Thursday, September 08, 2005

Question About Etiquette

I was running through the city, passing Kenyans like they were standing still (as I do), when I *accidentally* kicked a pigeon. I don't kick pigeons on purpose. I'm not a savage.

The pigeon went flying, struggled to right itself, and ended up hitting a homeless man sitting on the sidewalk. It didn't hurt him, but it definitely startled him and made him keel over on his side. (He did not spill his change however. I feel that this is an important mitigating circumstance.) I felt bad for having triggered this course of events, but a) I didn't do it on purpose, and b) how can I be responsible for a kicked pigeon's trajectory? At some point post-kick, the pigeon becomes responsible for its own flight path.

I didn't know how to react. For one thing, I was running, so before I could process all of this, I was a half block away. For another, was it my fault? I mean, I said "sorry!" over my shoulder, but I have been known to apologize to people who step on my foot. You know, for putting my foot where I should have known their foot would soon be. So it's not like I have a problem taking responsibility.

But seriously, was it my fault?

Here's the question: What is the proper response when you are running in the city, and you accidentally kick a pigeon, and it hits a homeless person, and the homeless person falls over?

How has this issue evaded the notice of Emily Post or Miss Manners? There really ought to be a place to go for answers to questions like this. Should I have stopped and helped get the guy back to upright? Should I have offered him money? What if I was running (I was) and didn't have any money (I didn't) so I could not offer monetary compensation? Am I an asshole? (Because of this, I mean.)

8 Comments:

At 12:18 PM, Anonymous changeseeker said...

Apparently, you write a REALLY hilarious version of the story, causing me to double over in laughter by the time the pigeon hit the homeless guy and then laugh uncontrollably (and gratefully) through the rest of the story, only to reach your question and decide that now *I* feel like maybe *I've* done something wrong by laughing at it all...

So the effects go on and on and, of COURSE, it's ALL your fault. That'll teach you to ask. :D

 
At 9:05 AM, Blogger Dan said...

It's pretty obvious to me that the pigeon had some mental issues and decided to step in front of your shoe in order to end his/her life.

You should blame the pigeon for getting in your way and the pigeon should blame the homeless person for being too soft, thus preventing the pigeon from dying as planned.

The homeless person can blame George W. Bush because that's what everyone does anyway....

Either way, your conscience (and hopefully your shoe) is clear.

 
At 2:48 PM, Blogger ramblin' girl said...

clearly the pigeon's fault...

 
At 4:29 PM, Blogger Jamah said...

Thought you may like this...

"Over the last few weeks I frequently felt like putting the boot into my computer (a feeling I'm sure many readers have shared at one time or another). But I resisted the urge for two reasons. One: it would cost me a lot of money. Two: the way my luck was going, I might wind up fried. Still, I wanted to kick something. And I suppose that's the reason this site exerted such a potent attraction. As you might guess from the name, Pigeon Kickers of America is all about the venerable sport of pigeon kicking. At this site you can read up on the facts about pigeons, the shocking untold history of US pigeons and the rules that define the sport of Pigeon Kicking itself. You can also sing a little song about it, rhyme along with a few poems dedicated to the topic or (my personal favourite) read the inspirational letters that have flooded in from devotees and doyens alike. As the PKA's editor notes, "Everything you read on the Internet is true". Of course it is. Who could ever think otherwise?" The site closed in 99'

Why? No one will ever know...

 
At 5:52 PM, Anonymous Dianyla, IIF said...

Wasn't the the medicine man in Dances with Wolves named Kicking Bird? :)

 
At 9:06 AM, Blogger Melissa said...

keep in mind that pigeons are just rats with wings.

your compassion is admirable. however, having worked on an ambulance, I recognize the joys and sorrows of the homeless population. the joys, like kristy's link to the homeless story teller, are that they have some of the richest tales to tell. The sorrows include mostly hepatitis, excriment on the outside, and severe mental illness (not placing blame, just letting you know the State of Affairs). I think miss manners bows to miss i-don't-want-hepatitis. saying sorry and continuing is preferable to helping him up. always. leave it to the professionals. with gloves.

 
At 9:08 AM, Blogger Melissa said...

ps- my word verification for that comment was "ppsokio." it's hard for me to write about excriment and then "verify" it by writing pp. sorry about the potty humor....

 
At 10:24 AM, Blogger keri said...

I'm not sure if you have to live in NYC to truly appreciate the hilarity of this post...but it helps. Do you guys know the "pigeon lady" from the Home Alone movie? yeah, well, she was fashioned after a real person in NYC and EVERY DAY she feeds the pigeons right outside my office... it is not all cute like the movie, it's gross...
definitely the pigeons fault...

 

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