Out of the office: Ruffled feathers

Life often has a funny way of coming full circle. I like to think I’m a pretty rational person. I also like to think that there isn’t much that scares me or gets under my skin.

I’ve always said that the day I start believing in ghosts is the day that one punches me in the face, and scary movies don’t faze me because I always see what’s coming.

All that being said, I do have one totally irrational, over-the-top phobia — birds. Their beady, soulless eyes, their too-smart-for-their-own-good attitude, their stupid little waddle.

In fact, it’s more of a seething hatred than a fear. And I don’t need a therapist to tell me where it comes from. It started with being bit by a goose from behind while feeding ducks, one of my earliest memories.

What really solidified it, though, was the day my cousin Joey brought home an Australian cockatoo named Papageno (pronounced papa gay-no). Papageno and I were instant rivals, and while admittedly I did my fair share of pestering him when I was little, the way I remember it he fired the first shot.

The moment he saw me he was in instant attack mode, except with his clipped wings the best he could do was waddle at me from across the room and bite my ankles if he managed to get close enough. Occasionally, he’d be perched high enough to glide onto my back when I wasn’t looking and try to take a chunk out of my ear.

Going over to my aunt’s house for me was like entering a war zone. (Sorry, Aunt Jeanne).

There was a brief window where we had a tentative truce. He would actually perch on my hand or my shoulder without attacking, and I could pet him for a while before putting him back in his cage.

Of course, such peace was never meant to last. He started getting a little too friendly with my hand, mistaking it somehow for a female cockatoo. And these things are supposed to be smart?

Anyway, neither I nor my hand were interested in Papageno’s propositions, so I would have to put him a safe distance away from me. As it turns out, hell hath no fury like a bird scorned, and he didn’t take the rejection well.

He went back to attacking me on sight, but as I grew older I became less afraid of him and more annoyed. And of course, my toxic relationship with Papageno eventually grew into a general distrust of all birds.

Birds, especially cockatoos, are extremely intelligent, but it’s a cold and calculated intelligence. Like the Terminator with feathers. If birds ever figure out how to travel back in time or ride motorcycles, we’re all in trouble.

So, back to life coming full circle. Being a reporter for the local newspaper can be a lot of fun because every day is different and you never know what story you’ll be assigned from week to week. Last week, I was given the honor of covering, you guessed it, birds.

The Kenai Birding Festival is in town and apparently lasts over several weeks, and I have been tasked with writing about the event. I had no idea that birding was such a big deal here on the Peninsula until I learned about the annual shorebird festival in Homer.

Have I started the story? Nope. Is my procrastination because of everything I just mentioned? Probably.

I think this is the universe giving me the opportunity to face my irrational fears once and for all. Maybe by the end of this I’ll be buying my own set of binoculars and registering with the Audubon Society.

To all the birders who may read this and fear my bird-hating bias will affect my reporting, I hear you. But I’ll do my best to give our feathered friends a fair shake, as long as they do the same for me.

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