There's a few questions life throws at you that you never get to answer. Questions like "If you fall off a really high building, are you dead before you hit the ground?", "How long would I survive on the North Pole" and " "Do I look fat in a rubber suit?". Questions like these, at least if you're lucky, never get answered beyond a doubt (although if I can guess: yes, probably less then a day and yés) and that's the way the world is supposed to be.
And yet since last week I can answer one of these questions, namely: how long does it take to capture a bird. The answer? The better part of an afternoon, with help.
Last week I was walking through the east side of Amsterdam with my friends Merel (not the Merely one listed to the left, at the time I think she was feeding mineral water to a cat that is not hers...) and Sarah and we were having a lovely afternoon. We had spent some time dissing 1980's pop music, people asking you to join charities on the street and Merel's addiction of doing so (doing good things is so 1999) and some annoying Christian girls who were trying to persuade people to give their life to Jesus.
The normal stuff.
And then we walked past some birds and my, otherwise beloved friend, Merel noticed something was wrong with one of them. Apparently, something to do with his paw. I shrugged and was ready to move on (birds die, women make less money then men and untalented people make hitsingles, it's nature) but Merel had decided that this bird needed to be rescued.
Why we had to save it was never really made clear to neither Sarah nor me. But we love her and so we fully cooperated in Mission Blackbird (actually it wasn't a blackbird, it was a meerkoet but I don't know the English word for that and I honestly don't care). First we looked up the telephone number of the Animal Ambulance (I did not make this up and yes we have too much money in this country) who then told us that, yes, they were willing to come pick up a wounded bird but we had to catch it first.
How do you catch it? Merel asked.
Throw a blanket over them and they'll get calm.
And so, armed with one of Sarah's towels and a box we went to capture a bird. A bird that did not really want to be captured. And a bird that, despite a hurt leg (paw? foot?) managed to get around quite well while Merel and Sarah chased it and I tried to stand as far away from them as possible without them hating me. On the plus side, I did help by explaining the situation to the people that were crowding the bridge wondering what the hell was going on.
Soon two girls, who dressed like 19 but were most likely 15 or something, decided to help with the bird-catching (or better said the bird-not-catching) while I was sent out to get bread for the animal. When I returned with my hamburger the bird had managed to get into the water and as a way of 'catching it' the two girls were waving the towel at it from the side.
Sarah and I were ready to give up and abandon the towels and we were about to convince Merel to do the same when this woman (who was either a performance artist, a junkie or both) emerged and asked if we needed her to go into the water to catch the bird. Amsterdam canal water, I should add, is pretty much black and the swans who swim in it gray. Merel would later describe the woman as "very nice" while Sarah and I preferred "a total lunatic".
Before one of us could tell her "Yes please" or the far more appropriate "Are you mental?" the woman was already taking off her shoes and socks and walked into the water to catch the bird, who, if my mind reading skills are still ok, was thinking "what the f---". After a few tries she did manage to catch the bird but the box was to small and it escaped, swimming to the other side of the bridge.
Which would have been the right moment to actually give up.
But noooooooo. Armed with a new bigger box Sarah and I were send out to get (there's three stores in her own neighborhood she can no longer visit) the two girls and Merel chased the bird to the other side of the bridge where the hunt started yet again. And to my sruprise, this time succesful.
We caught a f-ing bird.
The animal ambulance people managed to show up three hours later and when they took the bird out of the box we had kept it in they looked at us like we were 10 year olds. "Did you three rescue this birdie?". When one of the women (who looked like she was a founding member of the Green Party) examnined the bird she told us probably nothing was wrong with it, but they'd send it to the bird shelter anyway.
Saving those who did not need saviour. I felt like one of those Christian girls singing in the mall.