Pigeons, Gulls and Dumb Luck

You’re enjoying an Orlando vacation, lazing at a lakefront resort. Taking a break from everything, even bird watching. But you don’t really need a break from this effortless hobby. In fact, it has saved many a vacation.PARIS

There was one interminable European trip that you survived by walking through parks near the cathedrals and museums that your wife and others in your group felt compelled to visit. You said: seen one crumbling statue, seen ‘em all. This opinion wasn’t popular with your companions.

On the other hand, the Europeans do have a whole other birdbook to explore, living things you don’t get to see in the U.S.A. Like Wagtails, little European Robins, Green Woodpeckers and Blue Tits; even their Jackdaw crows are interesting with two-tone gray and black coloration. But that was Europe, this is Florida.

Meanwhile, back at the beach…

You’re enjoying the sun. Doing nothing. Thinking nothing. There are birds around but none is unusual. Just pigeons who find the garbage cans interesting, and of course there are gulls near the water. Probably Herring Gulls and Laughing Gulls, but you’re not looking closely. You’re on vacation.

Then a thought hits.

You wonder: what do the pigeons think of the gulls? The pigeons are wobbly and pear shaped, short winged, grayish and comparatively clumsy. While the gulls are sleek and slender, long winged and regal. They make flying a sport. Pigeons do it to get from here to there. Gulls do it to swoop and sail, the kind of thing you’d do if you could fly, if you had wings.


Who could help but admire the gulls and their grace? Do the pigeons admire them? And what do the gulls think of the pigeons? Do they see them as chubby nerd birds who can’t rise to the heights of the cool kids? You have to figure: probably.

You try to imagine that you’re a gull.

You’d fly just for the fun of it. You’d coast on the wind and dip and slide over the water, and then rise and circle, do a wing-over stunt or two, and it would feel great. The pigeons and featherless humans are just pathetic background. Gulls are royalty of the shore, made to fly, and nobody does it better.

herring gull

Hey, if you were a pigeon you’d want to become a gull. You’d go on a diet. You’d watch how gulls fly and try to emulate them. You’d see how long you could hover without having to flap. But the sad truth is that if you didn’t flap, you’d drop. And if you didn’t eat you wouldn’t get slim; you’d get weak and maybe die. You were put in a pigeon body and that’s the end of it.

Idle musing, not worth disturbing the pleasures of sun and relaxation. But then a new thought hits. It’s related to the irrevocable destiny of pigeons and gulls. And it’s right in front of your eyes…

There’s a boat rental business by the shore.

It’s a family resort and boats are being offered to kids and parents, miniature motorboats, big enough for one teenager or maybe a dad and his seven-year old. These little boats zoom around the lake. Each is shaped like a speedboat, but smaller.boats

Kids line up to get in as boats come back from their half-hour rental. Riders who are returning exit onto the pier, and an attendant pushes the empty boat into position for a new passenger or two to get in.

It’s fun to watch this.

But you notice something. Some boats are faster than others. An eager kid gets into the boat he was given and throttles it forward, full blast. But his boat doesn’t have pep. It’s a pig; it groans rather than roars. Its wake is anemic and its nose doesn’t rise as high as the noses of other boats. That’s the luck of the draw.

A different kid gets into the next boat, and it’s a charged up maniac of a little speedboat. It zooms past the pig boat, hitting waves with loud slaps that you can feel in your chest.

What was that all about? Each kid was more or less equal. Same age and size. Both were aggressive fun lovers. But one got assigned a boat that was sluggish, and the other got a better one. The kids had nothing to do with it. It was fate, destiny, dumb luck.

And you think: Hey, some birds got put into pigeon bodies. There was nothing they could do about that. And some got put into gull bodies. Just luck.

Same thing happens to people.

Some of us get put into average-looking bodies while others get pro athlete’s bodies, or super-model bodies. It’s the way of the world, the way of all life.

So what do you do? If you’re a pigeon you walk around in that goofy, neck-bobbing style and hope somebody throws bird seed on the ground near you. And if you’re a gull you fly on the wind. You enjoy it. And you better be thankful that things worked out that way.

Okay, enough thinking. C’mon, this is your vacation. Why not settle back, read a summertime book, get some sun, take a nap. You realize that you’re better off at work. When you get too much leisure, your mind works overtime. You try to blank out your thoughts. Simply listen to the waves and enjoy the breeze.

Then a gull flies over and you can’t help saying to yourself: lucky, just lucky.


One Response to “Pigeons, Gulls and Dumb Luck”

  1. Gabe says:

    I like this piece, but honestly, pigeons keep up with my car at 70 mph on the highway… no gull can do that unless you strap on some D-size model rocket engines and… you get the picture.

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