Train Wreck (Or, Are Birds Afraid of Heights?)

If you haven’t been able to tell from the title of this blog, my thoughts can get a little… muddled at times. Science has yet to invent the Perpetual Motion Machine, but the key to that device could be in my brain because it just runs and runs and runs all the time. No matter what the task at hand is, there’s a good chance another 5 to 50 thoughts are flitting through my brain unsupervised at the same time. Not so great when trying to fall asleep but an amazing boon when stuck in a traffic jam.

I should admit here that the things I think about, they’re not strategies to end world hunger, ways to detect tornadoes sooner, or philosophies about human evolution. Normally I’m thinking about fairly trivial things and they tend to click clack along at a pretty fast rate until they ultimately derail into completely irrelevant nonsense.

A perfect example from a week or so ago: as I was headed to a work meeting, I got stuck for a while on the bridge leaving the island I live on (because some people just don’t know how to handle rush hour traffic on a bridge and as I’ve mentioned before, too many people have moved to the Eastern Shore, making commuting across this bridge a mess) and as I sat there bored waiting for people to just move, I caught sight of the albatrosses, ospreys, and seagulls gliding overhead. I was both impressed with how high in the air some of these birds were (a few were mere dots in the sky) and curious as to why others were flying so low they were in danger of getting hit by cars. And some of them have indeed been hit by cars unfortunately, evidence of which is all too often seen on the bridge.

That led me to the question I spent the next good bit of time pondering: Are birds ever afraid of heights?

My train of thought first assumed that at some point in the history of all bird-dom, somewhere in the whole wide world there must surely be some bird that was born with an innate feeling of fear for gliding so high above the world. I mean, with the sheer number of birds in the world, surely, it’s almost statistically impossible for there not to be one bird that looks out over the lip of his nest and says I don’t know about this, right?

I feel sorry for that bird. His life must suck. And you know that none of the other birds have any sympathy for him whatsoever. It’s like the kid who’s afraid of roller coasters on the class trip to the amusement park. None of his friends are going to stay back with him, buy him a cotton candy, and sympathize with his phobia. No way are this bird’s so-called friends going to chirp out the problem on the ledge of the skyscraper.

How rough it must’ve been on that first maiden voyage out of the nest! His parents (ready to migrate to Florida to start their retirement) probably kicked him out of the nest without much ado when he told them he wasn’t quite ready to fly yet. Falling like a squawking rock as he desperately flapped his feeble wings most likely left an indelible impression on him that flying is not all it’s cracked up to be. He was probably scarred forever and now hops everywhere, always the last to show up to any good crumb parties or worm hunts. Poor, poor, pitiful bird. I was really upset and distraught by the whole thing.

Then, the slow ride across the bridge was over and, poof, that detailed, meandering thought of the poor little bird afraid of flying evaporated out of my head to be replaced by another thought. The next one to grab my attention was about the meeting I was headed to and the important points my organization needed to emphasize to the group we were meeting with, as well as the items I needed to discuss with my boss separately. Did I put pencils in my satchel!? I hope to goodness I brought pencils! No wait, I’m fine, I already have a pen in my purse. I’m cool, I’m cool.

And hey, I forgot there was a Dunkin’ Donuts on this road… that switched things up.  Thoughts of whether there will be tea or coffee available at this meeting made a sudden appearance. How I hope it’s coffee because it’s much more low maintenance than tea. Tea’s just a hassle. First you have to open the bag, then make sure you don’t break the string when you pull it out, then time how long it steeps, then find something to fish the bag out with, then where are you going to put the bag after it steeps and when you’re in a meeting that’s just a pain in the behind… and yada yada yada for the rest of the day, the week, the month, the year, the lifetime.

Thanks, brain. What would I do without you?

19 thoughts on “Train Wreck (Or, Are Birds Afraid of Heights?)

  1. I think most of the birds that have a fear of heights, migrated to Aotearoa New Zealand. We have more species of flightless birds than any other country.

    I’m incapable of multitasking, even with thinking. However, it doesn’t take much to cause my thoughts to take off on a tangent. It can even happen when talking to someone and something catches my attention: my train of thought switches, even in mid sentence, much to the confusion of the listener.

    • I’m glad I’m not the only one! I do that too! The person will say something that gets me thinking about something else, usually completely irrelevant to the conversation at hand (which then lead to equally irrelevant thoughts), and off my mind goes wanders down a path of no return.

      And I’m glad to know that some of my fearful bird friends have a place to live in relative peace! Thank you for sharing that (I truly had no idea)!

      • Unfortunately for all those fearful birds no longer have the safety they deserve. Since the introduction of rats, mice, stoats, ferrets and possums in the last 200 years, these shores aren’t the paradise to bird life it once was.

        • Now that’s a real shame. That’s what happened to the Dodo bird — the introduction of foreign species into their environment, specifically pigs, dogs and rats. That and people hunting the birds for food. It’s a shame to see an ecosystem and the native animals effected so drastically by external causes. I hope your birds fare better but it sounds like they’re just dying a slow death rather than all at once. It’s difficult for some species to bounce back due to their breeding habits.

        • Aotearoa New Zealand was predator free before the arrival of man, so most species have very low reproductive rates. For example the kiwi typically has one chick per year, but due to predators, 95% don’t reach adulthood in the wild. It is a not so slow path to extinction. A hundred years ago there were five million, today less than fifty thousand.

  2. What an intriguing question. The more I think about it, the more I think you’ve hit upon the plot of the next Pixar film — a bird afraid of heights. You could use your perpetually running mind to come up with some fun story twists, maybe while having coffee …

  3. I’m happy to see that your brain is having a good time, even when you’re stuck in traffic or drinking tea without benefit of a doughnut! As for the bird questions, as great as it might be for Pixar (and I like that idea), my pragmatic side says that 150 million years of evolution have probably solved that problem. It’s a process that still would work quite efficiently on any newly hatched, neurotic fledglings

    But keep those offbeat questions coming!.

  4. My brain is always going at a 100 miles an hour in many directions at once, so you’re not alone! I totally get the tea vs coffee debate too.

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