When you work outside, no matter how great the view, you have to contend with the local wildlife. Where I work, the wildlife basically means the scrawny little black birds sporting an occasional splash of yellow that have figured out that our outdoor seating area presents a veritable bird’s smorgasbord.
“They’re so cute!” someone or 20 says every day. Then one of the someones gets splattered with the cute little scrawny birds’ droppings, and suddenly the scrawny black birds are not so cute anymore. I liken them to city pigeons up north–rats with wings. But that’s just me.
Because once they get done with the cute act of fluttering about and nibbling on the cleared leavings piled high on a tray everyone is too busy to hoist on a shoulder and carry inside, they dive bomb live tables where people are still eating, and in some cases, attack the food as I carry it to a table.
“Sorry, sir,” I smile and shrug several times a shift, and always when it is the busiest. “I’ll bring you fresh [toast, hash browns, eggs, waffles, pancakes, bacon, whatever] right away.”
And then I want to swat the stupid feathered things for putting me in the weeds and crashing the kitchen at always the worst possible moment during the breakfast rush. I love my lead cook. And I am certain he at least tolerates me because I don’t let my food sit on the line. But he is a man who prefers never to deviate out of his zone, and to have to ask him for another plate of eggs he just made, while 15 other orders hang on the line, well…it’s not pretty.
“What the hell?” he’ll shout. “Didn’t I just watch you take that order outta here?”
“Uh, yes. Yes, you did,” I will say. “But, well, the birds…”
What he has to say about the birds isn’t so pretty, either.
I assumed most, if not all, of my coworkers shared the cook’s and my view of the breakfast birds. Until one angled itself right into the blades of a slow-spinning ceiling fan and landed in a heap next to a couple enjoying eggs benedict and pancakes.
“Oh my God!” cried the women.
“Oh no!” echoed the man.
Oh crap, I thought, watching the poor pain-in-the-ass bird lay there, stunned. Or dead. Or dying. Whatever its condition, it was a now a breakfast stopper.
For a few seconds, the other servers continued to bustle about, pouring juice and balancing trays. The busboys seemed nonplussed as well. Tables needed to be cleared and reset.
Leave it to a scrawny black bird to bring everything to a complete and total standstill.
“We have to get him out of here,” I said to no one, because no one was really listening to me.
“He could be suffering,” said a woman sitting at another table adjacent to the fallen bird.
“Mommy, is he okay?” asked a little boy, turning his face into his stricken mother’s shoulder.
“Yes, sweetie,” she said, hugging him close. “He’s just resting.”
And for another moment that felt like an hour, the three tables, the bussers, the other servers and myself stopped and just stared at the unmoving black feathered heap on the ground.
“Oh, for God’s sake!” suddenly grumbled a man sitting four tables away from the immobile bird.
With that, he grabbed his cloth napkin, which would need to be replaced, and walked over to fallen feathered one and gently scooped it up. My manager seemed to appear out of nowhere then, and she urged the man to allow her to tend to the bird.
“Fine,” he said. “Just take it away from here.”
And as she did, the breakfast shift energy slowly returned to its normal harried pace.
“Just in case anyone is wondering,” my manager said the following morning at our pre-shift meeting, “The bird is drinking water and eating a little.”
“He’s a survivor, that one,”she continued. “You know the one–only has one leg. Been around here for months.”
“Oh, ‘Hoppy’” said one of the servers.
“Yep, him,” said my manager.
They named the flock?
“Wow. Glad to hear that!” said a busser.
Oh, come on now.
“I put him in a corner of the alley, left him water and some hash browns, and he drank some water and ate a few potatoes,” smiled my manager, which I was sure was the first time I have seen her smile in the month I’ve worked for her.
“Really?” I asked.
“I have a thing about birds,” she said, her stern don’t-mess-with-me attitude firmly back in place.
“Well, great!” I said. “Glad he’s okay.”
Once upon a long time ago, a flock of noisy D.C. crows decided to roost in my yard. Day after day, they drove me insane with their constant shrieking and cawing. Until one day, when RG Daughter came inside to plead with me to save a too-young-to-be-out-of-the-nest juvenile bird that lay stunned and barely moving at the base of a backyard tree.
“Oh, geez,” I said, when she showed me where he was. Now the incessant cawing above sounded like a family calling out to a lost loved one–a kid, at that.
I wrapped the poor thing in a dirty towel and placed him in an empty drywall bucket. With a sad and very concerned RG Daughter in tow, I drove an hour and a half through rush hour traffic from upper Northwest D.C. to some outer P.G. County wild bird rescue place, just to give the young bird half a chance.
I have no idea if the D.C. bird survived, but I told RG Daughter he did.
To hear my manager tell it, “Hoppy” will soon be back to graze for seconds. In a way, that would actually be fine.