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The Lonely Pigeon: How To Handle Stress

As I stood up on the train I tripped slightly and had to stumble forward to regain my balance.

In the process of this inelegant demonstration, my wallet tumbled out of my purse and slid across the floor of the train. I heard it fall, but was too busy trying to get my feet back under me (& avoid the gap between the platform and the train) to do anything about it.

Seconds pass, and a young girl picks up my wallet and tries to pass it to me– just in time for the glass doors to close.

Ahhhh! I’m standing helpless on the platform as my wallet departs on the train in the hands of a stranger. It is like a scene in a movie. Both our faces are contorted. White fear grips me. She wanted to hand my wallet to me — but would the siren song of temptation be too much for her to resist now that it is inconvenient for her to get it back to me?

Luckily a translink employee named Shelley is on the platform as well. I approach her and in a panic explain what has just happened. She radios ahead to the next station with an attendant (2 stops away) and proceeds to do everything she can to help reunite me with my wallet. She receives word that the stranger with wallet got off the train at the next stop (where there was no translink employee on duty.) Not knowing whether the stranger was waiting there in hopes of my arrival or en route back towards me; Shelley suggests we divide and conquer. I am to wait at the station in case the stranger returns and Shelley will go to the next station to see if the stranger is waiting for me. A risky plan. But the best option we have.

Shelley and I wait on the platform for the next train. She points out a pigeon and remarks, “Poor thing.” Despite my pounding heart and the inescapable dread that I will not get my wallet back, my interest is piqued enough to ask Shelley what she is referring to.

It turns out that two pigeons had been trying to build a nest underneath the train tracks for the past few days (a rather noisy option, but I guess Vancouver real estate is at a premium, even for the fowl…) Shelley informs me that the train just before mine hit the pigeon’s mate.

As we stand together on the platform, Shelley informs me that the decreased mate’s remains are just out of plain sight on the tracks below and cannot safely be disposed of until the train system closes for the night, “That pigeon will not be able to stop coming to this spot for quite some time.” With that, the train arrives and Shelley departs to see if she can find a stranger she has never seen before, on my behalf.

As everyone else boards the train, I remain on the platform, it’s just me and the newly widowed pigeon.

As it takes Shelley some time to help investigate, I am on the platform for a significant period, long enough to see several trains come and go. People join me on the platform and then they leave. Every time it is the same: the pigeon swirls and circles the spot where its mate lies. It rests on the ledge across from it and shrieks to it in a heart wrenching call. Then a train comes, the pigeon relocates for a brief moment, only to return as soon as it can.

I went from whiteknuckled, clinging to my purse as if squeezing it might make my wallet reappear– to being embarrassed about being so concerned about losing a mere possession.

I slowly stopped beating myself up for my silly slip. I let the wallet go. I started to think about the kind of day this pigeon was having.

I’m not necessarily a pigeon fan. A large congregation of pigeons can really freak me out. In fact, I generally enjoy pigeons best on my plate (in its domesticated version ‘squab.’) But this pigeon really gave me the perspective I needed at that moment. What’s the worse that can happen? I have to cancel all my cards, lose a little cash and get new IDs made? It’s inconvenient, but it’s nothing compared to the loss this pigeon is going through.

Other people that joined me on the platform had no idea why this pigeon was shrieking. A few cast annoyed looks in its direction, ‘why can’t you just fly off and shriek somewhere else?’ I almost wanted to tell them what I knew.

That little pigeon was an incredible lesson in empathy. You just never know why a source of annoyance is being that way. There’s usually a really good reason.

The lonely pigeon taught me a lot that day. That letting go is hard to do. That parting with physical things is not nearly as bad as losing your best friend. And perhaps most importantly, that keeping  your perspective in focus at all times is key, even (especially!) when you are panicking. Ultimately, it is always going to work out. Regardless of how much you stress. In the grand scheme of things, what is truly important?

I was incredibly lucky, Shelley returned with my wallet. THANK YOU to the stranger that picked up my wallet and proved definitively that good people still exist.  Thank you to Shelley & @translink for a major customer service win. Thank you to the lonely pigeon for all that you taught me. Thank you to all my incredibly special friends and family. You all keep me from being a lonely pigeon.

Rest in Peace little pigeon.

Hang in there lonely pigeon- it will get better!