The only thing flying is an invisible sparrow

There’s a bird flying around Gate 2 in the A terminal at Washington National airport. I’ve got a box of leftover doughnuts from yesterday, and the coffee I’ve gotten to go with them is brassy but drinkable.

It’s a sparrow, I think. It’s picking at stray crumbs on the blue carpet, and I’m hoping it doesn’t lunge for my caramel doughnut.

Weirder than the sparrow: No one’s paying any attention. Everyone’s on an iPad, or reading, or talking. There’s one woman who’s been humming Christmas carols to herself — she’s in maybe in her 60s and wearing black Doc Martens, which I take as the sign of an enlightened soul, and she doesn’t react either. She’s reading a novel, pausing only to select an Altoid from a tin. Am I the only one seeing this bird? 

Our flight is delayed. Which is ok; I’ve got nowhere to be. This weekend was the kind of perfect balance between somewhere to be and nowhere to be. Cake in the afternoon, oysters at midnight and long, lingering catch-ups that remind me just how intertwined I am with people I barely ever see. 

We’re getting lots of apologies about the delay from the gate agent. She keeps saying, “I apologize for the delay” — the first-person pronoun — and I can’t help but wonder if this is some kind of marketing tactic that JetBlue uses to make people sound like they’re taking personal responsibility for the delay of an entire aircraft. It takes the edge off the anger. It’s not some faceless, “we apologize” — it’s “Again, I really do apologize.” And I want to go over there and tell her that it’s ok. We all make mistakes.

We all do. I mean, somehow a bird got in here. Unless that was the intention — someone started a nest of birds in National, and they just live here now. I say “nest of birds” although I only see one, because I can’t imagine how lonely it would be if this sweet little scavenger was all on her own. She? He? I don’t know my birds. We’ll call it a “she”. She bounces, looks up at me, just a foot away, and takes off for the rafters. 

5 thoughts on “The only thing flying is an invisible sparrow

  1. I am pretty sure there are always birds, little city sparrows, swooping around in National, regardless of the terminal you are in. When I was there in November, there were several chirping and looking curiously at the bustle…

  2. In September, Marta and I traveled to Maryland for a friend’s wedding. There must be something about D.C. airports and birds, because we saw one at Dulles, too. A swallow, perhaps? A relative of your pal at National?

    I also remember thinking that it was sad (and more than a little ironic) that this bird was trapped in an airport, of all places. With its wings, it could fly anywhere; yet there it was, flitting around the terminal like the rest of us earth-bound beings. Maybe it was just passing through – a layover, of sorts – resting its weary wings from some long migratory journey, or maybe it was just looking for a nibble of some unwary traveler’s doughnut…

    Whatever the explanation, I hope both of our feathered friends found their way back outdoors.

    1. Thank you, Evan! So nice to get a note from you; I’ve been following your unfolding writing adventures via FB. Happy holidays!

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