Do you have a weird and/or irrational fear?

I do. I am terrified of birds.

When I was younger, I went to the Philadelphia Zoo on a field trip. Obviously, zoos have bird exhibits and this zoo had a specific exhibit featuring hummingbirds. You could get a cup of food (sugar water if I remember correctly?) and feed the birds as they flew around you.

Great fun. Only not.

I don’t remember being particularly excited about this activity but was willing to go in and try it out. I remember one of the zoo employees telling me to be extra careful as the birds may be more attracted to my freckles and red hair and may even peck at me. That’s a great idea- tell a ginger kid they might be a human bird target as they are walking into a human-sized birdcage essentially. As if gingers don’t have enough to worry about in this world (ie. going extinct. Google it if you don’t believe me). So thanks a lot.

Well, needless to say, I was terrified. I remember standing frozen by the front door, praying to not become a human birdfeeder. The other people galivanted around the cage, oblivious to my anxiety. I had doubts I would make it out alive and if I did, I’d probably be scarred for life.

Good news. I made it out alive, but not without permanent scarring. Not physical, but mental. Deep mental scarring.

You just can’t trust birds. You never know what they are going to do… they are uncontrollable and unpredictable. Are they going to fly and peck your eyes out? Are they going to poop on you? Are they going to do both? No one knows.

While working at a daycare between my freshmen and sophomore years of college, I was forced to relive my childhood nightmare as we took the kids on a field trip to the Philadelphia Zoo. Although I was able to stay out of the hummingbird exhibit (thank goodness for children who were already aware of how terrifying birds can be), I unknowingly entered a building which I soon found out was an aviary, where they allowed birds to fly around freely.

They don’t allow you to roam around in the lion’s den with the lions, why would they think it was okay to send you in with the birds?

I wasn’t mentally prepared for this, but I was responsible for children at that moment, so I knew I had to keep it together. I took deep breaths and encouraged my group of kids to move through quickly (I played a game with them to see who could make it to the exit door first… if in doubt, bribing with games and prizes is always a win-win).

I got through, with only a slight anxiety attack and spent a few minutes outside while waiting for the other two groups to get through. After everyone gathered together, we quickly realized there was a child missing (from one of the other groups, FYI) and somehow, I was roped into going back into the aviary and finding him. I had barely gotten my breath back from the last walk-through, but I also knew that I needed to follow my supervisor’s directions, so in I went. When I entered, all I could hear was the overwhelmingly loud screeches of the birds, it so very loud. I just knew they were alerting each other that the ginger was back for round 2.  Once I could gather my thoughts and catch my breath, I quickly moved as quickly as I could, in and out of the throngs of people that for someone reason, chose to stay and actually look at the birds. Finally, I saw the missing child, picked him up and ran out of the aviary as fast as my out-of-shape legs could carry me and a child that was too big to be carrying.  I doubt that child remembers how I saved his life that day and prevented him from being kidnapped by strangers attacked by the birds, but I will never forget that day.

Going through life with this fear has its challenges, but somehow, I’ve managed to continue on while trying to not let this affect my normal daily activities. When people find out I’m scared of birds, I get mixed responses, but I don’t think anyone truly understands.

I do feel like I’ve made a little progress. We live in an apartment complex that has a pond, complete with ducks, geese, and one blue heron. While I haven’t worked up the nerve to go to the pond, I have become fond of feeding the ducks from the safety of my balcony. The ducks recognize when our balcony door slides open and start making their way over. They quack and wait patiently for the pieces of bread that are dropped down to them, but they never fly up to my level, which is why we can maintain our friendship. It takes baby steps, right?

Another weird fear of mine is public restrooms. Growing up, I refused to use public restrooms – not just smelly ones on the side of the highway or disgusting gas station ones, pretty much any. I didn’t have any reason for this, I just couldn’t. It could have been a quick trip to the grocery store or a long road trip, I wasn’t using the bathroom. People would always remind me how unhealthy it was to hold it, but that didn’t concern me. Granted, I do pee a little every time I sneeze, but I can’t confirm that is from not peeing for 10+ hours as a child.

I have improved in this area a lot as I pretty regularly use public restrooms now. Going to college helped with that as I didn’t have much of a choice. I also found that when hiking, I’d prefer a toilet, albeit possibly dirty, over peeing outside. Well, I’d prefer neither, but if I had to choose.

So there you go, now you about mine. Let me hear about yours!

One thought on “birds.

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