New Zealand is so nice that they gave me a driver’s license just because I asked for one.
It’s probably for the best that they don’t know how long I waited to get my license back in Pennsylvania (and that it involved several months of parallel parking practice). With that in mind, just walking into an auto inspection shop to be magically and immediately licensed with just the barest of visual tests seems both ludicrous and like a grave error on the part of my new country.
Let’s be honest: driving is pretty different here. It’s not just the whole left side of the road thing and all the roundabouts. It’s not understanding what the method is behind when there are white lines versus yellow lines versus double lines. It’s not being able to quickly decipher all of the various “watch out for wildlife” semiotic signs. It’s not knowing the procedure of what to do if you are pulled over by the police.
The woman who issued my license was a gem, like a bawdy and hilarious alternate take on Joni Mitchell. I gave my typical cold steel stare to her camera and when she saw the photo she told me, “You already look like you’re angry for being pulled over for whatever you were doing before the officer asked for your license.”
“Oh, I’m not going to get pulled over. I drive like the most cautious grandmother you’ve ever met. The only problem could be that I don’t know what all the road signs mean.”
“Oh really? Should I be worried?”
“Well, I figured out that ‘Give Way’ was about everyone being very polite, which isn’t possible in the States. But I remain very concerned about the ‘Watch for Kereru’ signs. Have you seen those birds? One flew into the side of my house and it was like a bomb went off!”
Let me back up for a moment.
Kereru are like extremely oversized and somewhat adorable wood pigeons. They are the wild turkey of the pigeons family. E spotted one last year when we were looking at houses, and when she pointed it out to me I said, “That whole thing is one bird? Are you sure?”
I am not a doctor of birds like my friend Lori, but my layperson speculation is that the kereru’s brain is maybe not complex enough to account for them being the size that they are and also a bird that is meant to fly through the air.
They carry themselves very proudly in the fashion of a beast that is completely unaware of anything happening in their immediate surroundings. It gives them the distinct look of something that ought to be extinct. You know what I mean – you’ve seen the museum dioramas. If kereru existed anywhere other than an island with virtually no land mammals they would’ve never made it this long. I’ve seen some kereru in action here prior to the one that hit the side of our house, and they have a very dazed and confused quality to them at all times.
Part of that is the public intoxication factor.
You see, kereru get bombed on ripe fruit. I swear, this is a real thing and not some apocryphal Kiwi myth. They gorge themselves on ripe fruit during the summer. Again, they are the size of a roasting bird, so that is a lot of fruit. Then, the kereru doze off in said heat due to said gorging, and the fruit actually ferments in their crop (which is an extra storage compartment in the esophagus, like pockets in a dress). They are living, breathing, self-fermenting bags of wine.
The result: drunken bird bombs who have no idea of their surroundings and do not know which was is up.
It was not especially warm on the day a kereru tried to detonate itself against the side of our house, so I cannot say for sure if it was drunk. I was downstairs in my office doing some sort of comic book thing. Suddenly, I heard what I was sure was some sort of explosive crash. I assumed a delivery truck had come up our drive too quickly and crashed into our house.
I ran upstairs to investigate the damage from above, which is when I noticed a giant, bird-shaped smear on our sliding glass door and an extremely large, extremely confused kereru looked more dazed than usual on the deck below.
From here, allow me to direct you to this primary source account of the drama, as discussed between E and I in our ongoing chat thread:
P: ONE OF THOSE GIANT DUMB PIGEONS JUST CRASHED INTO OUR DOOR
P: It sounded like a bomb went off
P: Door is okay. Pigeon may be in trouble.
E: A kereru?
P: Yes. Like, as big as a chicken. It cannot take off now ;(
E: I think there are wildlife rescue services you can call
P: So, not fair game for roasting?
E: Possibly already marinated with some kind of boozy berry
At this juncture, I ventured outside to try to assess the kereru situation. Maybe I could try to get it to walk in a straight line down one of the planks of our deck to assess its sobriety.
I quickly found that even trying to get the bird to stand upright was going to be a challenge, let alone getting it to take wing. Our sliding door had put the whammy on it. I was a bit flummoxed of what to do, so I just had a nice chat with the bird.
Ten minutes later:
P: Managed to coax it to take wing, but it’s not long for this world. And there is, like, a bird-print on our window. Poor dumb thing.
E: Probably could have called someone to come get it and rehab it. Rather than, ya know, sending it off to die alone.
P: Well, it flew away and out of sight. It’s not like I could have stopped it.
E: So your use of the word “coaxed” is confusing
P: I mean, I gave it a very inspirational talk.
That is all true. When my attempts to herd the bird utterly failed and it couldn’t make up over our railing, I switched tactics. I gave that bird the most inspirational speech you’ve heard outside of a Based On Real Events sports movie.
While I don’t have this monumental oration recorded, here’s the gist of it.
“Look, bird. I know. Your life was so easy for so long, and now it’s hard. Like, not yours personally, but your species. This was a paradise where you could eat all morning and then day drink internally all day. Then, we came along with all of these cars and windows.
But, you are a large bird. A proud bird. A bird that is completely oblivious to the world around him or her, because I do not know anything about your sex-linked characteristics.
My point is: you can do this. Because, my deck doesn’t matter to you. Nothing matters to you.
You can do this. Fly, kereru! Fly.”
In other news, I think I might start coaching some sort of sportsball team.
Oh, and, now I’m legal to drive in New Zealand. Hopefully I am better than driving than the bird is flying.