Thursday, March 29, 2007

The park pervert

When I was in the park taking the first crow coat hanger nest pictures, something rather odd happened that I did not write about because I was still excited about having actually seen a crow coat hanger nest in real life rather than on TV. (I did not know that a couple of days later I was going to find another two and it would become old hat.)

The odd thing that happened concerned one of the usual park perverts sitting on another bench, diagonal from me. This in itself was not odd. There are always park perverts. I did not take pictures of him, because he did not look like a particularly stable person, for reasons that will shortly become clear. But I did keep an eye on him. It is a good idea to keep an eye on park perverts. You never know what they might get up to.

(I should insert a disclaimer here: I do not know that this guy was really a pervert. Nor do I know whether any of the slightly grubby, lone middle-aged guys who haven't shaved for a while that always seem to be hanging around in parks watching children play are actually perverts. However, there have been rather a lot of unpleasant incidents in our area, in parks, involving lone, slightly grubby middle-aged men who haven't shaved for a while, so that any lone, slightly grubby middle-aged man who hasn't shaved for a while and hangs around a park for no obvious respectable reason is suspect. If you are a lone, middle-aged, slightly grubby guy who hasn't shaved for a while and hang around in parks for perfectly innocent reasons that are not obvious, I apologize. I didn't mean you.)

Anyway, this particular lone, slightly grubby middle-aged guy who hadn't shaved for a while (let's just call him a park pervert, shall we? It's quicker to type) was feeding pigeons and watching children play, particularly the eight year old girl with the very short skirt whose clever mother had sent her out to play in the park frequented by lone, grubby, middle-aged men who haven't shaved for a while. And because he was feeding the pigeons rather slowly, taunting them with his full bag of food but doling it out crumb by crumb, they got braver than they should have, and, foolishly trusting, started using him as a landing pad. With a goofy grin on his grubby, unshaven face he let this happen for a while, and then, just when they were getting comfortable with their new friend, he grabbed one of them.

It was about then that I started paying closer attention, while still photographing birds and pretending to ignore him.

He held the pigeon tight. It struggled and tried to flap but he clamped its wings down and held it firmly, still with a goofy grin (and still keeping an eye on the eight year old in the short skirt).

I sat transfixed on my bench, taking unfocused and blurry pictures of crows. My heart suddenly wasn't quite with the crows any more. All my attention was directed to a captured pigeon, and I was trying to develop eyes in the side of my head.

A part of me did not want to know what he was going to do to the pigeon. I had a feeling it was not something I wanted to know, and I knew I was not brave enough to confront him if he started doing something that would be frowned on by the RSPCA. I am not a large or strong person. Only my students are scared of me, and that's only because I have the power to give them bad grades. I was fairly sure that threatening to give this park pervert a bad grade would not work.

So I continued to take bad photos of birds at the same time as keeping a corner of my eye on what the park pervert was up to. I wanted to photograph him, but every time I looked directly at him he looked directly at me, still wearing that goofy grin. It was making me nervous. And every time I glanced he still had the pigeon firmly clutched in his hands. The pigeon seemed to have given up, and was just sitting there, possibly squeezed breathless.

After a while I heard the rustle of a plastic bag, and glanced his way again. What I saw was horrifying.

He was stuffing the pigeon into a small plastic bag.

I had to do something, didn't I? Wasn't it illegal to stuff live pigeons into plastic bags? Or ... perhaps it wasn't? There is a lot of talk here about how pigeons are a health risk in the cities, and about the problem of what to do about them. There are signs in parks instructing the public not to feed the pigeons. If I reported a man stuffing a pigeon into a plastic bag I would probably be laughed at, and he would be given a medal.

I stared, openly now, with horrified fascination as he closed the plastic bag, held it up, and watched it wiggle frantically. He was still wearing the goofy grin on his slightly grubby, middle-aged unshaven face, and I trembled for the pigeon.

Then he glanced at me again, and I looked back at the crows. I am a terrible coward.

After a while I heard the rustle of the plastic bag again, and risked glancing over. What I saw amazed me.

The park pervert held the plastic bag up high, and opened it.

There was a pause, as if the pigeon was assessing whether this was a new trick, and then the bird burst explosively out of the bag. It flew straight up and across the park. I do not think I have ever seen a pigeon fly quite that fast before, or in such a straight line.

I looked back at the park pervert. He was watching the freed pigeon fly away and his whole body was shaking with unrestrained, open-mouthed laughter. He looked like a person who had just been liberated himself. He also looked more than slightly insane.

After the pigeon disappeared over the trees, the park pervert opened a new plastic bag, fished out some more food, and went back to feeding pigeons and watching the eight-year-old with the short skirt. The pigeons, having apparently learned nothing, approached him with their usual idiotic lack of caution.

At that point I didn't think my nerves could stand a repeat episode. I decided it was time to leave.

I had taken enough photographs anyway.


Radioactive Jam said...

What a strange person. Maybe he should relocate to Florida; we have lots of pigeons - all impossibly stupid - and no shortage of plastic bags.

Glad no overt heroics were required for your part. The PP would have been vanquished I am sure, but then all the pigeons and probably a fair number of children would have clamored for your attention. Then the crows would start dropping hangers as tributes, and - yeah.

Ms Mac said...

Now see, I hate pigeons but seeing that would break my heart. How very, very odd. I don't know if I feel sorrier for the pigeon or the very deranged man, to be honest.

Cheryl said...

Iew. (Yes, I've decided that's a real word).

and shudder.

YC said...

I would love to see the crows dropping hangers as tributes...

Anonymous said...

I saw someone disreputable-looking in the city once with a large sack that they were holding open with one hand, while they scattered bird seed with the other. They seemed to be trying to persuade the pigeons into the sack, but fortunately they weren't quite that stupid.

Maybe it was your park pervert or his long-lost cousin.


tinyhands said...

The creativity of the deranged mind never ceases to amaze me.

Carrie said...

Ewww. Pervert is the word, I think. Or bizarre. Or insane. I'm just glad you didn't have to jump in and save the pigeon and find out what a true pervert the guy was.