Flocking Together

I’m at it again. Off on another work trip. So there’s A Story. There’s always A Story when I’m allowed to go off on my own  – see my prior two assassination-related posts. At least there were no death attempts this time, only attempts at theft and minor bodily harm. I see this as a step in the right direction.

On today’s episode of “What Will She Get Herself Into Next?”

I found myself, along with my colleagues, on an 8 hour layover in Dubai. No matter how nice a business class lounge is, no one wants to spend 8 hours in it. So I shared a taxi to the Dubai Mall with my colleague who was meeting a relative for lunch. Not wanting to crash their party and not wanting to shop at the Mall <shudder>, I decided to go to the Aquarium. (No, having the words ‘Mall’ and ‘Aquarium’ in the same sentence is not a typo.)

Who doesn’t have a 2-story aquarium tank & a 3rd floor aquatic zoo in their mall? Peasants, that’s who.

Being an anxious introvert, this was akin to a miracle ‘drug’ in the middle of a long day+ of travel. Quietly relaxing for a few hours on my own WITHOUT HAVING TO MAKE SMALL TALK WITH ANYONE, all while enjoying some cool animals? Yes, please!!!!

So I meandered though the giant aquatic tunnel (amazing), and headed up to the zoo (also awesome). I saw penguins and giant crabs and thousands of fish and a 1,650 lbs/16.5 ft crocodile (those measurements are also not typos). I petted baby sharks and I had a chit-chat with a snub-nosed turtle who I believe thought I might be the bearer of snacks (alas I was not, much to his chagrin). A solid 90 minutes of enjoyment. 

My last stop was heading up to the “suspension bridges.” I HATE SUSPENSION BRIDGES. I am afraid of heights, and walking on anything more than one foot off the ground that MOVES while I’m walking on it is right the hell out. But there was an owl up there, and I love owls, and the only way to get close enough for a picture was to brave the bridges. So I managed to get a shaky, palpitating picture of the owl and quickly moved off the bridge to the closest solid platform available, composing myself for the trip back across. It’s as I was hanging out there, minding my own business looking out over the fish tanks and such, all while trying to remember how to breathe, that he pounced.

He was all nice at first – making eye contact and moving to stand next to me. But then he grabbed me and he tried to take my earrings. I said no and tried to get away but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. He stood there looming over top of me, digging into my shoulder, and tried to grab my purse. I was able to drop the purse behind me between my body and the railing of the platform. He tried to snap my necklace off of me and scratched my neck in the process, but I managed to keep him from getting it. He tried for my wedding ring, too. Once I finally got away I was able to snap a few photos as he chased me across the bridge.








…. What – did you think I was being mugged?


But really…


He’d landed on the railing at the far end of my platform just a minute or so after I got there. And despite all the “Don’t Touch the Animals” signs, every damned person that came through that platform for the next five minutes had to try to pet him, poke him, or otherwise touch him; AND set camera flashes off in his face while shouting baby talk at him.

After the second group of jagoffs moved on after giving up on him doing anything other than trying to bite them, it was just him and I up there. He gave me the stink eye and I just stayed where I was and quietly told him I was just hanging out and I promised not to harass him. He cocked his head at me and after about half a minute took a couple of steps towards me. I just stayed where I was – leaning on my arms which were folded in front of me on the railing – and I talked to him quietly about how annoying it probably was that people wouldn’t just let him be. He’d made his way over little by little and after about 2 minutes was standing right beside me. He stuck a foot on my arm and when I still didn’t move, he climbed on up. And this is how I ended up with a 2 foot tall Hyacinth Macaw perched on my shoulder in a mall in Dubai.

The jewelry and purse (metallic handle) heist attempts of my embellished version of the story were not just me being hyperbolic – he did try to steal all of it because “Oooooo a shiny!”, but a quiet “no-no naughty bird” or gently bumping his head away with my own allowed me to keep all my stuff…. Okay I actually had to take the hoop earrings off and hold them in my hand ‘cuz those were too tempting to give up on, but the rest he was reasonably easy to deter from taking. I  quietly chatted to him and hung out. And hung out.  I tried to straighten up in preparation for moving on my way a few times and was rewarded with a not-so-gentle nip to the ear each time. Got it – staying right where I was.

But of course, there were bound to be more people coming through there at some point. And now of course they looked at our little tableau and figured – “Oh look how tame, LET’S POKE HIM.” Never mind that I was neither touching, nor even making eye contact with the giant bird with the bone crushing beak perched on my shoulder, and I certainly wasn’t getting in his face carrying on like a banshee turned up to eleven – because I AM NOT AN IDIOT. These new atrocities were met with the same attempts to bite their fingers off. One of the morons actually asked me why he wasn’t biting me and I said, “Because I am not being an asshole.”

Actually, that’s just what I wanted to say.

Instead I said something to the effect of – I’m not trying to touch him, I’m just being still and quiet, so he has no reason to bite me. This not very subtle hint was clearly too subtle as they essentially shouted “Awesome”!!! and tried to poke him again. He finally walked across my back and placed himself on my opposite shoulder so that I was between him and everyone on the platform. During the next lull he actually pressed his whole body weight against the side of my head, almost like he was relaxing – “Thank GOD they are gone!”

This bird and I are clearly kindred spirits. Will all you people please just shut the hell up and go away?! Birds of an introverted feather flock together.

This carried on for about thirty minutes until he finally hopped down next to me and I headed to leave. Halfway across the bridge I heard squawking and turned to find him running along the rope railing towards me (hence, the picture). As soon as I made it to the next platform and stopped, hop-hop-hop and he was back up on my shoulder again. About five minutes later another large, loud group began to approach and he said his finally farewells and headed off to where no one could get near him.

Smiling at such an awesome experience, I headed out of the aquarium, which of course took me through their gift shop.

What choice did I have but to buy this????????


P.S. So yes, K-Middle, bluebirds DO in fact get me dressed in the morning apparently. #insidejoke



Don’t forget to check out the rest of The Tangent Girl Volumes’ posts! Dozen and dozen of posts ranging from Christmas shopping violence to struggling with self-doubt to coping with sucky people to how I really feel about meatloaf. TTGV has it all! And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter (@tangentgirrl) and Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/TangentGirlVolumes/

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Tiffani Panek

Wife of more than 20 years, mom, wrangler of a houseful of furbabies, and certified crazy person... Writing has always been a passion. I'm also an avid reader of everything from sci-fi/fantasy to historical accounts of creepy medical history. My first book A Home For Baby Acorn can be found on Amazon and Blurb, and my first adult venture - Wait, What Were We Talking About - will be available (hopefully) in 2018.

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