Do Geese Smell Fear?

Fall is my favorite time to ride my bike or go for a run along the towpath. It may be because it’s the time of year I discovered the canal and realized that it was a ‘towpath’ with a history and purpose, and not a ‘toepath,’ which in my imagination was a narrow and treacherous place to run beside the river.

I could say it’s the cooler temperatures, or the explosion of gold, red, and orange along the trail, but reality is that from October to March the path is goose free and that makes me happy.

Before I go on, I should share that I have an extreme fear of birds.  It doesn’t matter how big or how small they are, I’m certain that they are out to get me.  I won’t set foot into the aviary at the zoo, let alone sit in the waiting room at the train station if a swallow has somehow found its way into the building.

I’m not sure where the fear originated, it might have stemmed from watching Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds at an impressionable age. Or it maybe it was being dive bombed by birds of an unremembered species while the mowing the lawn as a teenager; of course, I’m not 100% certain whether either memory is real or imagined.

At any rate, the geese on the towpath present quite a problem for me. I’m not certain they ‘smell fear,’ but I am convinced that they, not so secretly, enjoy knowing that whenever I get within three feet of them the hair on the back of my neck rises, I break into a cold sweat and I’m instantly covered in goose bumps.

I’ve received a lot of guidance on how to ‘face my fear’ and ‘overcome my obstacles’ as it relates to the taunting flock of feathers that guard the towpath from spring until fall.  The advice ranges from hissing and clapping at them to instructions to raise my arms above my head, make my hands look like claws, and growl really loud while hopping on the path.  I’m pretty sure the guy who passed along that ‘advice’ just wanted to see if I’d actually do it.

I have to admit I was tempted.

Left is Not a four letter word…..

One of the many things I enjoy about my rides along the canal is the quiet and sense of civility. In a world that is often filled with raised voices and the use of four letter expletives to make a point, it’s a welcome respite.

The other day, not one, not two, but five other cyclists passed me, and not a single one of them bothered to let me know they were coming up behind me.

By the fifth one, I was frustrated, nah, I was downright mad, so I piped up.

“You really should announce yourself.” I shouted.

“It’s ok hon, you weren’t in my way.” was the reply

Doh’!  Are you kidding me?

I guess some people just don’t get it.

Do they not understand that the dog standing quietly next to his owner could suddenly catch the scent of squirrel in the air and bound recklessly onto the path causing a canine collision and a serious case of road rash?

Or perhaps they can’t picture the possibility of a classic Abbott and Costello shtick, complete with a fishing pole and misplaced hook.  Ouch!

Not to mention the prospect of a heels over wheels tumble into the canal.  I’ve seen it happen.  Well, ok, admittedly the guy was drunk and he rode off of the path into the canal on his own, but the point still stands.

Clearly none of these scenarios has crossed their mind, so I can only conclude that they are abiding by some unwritten rule of no four letter words on the towpath.

My message to them is this…

For the love of Pete, let people know when you are passing them.

Shout out and say it.  “Passing on your left”!  Or even just “on your left” will do.  Left is not a four letter word. It’s ok to say it out loud, in fact you can even shout it.

If you have an aversion to the word “left”, then perhaps you could invest in a bell, although personally I find the cheery “ching ching” annoying and it doesn’t let me know for certain that someone is going to pass on my left.

Fellow cyclists, for your safety and mine, remember left is not a four letter word, in fact it might just be music to my ears.

This message is brought to you courtesy of ‘Beth, just being me’  – Please ride responsibly.