On Worry (or The Gall of Gulls)

Note: This personal essay was written in the fall of 2017 using the Notes app on a mobile phone.

Photo by Sharon Mollerus via Flickr; licensed under Creative Commons 4.0

Yesterday, after a heartbreaking last minute loss in a Sunday league soccer game, I meandered from Galileo High School field (formerly called OJ Simpson Field) to the nearby Ghirardelli Square Area. Normally, after soccer, I return home post-haste, hustled along by some deep-seated anxiety about weekend productivity. But on this day, my disgust at the loss brought me to the water’s edge for a few mindful moments. It was a beautiful San Francisco morning, and I sat down on a bench to eat my honey-flavored protein bar.

As I watched a familiar mix of tourists and locals stroll, jog, and bike past, I reflected on how lucky I am to live here, a city that is surely, on its best days, one of the most beautiful in the world.

I’d just finished my protein bar when I glimpsed a very large, very white seagull flying toward me. If it kept its heading, the bird would fly directly over me. Immediately, I snapped out of my rumination and thought, “Is this bird about to poop on me?” Sure enough, the bird loosed its bowels just as it passed overhead. The poop could not have been more impeccably aimed had I been the bird’s target – actually, who’s to say I wasn’t?

As soon as I grasped what was happening, I jumped sideways out of my bench, dodging all but a small white speck that tagged me on the back of my right hand. The majority landed on the bench, right where I’d been sitting. As I wiped my hand clean, I looked around to see if anyone had noticed my quick-thinking and quick-footed escape. Not one person looked up. The lack of attention paid to the bird poop was underscored shortly thereafter by a woman who took my place on the bench, only narrowly and unwittingly missing the bird poop. The surrounding folk continued about their day, blissfully ignorant to dive-bombers on silent wings that looped lazily above their heads in the San Francisco sky. I’m not terribly superstitious, but I decided to interpret the gull’s fecal drop-off as a sign I should start the walk home.

My reflective mood quickly returned, perhaps carried back to me by the soft lapping of the waves. My thoughts brought me to the idea that, apparently, I live in a state of hyper-vigilance against being pooped on. Each time a bird flies overhead, I am alert and ready to dodge, duck, dip, dive or dodge out of harm’s way, an alertness not shared by the population at large.

Who’s better off? Most people live a more carefree life; they don’t worry about such things. Some small percentage of them, on any given day, will get pooped on. Then there are people like me, people who turn their eyes skyward every time a pair of wings darkens their path.

I may never be pooped upon, but at what cost?

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