I was waiting to turn right on to a busy main street, and the car ahead of me was turning left. Turning right is a much easier maneuver in heavy traffic. There was no traffic light. The stream of traffic on the main street was relentless. I began to think that I would be behind the left turner forever, or at least for much longer than my patience could hold out. I never try to turn left with so much traffic to contend with; I turn right and try to find an intersection with a traffic light that allows me to turn left and go around the block so I can turn right and go in right direction. This is a strategy especially favoured by impatient seniors with flagging reflexes.
The stream of traffic showed no signs of letting up, and I started to curse. I have a propensity to reach for the most offensive vulgarities when I’m stuck in traffic. I’m not proud of it. I do it only when I’m alone in the car. We once had a dog that loved to ride in the car but wouldn’t go with me unless somebody else was coming.
Sometimes, to make myself feel better, I swear in one of the several languages I have not quite mastered but have been careful to learn to curse in. Somehow it seems less creepy than hurling vulgarities in English. Mam cię w dupie! I shouted at the left turner in Polish. Vaffanculo, testa di cazzo! I muttered in Italian, gesticulating wildly. Lófasz a seggedbe! This latter Hungarian curse I learned from an old Hungarian Jew I used to play chess with. It’s a really bad one.
Suddenly a young woman emerged from the passenger side of the left turner. She walked slowly—ambled, actually—across the crosswalk on the main street, stopping traffic and giving the left turner and me plenty of time to make our turns. The left turner could then stop and give the young woman time to get back into the car.
My first thought was what clever, crow-like behaviour. A friend of mine used to feed her dog in the backyard. Once she noticed two crows swoop down into the yard on either side of the dog. One of them would hop toward the dog, and when it went after him, the other crow stole food from the dog’s dish. Then they would switch roles. The dog never caught on, and the crows managed to eat most of its food.
Cooperating like that to achieve a mutually beneficial goal is what crows do. Of course, crows are mostly in search of food, but anybody who frequents a supermarket, can’t think that humans are much different. Imagine how crows would handle a long line at the express checkout in the supermarket. Two or three crows would divert the line by claiming the store was giving away turkeys or something, and the crow with the groceries would slip in and be first.
An elementary school teacher once told me that during a teachers’ strike, she noticed that crows would show up at the playground exactly when recess was supposed to begin and look very bewildered that no kids were around. They came to the playground at recess time because they knew kids tend to drop some of whatever they’re eating. They probably found a private school that wasn’t on strike.
In my opinion, crows have adapted much better to urban living than most humans, who suffer from all sorts of stress-related illnesses. It helps, of course, that the crows can fly over traffic.