Joseph Stalin said, "The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic." What about the death of roadkill?
This year, I worked for the summer as a resident camp counselor. The pay was atrocious, but I loved the work and I'll definitely be returning next summer. I mean, you get a nickname, free room and board, and you're a role model for kids; What's not to love?. A good portion of the children come from single-parent families in the bad part of the city. Working at that camp was one of the only times I feel like I made a difference in the world.
After the last week of resident camp, and before the last week of day camp, every staff member was treated to dinner at an Italian restaurant. I remember I had the Ravioli Alfredo and also learned my Caesar salad get its flavor from anchovies. An anonymous patron at the restaurant purchased ice cream at a local mom and pop's for all 30-something of us because he overheard where we worked.
On the way home, I rode with four others: Michael, Hernan, Spiro, and Nicholas, who was driving. The sun was starting to go down. We were all stuffed beyond belief and all I wanted to do was lay on the ground and let my food digest without interruption. We were almost back to camp, as we made our way around the slow curve up to the property I felt the van slam to a dead stop. We had hit a bird. Not an eagle or anything, just a bird.
We all got out to see how bad it was. The bird was obviously hurt; it tried flying away but couldn't make it further than a few feet. Hernan picked it up and held it delicately in his hands for the last few minutes of our drive. We were all silent, even when we got out of the car. We all took turns holding it and knew what had to be done, but none of us wanted to do it. Nick and I were the last ones outside, as the others had already made their peace and went inside. He asked me if I wanted to do it. I told him I didn't. He nodded and took the bird into the forest. Less than half a minute later, he returned, and as he passed me on his way to the door inside, he said, "That head popped off easier than I thought." I pondered this for a few seconds, then made my way to the door as well. As I pulled down the outdoor hand sanitizer dispenser's lever next to the door, I wondered why I felt bad for that bird and not the deaths of opossums or raccoons I hit with my car, or even deaths in the obituaries and on the news. I walked inside and saw everyone else had forgotten the incident already and I pretended to as well.
Looking back, the incident seems kind of strange. I've reflected on it numerous times, and I think it was just the strange aura about everything that made me think about it so much. I don't feel sorry for the bird, or that I couldn't be the one to put it out of its misery. It was a strange sequence of events.