Why did the chicken cross the road in front of the runner?

While I loped along on my morning run the other day, I nearly trampled a neighbor’s chicken that decided to dart in front of me, all the while squawking angrily as if it were my fault.

“Excuuuuse me,” I retorted, “but you saw me coming and could have waited TWO SECONDS!”

The chicken ruffled its feathers and pretended to peck at a bug.

What is it, anyway, with animals that think they own the road?

Squirrels, of course, are the worst offenders, as all motorists know.

They amble casually onto the pavement, not a care in the world, then freeze at the sight of an approaching car, scurry back toward the woods, then reverse course and scamper in the original direction, then pause, throw in a few dekes and head fakes, decide to sprint for the woods again, but have another change of heart … On and on it goes, until the driver is forced to swerve and nearly run into a ditch.

The Canada geese in our neighborhood also are notorious jaywalkers, especially this time of year when accompanied by fluffy goslings.

They’ll stop all traffic, foot and vehicular alike, for 10 minutes while they waddle inconsiderately from one side of the road to the other, never bothering to use a crosswalk. Shouldn’t the adults be teaching their young it's reckless to cross the street wherever and whenever you please without so much as a glance to see if anyone is coming? Like the squawking chicken, these geese honk indignantly if you try to speed them up by waving your arms or stamping your feet.

Let me be clear: I’m not talking here about animals that run after you — and Lord knows I’ve been forced to flee any number of malicious furry and feathered critters. Nearly everybody at one time or another has been pursued by a dog, but who can say he’s also been charged not just by a bull but a bull moose, as well as chased by a grizzly bear and nearly run down by a team of stampeding yaks? Been there, done that. Not to mention hornets, wasps, yellowjackets and any number of stinging insects. And swans? Don’t get me started on swans guarding their cygnets.

Years ago, a couple of Peking ducks on our street also ran after me, which was nearly as humiliating as being followed by a rooster that for some reason trotted along behind me for several hundred yards, no matter how fast I ran.

Anyway, these aggressive acts simply are exhibits of territorial imperative common among virtually all species, including homo sapiens.

The peripatetic geese and chickens, on the other hand, are just being downright inconsiderate.

The polite way for any fowl to cross the road would be to signal its intention well in advance, perhaps by holding up a wing. Next, it should proceed cautiously but expeditiously, all the while maintaining eye contact with those being held up.

Finally, once safely across, the bird should acknowledge its gratitude for the delayed party’s forbearance — an appreciative flutter, say — anything that would express, “Hey, sorry to make you wait. I was running a little behind schedule and needed to get to the other side in a hurry. I promise it won’t happen again. Have a great day!”

I’d feel a lot better if that were the case.

Now that I think about it, chickens and geese may be bad enough, but do you know which creatures are the worst when it comes to showing even the tiniest shred of graciousness? Snapping turtles.

On several occasions, upon seeing one attempting to cross a road, I’ve stopped my car, found a long stick and tried to help guide the wayward reptile to the other side with some gentle prods.

Do you think even one ever reacted in such a way to suggest, “Gee, awfully nice of you to lend a hand. Not everybody would stop to help out. Give me another few seconds and you can be one your way”?

No! They stretch their necks far our of their shells and snap their powerful jaws violently enough to lop off a finger or two if you were careless enough to approach too closely. It’s true: No good deed goes unpunished.

Some apologists shrug off such rude responses, saying, “What do you expect? They’re snapping turtles. It’s in their nature.”

Not me. I’ve about had it up to here with p.o.’ed snapping turtles. Next time I see one halfway across the road, I may slow down and turn the wheel slightly, but I’m not getting out of my car to offer assistance.

Sorry, snappers. You had your chance. Maybe after I start to see a better attitude, I may change my mind, but for the time being you’re on your own.





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