We have a problem.
Well, “we” don’t have a problem, I have a problem. But since I take you all along for the ride during any problems (and injuries!) that have arisen in my six plus years of travel, it is only fair that you come along with me during this continued crisis.
For newer readers, the problem is as follows: I’ve been unceremoniously dumped upon by birds big and small a grand total of 12 times since I quit my job to travel in 2008. The post I linked to in the prior sentence goes into great detail about the scene of each crap, including that time I was shat on twice in a day In Myanmar, with witnesses to prove it. And the time a few weeks later in Yangon where I was casually telling newfound friends about The Bird Problem when a pigeon decided to illustrate by letting loose on my just-washed hair. The group of us collapsed at the side of the road, holding our stomachs as we laughed hysterically.
The pigeons also got me in Mongolia and in the Philippines, and a giant frigate bird went after me in the Galapagos. No one wants to be crapped on by a frigate bird. No one.
As I’ve noted previously, I have a small head. So as surface areas go, I really shouldn’t be the focus. There are usually larger people with bigger heads walking near me. But they often remain unscathed.
Because birds were insufficient, a bat also shat on me during a press trip to the Dominican Republic in 2010. The best part was that I had just finished telling the others on the press trip that I had a “bird problem” and immediately following the conclusion of my story, a bat decided to teach me a lesson. Duly alarmed that this would mark the beginning of being terrorized by mammals too, I warily watched all winged creatures out of the corner of my eye.
My friends (or should I say my “friends”) decided to start a ridiculously named “Poop Slots calendar”, each betting on two-week periods of my life based on when I’d next get hit. My friend Phil was particularly incensed when he went “all-in” during my week in Essaouira, fully expecting me to get nailed in the town’s densely seagulled harbour.
Alas. I did not. And I haven’t since the last crap on Canada Day 2011, in Ottawa. No payments under the Poop Slots, to the disappointment of those who bet on the calendar. No move by the birds until October 2011 in England when I was unceremoniously dive-bombed in the face by a pigeon in the Cotswolds.
The welt healed quickly, of course, but my pride did not. Nor did I forget the incredulity on the faces of those walking nearby as they watched a pigeon fly straight into my forehead. The birds, I worried, had upped their game.
There is an old Far Side comic called “How birds see the world” and from 2008 until 2012, I continuously ducked when birds flew nearby.
But after that Cotswolds incident in 2011, I was birdcrap free for over a year. The birds steered clear. The message, whatever it was they wanted me to absorb, was received.
Until this weekend in Bath, when my brother, his girlfriend Sarah, and my friend Honza — all Poop Slots betters, I should add — were standing next to me as a pigeon crapped on my arm and my hair while I wandered around the Abbey.Bath! (And bird) Bath! (No bird) Yup, it finally happened again.
For the readers who have been around since The Bird Problem began: the birds are back. I hope it is a small and temporary hiccup in my last few years of not being terrorized by birds. The updated the birdcrap counter.
1 dive-bomb by a pigeon
Thus concludes my short post. I’m in England until later this week, when I fly to New York and then to San Francisco to speak at Book Passage about digital platforms for writers and about social media. The Book Passage event is on my birthday so there will be no birthday mountain on that day, but I plan to make up for it later in the fall.
I have been light on the updates lately, but have spent July in Berlin and in England and I look forward to sharing pieces from those places and from Greece.
Thank you to all of you who wrote about the Saigon street food guide. The outpouring of enthusiasm and subsequent photos of the foods I recommended has been wonderful. Many people asked why I would share my favourite spots. These are, of course, only a few of the places I loved to frequent. They are predominantly in the centre of town, and as the food is a big part of what makes the city special to me, I wanted it to be available to you as well. Bon appetit! For those heading there in the fall, yes, I will be re-starting the food walks for a few months.