JUST THINKING: The bird

Just Thinking | Julie Stafford

My mom tells a story about a time when my best friend and I were about 4, riding in the back seat of my friend’s family station wagon along Satterlee Road.

Apparently a car pulled out to pass us at a high rate of speed and my friend — who also was the youngest of three kids and the only girl — urged, “Give ‘em the bird, Julie.” Always up for a dare, I tucked my hands in my armpits and began flapping my elbows like crazy. Obviously, she was a little ahead of me in learning from her brothers how to really give “the bird.”

While I kind of like my interpretation of “the bird,” I also know that most people aren’t that innocent. The other day, for example, I was at a four-way stop and it was a close call as to who got to the intersection first — me or the guy driving the green Ford Escape. Who would be the polite one and let the other go first? Me or would he? Turns out, I pondered a moment too long for my Ford friend and got the “real bird.”

Now I’m not saying I don’t get impatient or irritated when people drive slowly on M-57 or cut in line for ice cream or chitty chat while checking out at the grocery store even though there are five folks with full carts behind them. But “the bird” is not how I would communicate my frustration. Actually, doing so probably would make me feel guilty for days.

My kids will attest that my style of communication in these situations usually is to have a pretend conversation with the target of my ire. Something like, “Honey, what the heck are you doing? Drive like you mean it.”

This is a world filled with hurry and anger and disrespect. And this is a time of year that seems to heighten anxiety and frustration. After all, it’s supposed to be a joyous, celebratory time of year with family and friends. But for many, it ends up being a reminder of their painful losses, their dire needs and all those things they can’t provide for their families.

I’d like to suggest that instead of being quick with the finger or a harsh set of words, let’s take a deep breath and exhale and if you absolutely have to, tuck your hands in your armpits and flap your elbows like crazy.

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