For over 20 years, i was part of a close-knit technical community. Seeing the same faces at meeting after meeting, conference after conference, friendships (as well as a few adversarial relationships) formed.
round of drunken debauchery workshop in New Orleans a few years back, my pod of Dawg Boyz was doing our very best to support the local bar-based economy.
Two colleagues, Charles and Greg, were avid bird watchers, and trying their best to call it a night to allow an early start to their birding adventure the next morning. Being one of the more emotionally mature folks at the table, i taunted them for being big pussies and wimping out.
Greg: But we’re going to be getting up at 4:00 am! We can’t stay for another round.
daisyfae: Aw, c’mon, you big stinkin’ baby. You’re acting like a girl!
Charles: You don’t understand – this is quite serious business, and we need our sleep.
daisyfae: Right. Looking at birds is extraordinarily taxing. How hard can it be?
Invariably they stayed a little longer – but only after i took the bait, and agreed to join them in the hotel lobby at 4:30 am to get schooled in the fine art of birding. And i did.
As it turns out, much of the ‘early’ was necessary to support their ritualistic search for coffee and donuts prior to the actual bird watching. The drive to Lake Pontchartrain took another 45 minutes.
still drunk from the night before napping in the back seat, while they drank their coffee and gnawed on donuts. We entered the wildlife area, and i perked up a bit, attempting to pay attention and not welch on the bet.
Parking and wandering down a few paths, we sat quietly and waited. Charles kept making this annoying “pishing” sound – some sort of bird call. Eventually, as the sun was just rising, they got quietly excited, looking here and there through binoculars.
Charles: Pretty sure that’s a juvenile Wooble Nibbler*. Can you see the tail markings?
Greg: No, but it looks to me like a female Amber Bock*.
They tried to teach me. i tried to listen and learn. But it just wasn’t my bag…
As we were driving back, they continued to try to explain the joy they found in “collecting” birds.
daisyfae: But you’re not really “collecting” them. You’re just looking at the bits and parts of the bird and identifying it. i don’t get it. In my world, it ain’t collecting unless you bag ‘em and tag ‘em, then either put a carcass in the freezer or hang it on the wall!
It was pretty clear that this would be my first, and last, bird watching venture with them. And that was fine with everyone in the rental car.
Passing an old shed along the one-lane road, i nearly jumped out of the window.
daisyfae: Hey, stop the car! Did you see that? Back in the weeds next to that garage!
Charles mashed the brakes, and i rolled down the window, squinting in the morning light.
daisyfae: There it is! Looks like an old flat-fender Willys Jeep! Back up so i can see the grill and doors – need to figure out if it was a military or civvie… Jesus, i don’t think i’ve ever seen one un-restored in the wild!
* not actual birds, of course, but i obviously was paying no attention at this point. The buzz was wearing off, and the hangover settling in, and i was thinking about my coffee still sitting in the cup holder back in the car…