1. One of these days, I’ll make it through a Thursday Things post without including a line item about recent bird sightings. That day is not today.
After a fairly uneventful weekend in the birding department (though I did see another Brown Creeper, this time on my soggy Saturday morning run. I assume the fact that barely anyone else was outside Saturday morning made him feel more comfortable to search for bugs on trees in what are usually more populated areas.), I was on my way to work Monday morning, minding my own business, when something huddled next to a planter caught my eye. At first I thought it was some sort of dismembered pigeon, but upon (very little) further inspection, I realized that I had most definitely not stumbled upon any sort of pigeon.
I initially passed by, but then I circled back and took a picture so I could investigate and call the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors to rescue him. Merlin quickly identified my sighting as an American Woodcock: another new-to-me bird! (Also: man, you guys. Who came up with these bird names? Not someone with insight as to how slang would develop in the 20th and 21st centuries, that’s for sure. Although apparently woodcocks are also known as “timberdoodles,” which is definitely a better name in my opinion.)
The official guidance from the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors for dealing with injured birds is to put the bird in a brown paper bag or cardboard box for safe keeping, then call them so they can come get the bird from you and take it to the western suburbs. While I do have a cardboard box at my desk, I felt…weird, to say the least, about trying to coax a bird that I wasn’t even sure was injured in the first place with a bill as long as my middle finger into a box in a high traffic area during rush hour and then bringing said bird in said box into my office, praying that it doesn’t squawk or otherwise cause a ruckus and out me as a crazy bird lady to my coworkers. I was pretty darn sure the bird was lost and confused–according to All About Birds, American Woodcocks “spend most of their time hidden in fields and on the forest floor,” and, needless to say, my commute does not involve me walking through fields or over forest floors–but I wasn’t sure if that warranted a rescue. I did some poking around eBird and discovered that American Woodcocks have been seen in the city before, but when they are, they are almost always injured or dead. That was enough to convince me to leave the office, go back to where I originally saw the bird to see if he was still there (he was), and then call the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors, who sent someone out to (presumably–they didn’t tell me I needed to stick around and watch him until a volunteer got there, so I left before anyone arrived) take him to Glen Ellyn or Elburn, where he belongs.
I later discovered that my new bird buddy is a bit of an internet sensation (not my specific bird buddy, but other members of his American Woodcock family) due to his…unique way of moving.
I had actually seen one of these videos before on Facebook, set to Walk Like an Egyptian, but the only version on YouTube is doctored to show the bird getting hit by a car, which doesn’t actually happen *rolls eyes*, so I’m posting this video instead. I had no idea I was playing a minor role in the rescue of a celebrity!
2. I was scrolling through BuzzFeed on Friday, as I’m apt to do, and saw an article in the sidebar whose headline caught my eye: “We Should Ban Cars from Big Cities. Seriously.” That was obviously a pretty catchy headline, especially since I find America’s car-centric attitude frustrating as well, so I clicked through. To call it an article might be a bit inaccurate–it was more of an editorial than anything–but I thought it was well worth the read and full of interesting ways a variety of cities around the world have worked to reduce the number of cars driving around their downtown areas (restrictions on who can drive downtown when, better bike lane networks, congestion fees, etc.).
What I did not expect–though I guess by this point in my internet life, I shouldn’t have been surprised–was the INSANE lashing out against the author in the comments section. Ho.ly. Cow. People were so angry and vitriolic, you’d think that they thought her editorial was a directive from the federal government that everyone must relinquish their cars immediately. It was NUTS, and for me very much reinforced my suspicion that hoping for any sort of mind shift from car-first transportation to literally-anything-else-first transportation is a ways off, to say the least.
I guess what surprised me the most, though, was the way people seemed to assume that a car-free lifestyle is absolutely impossible, even in a city. I can tell you from just shy of five and a half years of experience: it most certainly is not. I don’t expect that I’ll live in Chicago forever, and one of the things I dread the most about not living in the city is the fact that I’m almost certainly going to need a car if I live anywhere else. I love not having a car. It’s so much cheaper, it forces me to be so much more active, and it goes a huge way in reducing the impact I personally have on the environment. But I can only get away with that because Chicago has a robust-at-least-compared-to-the-suburbs public transportation system.
I think part of why people can’t fathom living without cars is because they can’t fathom getting from Point A to Point B via public transportation, because they’ve never experienced public transportation that can get them from Point A to Point B, at least not without a lot of work or time. Every now and again I have to go out to my company’s suburban office and I absolutely loathe it because the public transportation in the suburbs is so. bad. The bus only comes once every half hour during rush hour, the time when you’d expect the bus to run most frequently. Heck, I’m lucky that the bus happens to go to the office at all! From my childhood home, it would’ve been a seven mile walk to the nearest bus stop. If that was my exposure to public transportation, I’d be pretty outraged by the suggestion that I live without a car, too.
Nevertheless, I really wish we as a country would try to focus more on building infrastructure that puts other modes of transportation first: high speed rail, bus-only lanes, more frequent and comprehensive service for all public transportation (so it not only comes close to where you live, but comes close to where you live regularly enough that it’s a viable option), more dedicated bike lanes (not just a bike painted near the shoulder of the road and calling that a “bike lane”)–anything that makes it reasonable for people to not drive. I don’t think you can undo technological advances. We can’t just ban cars outright and tell people they need to buy a horse and buggy to get around now. The only way to convince people to get out of the driver’s seat and into a bus, or a train, or on a bike, or even in a water taxifor that matter, is to make it significantly more attractive and efficient than driving (which you can do either by punishing people for driving–congestion fees, for example–or by rewarding them for not driving, which you could do financially with something like tax breaks, or through a more passive method by making public transportation (or biking, or walking, or whatever) demonstrably faster than driving–take away lanes from cars and give them to buses or bikes, for example, which would increase traffic in the remaining lanes, making zipping by on a bike or in a bus seem that much more attractive). Until that happens, I don’t think any sort of change is going to happen, and even then I don’t think you could hope to get rid of all cars forever. People will still need to move heavy items or a lot of items. People will still need to travel long distances. But even just a reduction in the number of cars on the road could do the environment so many favors.
3. I engaged in one of my least favorite activities of all time, clothes shopping, on Saturday. I needed more winter-appropriate work shirts and had a couple of Macy’s gift cards burning holes in my pocket, so off I went downtown. I just really, really do not enjoy anything about the entire process of buying new clothes, so I wasn’t in the best mood as I meandered around the third floor looking for blouses until I accidentally stumbled into the dress section.
GAH. There were SO. MANY. pretty dresses! Never in my adult life have I hoped to be invited to an event that required a floor-length dress, but as I browsed through the dress section, I became more and more disappointed that I don’t have any black-tie events to attend, and therefore couldn’t justify buying any of the dresses. It then occurred to me that I was shopping by myself, not on any particular timeline, and there was absolutely no reason in the world why I couldn’t try on dresses just for the fun of it, so…
I suppose the fact that I don’t need any floor length dresses played a huge role in this actually being a fun experience, because there was no pressure to find one that I thought looked good on me and fit my budget (since there is no budget for trying on dresses for fun!). But regardless of why I enjoyed it, it put me in a good mood, which made my entire shopping trip much more pleasant.
I can’t think of any good questions, so this half-hearted sentence is what you’re getting instead.