This morning I saw a dead pigeon on Kearny Street lying belly up on the sidewalk. It was clear that it was newly dead, and for a few seconds I worried it was maybe even a little bit alive, though I don’t think so. It was an unusually nice day for a San Francisco summer, warmer by at least 10 or 15 degrees than it has been in weeks. There was actual sun and people were smiling. Young urban professionals were streaming by with $10 lunches in light brown biodegradable containers, sauces and plasticware balanced carefully on top. We were just off the tourist path, but occasional European seeming foursomes—two parents, two kids—walked slowly by, looking up and around, oblivious to the masses trying to efficiently use the half-hour their bosses granted them to eat.
Some folks saw the pigeon well before they arrived all that close to it, and went wide without ever having to look too closely at the corpse. Some reared back in shock seconds before they almost stepped on it. Some didn’t react at all, some sped up, some slowed down, some grimaced, some laughed, some said ‘ew’. One little girl clutched her mom’s hand and kept turning around to stare back at it the whole way down the block. I tried to give her a few reassuring smiles when we caught eyes.
I didn’t know what to do about a dead creature on the sidewalk, but I couldn’t just ignore it. I leaned against a bike rack and called 311, our line for city services, and gave them the address where the pigeon met its final resting place. They said someone would come out to collect it. Then the guy on the phone said thanks, paused, and said “We really have to respect all life, huh?” I agreed, blocking the memory of dozens of defeated looking men and women experiencing homelessness in the surrounding blocks I had just walked up from.
Fly on, little pigeon.