The Bird Lady and I keep the same schedule, and most mornings as I am walking to the office, I pass her. When I took her photo today, she stared to yell at me, so I figured I’d better go over to talk with her and make friends.
It turns out that she thought I was taking the pictures to turn her over to the Department of Health. Seems like some folks in the neighborhood are against the Bird Lady because she is attracting the pigeons to their apartment window sills, terraces and gardens. “They reported me to the DOH and said I was a health hazard, but the judge says there is no law against feeding the poor birds.”
In an East European accent, through a mouth missing half its teeth, she told me that someone actually knocked her over recently and landed her in the hospital with a pulled shoulder. Which explains why she cowers up against the wall whenever someone passes,
I tried to explain that I was not going to turn her in, I just wanted to talk to her and write about her in my blog. (Try explaining to the bird lady what a blog is…) I had this idea that I’d write a bird lady profile, you know, how she became a bird lady, what she did before, why she feeds the birds, that sort of thing.
No go. She treated me like a regular papparazi. “Just go away,” she told me, turning her head away and putting her hand into my camera. “Leave me alone.” Clearly, the interview was over.
Lesson learned: If you want to get to know someone, don’t start out by taking their picture without asking. It’s rude. Who the heck did I think I was, anyway?