luck (and bird shit)


I've always been a lucky fellow, and never really understood why. Then a Chinese-Canadian friend of mine once gave my two explanations.

  1. I have a dragon tattoo
  2. I keep getting crapped on by birds

At the time, I didn't know that bird shit was considered lucky, but it's as plausible an explanation as I've got. Because it's true: I get crapped on by birds rather a lot. It's been twenty times, now.

Ground spattered with bird crap
Somewhere I'd probably stand.

1. The first time I was shit upon by a bird was in the mid 80's when my brother and I were 'swimming' in a river in western Alberta. Swimming being a loose word that better might be replaced with the expression 'floating down an extremely rocky river with our shoes on lest we cut open a foot or break/twist an ankle among the rocks in the fast-flowing water'. A good Alberta tradition—this kind of floating is carried out during the brief Summer weeks when the weather is hot and incredibly dry.

We had come upon a bridge. I decided I didn't like the looks of the water conditions beyond the bridge, so I stood. No sooner had I straightened up in the knee-high water than something appeared on my—then untattooed—chest. I looked down in surprise at the narrow white strip that extended from near my shoulder to almost my swim trunks, and realized I'd been shit upon. My brother and parents, standing by the car on the gravel bank, all thought it was hysterically funny. I simply started in disbelieve for a moment, then sank back into the water.

Looking up, I could see distant birds among the beams of the bridge. I guess it was just... luck. That night, I found a spider cooked into my pie. That's right, I found it before I ate it. If that's not luck, I dunno what is. We went on to have a fine time, taking in the Frank slide and the rest of the sights.

2. The second time I can recall being crapped on by a bird was about eight years later, when I was heading to a pub with my brother Ken, his wife-to-be Heidi, and my friend Kamil. We were downtown in sleepy old St. Catharines. A goddamn pigeon crapped on my shoulder. But we had a good time, so the bird crap hadn't hurt.

3. A couple of years passed. Then one day, I was riding up the elevator in Toronto's First Canadian tower, and I noticed two coworkers from a different floor (which meant they were from Marketing or something like that, and might as well have been from a different planet) were staring at my coat and smirking at one another. It was a winter coat with broad lapels that habitually flopped forward, so I couldn't see what they were looking at. I stepped off the elevator, and as I headed to my desk, I had a look at the far side of the lapel. It was bird crap, and it was at least several hours old, as it had hardened to a crumbly consistency.

I wasn't please that I'd been walking around the city for God only knew how long with birdshit on my jacket, nor was I impressed with my dull lifeless coworkers that said nothing. Birdshit is difficult to get out of wool, let me tell you. As for the Marketeers or Customer Service staff or whatever they were; that's Toronto for you.

Is this seat free?
Is this seat free?

I cleaned up and laughed about having been crapped on three times in one lifetime. Then I got a better job and never again saw a place staffed so thoroughly with the likes of the drones in that elevator. Definitely a bit of luck, actually. The job I went to remains to this day the most fun I've had on the clock.

4. About three years later, I was late for a corporate training course, and moving quickly. Somehow, I still managed to get nailed. Happily, I was wearing my by-then aging Gore-tex jacket, and getting the shit off was a breeze. By odd coincidence, a fellow from Arthur Andersen I'd worked with some months prior named Baskaran happened to be in the washroom of the same hotel, taking the same course. He approached me to share in my laugh over my (mis)fortune as I was running the place out of paper towels. I might add that birdsh*t doesn't come out of Gore-tex terribly well, either. The course turned out to be quite good, though. Helped along, no doubt, by my sacrifice to the avian gods.

The above article was written in 2001. What comes next... happened next.

5. Update: 2002.02.16

It's happened again. This one occurred as I was walking down Robson Street in Vancouver. I was crapped on rather mightily, by a crow this time. Mercifully, crow shit is no worse than the gull or pigeon variety (I'd always imagined it would be utterly more foul, for some reason). And I was wearing, of all things, my rain coat. Oh frabjous day. Maybe now I can find a job!

6. Update: 2002.08.18

Well, six months and two days later, I've still had no luck with a job (or with much else, actually), but I have had another dose of bird shit. This time it was on the beach as I was about to approach a woman who I'd noticed had the same dragon tattoo I've got. I had just tucked away my camera to walk over to where she was lying with her husband, when I felt something hit my leg and crotch. I looked down, and there was a large dollop of rather dark birdshit about two centimeters to the right of my fly. Another, even larger smear graced my leg about ten centimeters above my ankle. It was the biggest shitting by a bird to date.

After struggling to get it cleaned up with sandy saltwater, I decided I was no longer presentable enough to go chatting to strangers on the beach (what an image that would have made, someone fully dressed with a stained wet patch in the crotch asking about women's tattoos—I passed on the idea). Definitely the worst bird-shitting to date. Hopefully of a lifetime. I don't know what luck befell me next.

7. Update: 2002.11.09

Toronto. This was another of the charming episodes where I didn't even notice the event. It was my friend Charlie that pointed out that I'd been crapped on just as we entered a cemetery to take some photos.

Three times in one year is too much, honestly. Happily, the birds gave me a break in '03.

8. Update: 2004.07.02

Halifax, Nova Scotia. I don't know how I got through 2003 without any bird crap landing on me, but my (un?)lucky streak seems to be over. It happened today as I was on my way to pick up a rental car. Some small bird got me right on the right wrist (say that ten times fast—heh; maybe it was a wren).

I am, by now, resigned to a lifetime of this. However, nothing happened in '05.

9. Update: 2006.11.08

Thailand. This time, I even have a photo. We'd just finished eating at a small stand beneath a highway overpass, where office workers go for some cheap and quick grub. Sort of an outdoor, tropical mono-cultural food court. We'd eaten our nice light dishes, and had stepped back into the street. Wending our way through the human and vehicular traffic, a gust of pigeons washed over us. A slight sensation at my knee caused me to look down... at some fresh shit.

To the laughter of the locals, I retrieved a tissue or two from another food stall and poured some of my bottled water on it to rid my pants of the kind of stain with obvious crusties. Later in the evening I managed to get most of the rest of it out. Then I wore the pants for the next three days, almost continuously.

A fine way to start married life.

10. Update: 2007.11.08

A year later, in a different city in a different Asia country. It was an enormous load, easily among the top two (along with the unfortunate incident at the beach). Probably a cormorant, or possibly a crane. Something that ate lots of fish, in any event. It hit me right on the shoulder, like an egg cracking. Three centimeters to the left and it would have gone inside my cycling jacket and ruined the shirt I was wearing for the day at the office. Ten centimeters higher, and it would have splashed across my face.

me, hit with bird shit

What happened next was .. nothing. I went a full five years without being crapped on once. I have a theory to explain this, and it comes down to the number of children I have at any time. When I had zero children, I got crapped on ten times. When I had one child, I was never crapped on at all. Then, in 2012, we had a second child, and it started happening at an accelerated rate.

11. Update: 2012.07.28

It's been quite a while, but it's happened again. A bird above me was doing that type of "stalling" where it looks like it's going to crap. I watched it warily, and didn't see it unload. But it did; it got my shoulder and someone pointed it out to me. Just a tiny dot, about one square centimeter or so. This is the first time in nearly five years!!

All in all, a lucky crapping indeed. And a nice bit of luck to welcome our little Emma.

12. Update: 2013.04.18

Oh, bother. It's picking up speed again. This time I took it on the collar and shoulder, a smear of white shit that spattered pretty badly because I was at speed on my bike at the time.

13. Update: 2013.08.21

So is this daughter of mine some sort of talisman for bird crap? Or is there a numerical explanation—do I only get crapped on by birds when I have zero or an even number of kids? Anyway, it's happened again and to be honest it was a "dream" shitting. A fat circular splot on my right thigh just in from my knee as I sat on a beach having a picnic with some friends. It was a herring gull, a member of that species that blesses Toronto with its charming presence year round. It had just taken to the air two or three meters away and I believe it hit me because I wouldn't part with any food. But it was okay: even the secondary splatter was OK; just a dot on the opposite thigh. Given that the bird missed some open food containers and missed our little Emma's head by about twenty centimeters, I'll consider this a "perfect shit".

13a, a possibly bird-crapping, 2013.11.27

The weather's been suddenly colder, and today I was tromping around in my boots and parka after picking up my son when I noticed that the shoulder of my parka had a suspicious white area on it. It was the right size and color for bird shit. I can't think what else it might have been, because it wasn't warm enough for melt-water, but a) I never saw a bird and b) it must have virtually liquid because it was a thin stain indeed and without any real lumps or residue or darker grey splotches.

The birds were off their game in '14 and '15, as I avoided their blessings of luck altogether.

14. Update: 2016.02.29 - Shot to the sleeve, and a bird's to blame

It's funny how there's such variability to these incidents. Nothing at all for 2008 - 2011, then a flurry of four in 2012 - 2013, and then silence for nearly three years. But today I arrived at work to find the familiar grey-and-yellow smear still cooling on my sleeve. I take it as a good sign: I'll need some luck for some things I have going on!

15. Update: 2017.10.09 - Like a frangipane in my hair, kinda.

This morning at breakfast at grandma's house I mentioned that I'd had a comment on this web page from someone who was hoping to hear back about a job interview, and had indeed gotten the happy news of a new job shortly after being crapped on by a bird. My mum responded that she thought she had been several times, feeling that something had landed in her hair. But it had never actually been bird crap.

This afternoon, upon arriving back in Toronto from our visit with her, we were unpacking the car when I felt something strike my hair. Naturally, it was indeed my fifteenth bird blessing.

16. Update: 2018.03.07 - a hit! my shoeeee!!!

I discovered splat of crap on my shoe. It came off so cleanly, I was really thankful. I wonder what manner of flying poop vector it had been. Something small, but not as tiny as a sparrow, I think. Little did I suspect what the birds of 2018 had in store for me.

17. Update: 2018.07.09 - Revenge of the swallow.

This morning I was sitting on a balcony in Miyakonojo, Japan, and noticed that some swallows were parking themselves not far away. There were two of them with their beaks crammed with bugs. I looked about and spotted their nest and realized that they were hesitant to approach with their babies' food while I was there. So I went inside.

Later, as we were preparing to leave, I was standing in the parking lot and noticed the swallows diving after mosquitoes. One of them made a wide loop, well below their normal flight patterns, and let some crap fly at the bottom of its arc. The crap hit my ankle. The swallow chittered noisily. The thing had done it on purpose!

18. Update: 2018.08.12 - Crapped on while getting skunked.

It's happened a third time in 2018 (and the year is yet young). This morning I was fruitlessly fishing at Bluffer's Park when I felt the familiar tap on my hat from out of nowhere. I don't know what type of bird today's villain was, but its poo was pure white and made a little disk. Not a fish- or fruit-eating bird, this time.

Later that day, in a different location, for the first time in Canadian waters I caught a trout, so I guess the luck's finally come through.

19. Update: 2019.06.04 - Nailed while cycling

Hard to believe it took ten months, but it's happened again. This time, while riding my bike home through the city center.


20. Update: 2022.05.04 - May the Fourth Be With You

My darling daughter warned that a low-flying pigeon had come close to crapping on me while were meeting friends in a park in Kawasaki. Well, it turned out I had a drop on my sleeve - maybe the same bird, maybe one of the many others.

honorable mention

In July of 2020, I was crapped on by .. a largish insect.

I think this is from a caterpillar

luck and deserving

Buddhists say things like Wise people know that everything they achieve or fail at in life are only consequences of their own actions and thoughts. But I disagree. I haven't done much with my days, but my luck remains pretty good. There are hazards in every life, but I find that in broad terms, I've managed to stumble into everything I need: health (mostly), shelter, food, education, employment (um, mostly), and now a woman who'll share her life with me and a son and daughter who are happy and healthy and great to know. That this is owing solely to my own actions seems a little far-fetched.

On the other hand, it's seductive to think that I was just such a great person in a past life that my just reward is the good life I'm currently living. Perhaps I could accept the fact that I'm just that deserving. But I think I'll instead make a quiet nod to the birds and keep one eye on the sky.

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rand()m quote

Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.

—Eric Hoffer, The Temper of Our Time