I just wear my hooded sweatshirt, try to dodge the bullets where I can, but mostly just let it fall where it may. Poop away, my friends, you can't touch me. The day in question was such a day. There were a lot of birds, I fed them all, and they, in turn shat on me more than George W. shits on the poor. In otherwords, I was covered, ladies and gentlemen. No problem, though, I was wearing the hooded jacket. When I was done, I simply pulled the jacket off, folded it, put it in my backpack and was on my way.

So here's something you should know incase you ever visit this part of the world (the BeNeLux countries; Belgium, Nederlands or Luxumbourg) in the summer: The weather can change in an instant. I mean without warning. The first time I experienced this, I was minding my own business, walking down a street in Amsterdam when all-of-a-sudden the skies opened up and just drenched me. No opening act of a few sprinkles, either. It was just right into the Main Attraction. Local Dutch people knew about all this and casually popped open their chic umbrellas, but I was caught completely unaware. I was forced to quickly seek refuge in a nearby bar.

So anyway, there I was, walking back from the Vogelasiel on what I thought was a perfectly pleasant day, when suddenly BOOM, it was raining. "Ah, fuck!" I gurgled through the onslaught, as I quickly rummaged through my backpack, retrieved the hooded sweatshirt and pulled it on. Unbeknownst to me, as I pulled it on, some bird poop smeared on to my cheek, but when it's raining like that how are you gonna know?

Now – if you're familiar with cotton knitwear, you'll know that it isn't exactly a rain repellant. When it gets wet, it tends to just get waterlogged and sad looking, and this is what happened here. The rain didn't have the courtesy to wash away any of the bird poop either; instead it just soaked into the sweatshirt and added glistening highlights to the poop. So there I was, walking along with my soaking wet backpack, soaking wet poop-covered clothes, my soaking hair clinging to the side of my pooped-upon face, and that's when it happened:

"Excusier, mevrouw"

Huh? I looked up to see a lovely young man standing in from of me, looked like a young college student. I wiped away snot as I studied his face.

"This is for you" He said in Dutch, holding out a 50 Euro-cent coin.

I thought he must have seen me drop the coin and was returning it to me. "Bedankt" I said, I accepting the coin with a hand that protruded through a poop covered sleeve.

How nice these Belgian young people are, I thought. Much nicer than college kids anywhere else I can think of. Kind of touching, really. I mean he could have just pocketed the coin himself, but instead he went to the extra effort to make sure he gave it back to me. Really great. It gives me faith in Mankind.

"God bless you and good luck." he said. And with a beatific smile, he walked away.

And that's when it dawned on me: He thought I was a Bag Lady.

"What the fuck!" I screamed into the rain. I stood still for a few moments. I'm a Bag Lady. I'm a Goddemned Bag Lady.

I'm a soaking wet Bag Lady covered in bird shit and all he gave me was 50 lousy cents? Cheap bastard.