Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Bird in the Van

It’s nesting season and Lem Skibbler can’t drive his van, a rusted-out 1992 Ford Aerostar, formally blue, now faded to the color of an overcast sky, and spiced up with a bumper sticker proclaiming “Free Mustache Rides, See Driver for Details.” Every spring, and into the summer, a bird or two makes a nest in one of the sizeable rust holes on the side of the van. Among members of the Kildare Bird Club, the van has been dubbed “The Roost.” The Roost rests in Lem’s driveway, and once a bird has established a home, the van doesn’t get moved. This occurs from May through July. The members of the bird club are grateful for Lem’s charitable consideration of our feathered friends. There is, however, one hitch. As they say, everything has a price, and the price of this good deed is Lem must be driven around town to a variety of destinations during the three months while an assortment of birds have moved into his van.

This year, a family of robins has already taken up residence in a melon-sized rust-hole located just under the passenger side window. Lem didn’t notice the nest until he took a short drive to the Jiffy-Stop. The mother bird followed him, squawking and throwing a general bird-fit throughout the entire trip. So now, the van sits parked, the mother robin has settled down, and Lem needs a ride to....everywhere.

In an effort to support anything bird related, the Kildare Bird Club has undertaken the burden of offering Lem a ride to a hodgepodge of destinations during nesting season. Lem is assigned a different driver every week. A colorful chart, titled “Thank Goodness for Us,” divides the task among all five club members.

Though we appreciate Lem’s bird-loving spirit, it’s been necessary to limit the amount of rides to the strictly necessary. No more going back to the store because of a not-completely-thought-out comb purchase or the wrong kind of beer-nuts. And no more exchanging shampoos just because of a disappointing scent. The lemon-scented shampoo works just the same as the agave, and that’s science, and if anything, the Kildare Bird Club is all about science. Also, no more driving over to Chad’s Taco Shack to see if the beguiling Lalou is working the drive-up window. Just the necessary, like food and medical appointments. And dropping in at the medical center to browse their selection of magazines does not count as an appointment.

I was the first driver on the Thank Goodness chart this year, and with the guidelines in place, the task appeared less tedious than the whimsical journeys of years gone by. A once-a-week trip to the store and maybe a small errand was all I expected. Until Lem called one night at about ten o’clock.

–Lem: Yeah, I’m going to need a ride to Club Olé.
–Me: It’s kind of late, isn’t it?
–Lem: I meet my girlfriend every Wednesday at eleven o’clock.
–Me: Can’t she come to your house?
–Lem: No, she’s working. At the club.
–Me: Can’t she drop by after work?
–Lem: Well, no. She doesn’t know where I live.
–Me: She’s your girlfriend, and she doesn’t know where you live?
–Lem: Our relationship is kind of a secret. They’re very strict at Club Olé. They don’t allow their employees to date the customers.
–Me: That sounds like a violation of something.
–Lem: She’s a performer, and you know how show biz works.
–Me: Oh.
–Lem: She depends on me to be there every Wednesday. So how ‘bout it?
–Me: What’s your girlfriend’s name?
–Lem: Sin.
–Me: Cindy’s a nice name, down-to-earth.
–Lem: No, Sinful, as in forbidden stuff.
–Me: What’s her full name?
–Lem: Miss Sinful, but I call her by her nickname, Sin.
–Me: Miss Sinful, that’s what it says on her driver’s license?
–Lem: That’s her stage name. You’ve got a lot to learn about show biz.
–Me: What’s her real name?
–Lem: She can’t tell that to anyone. It’s show biz rules, man.
–Me: So, she’s your girlfriend and you don’t know her name.
–Lem: Let me clue you in on a secret: no one in show biz uses their real name.
–Me: Do you give her money?
–Lem: Of course I do. I support the arts, like those PBS dudes, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
–Me: Do you write her a check?
–Lem: No man, dollar bills...a whole bunch of ‘em.
–Me: So she’s a dancer.
–Lem: She prefers to be called a visual artist. She uses the human form as a canvas.
–Me: Perhaps she’s using your wallet as a canvas.
–Lem: Look, bird boy, if you don’t want to go, I might have to take The Roost.
–Me: OK, but I’m just dropping you off. No more waiting in the parking lot like last year when you spent three hours dancing the hokey pokey at Susan Gup's wedding.
–Lem: Maybe you and that bird posse should think about getting hip to the arts...you know, become an enthusiast like me.

Patience is often the hallmark of a successful birder.