Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

Just Glad It Wasn’t an Angry, Parachuting Meatball

There is a current  TV ad featuring a spicy parachuting meatball that splats marinara sauce on a guy’s shoulder. I can relate.

bird_poopAt an outside dinner with colleagues several years ago, I was waxing on about some obscure aspect of Oregon’s land-use law, when a bird in a tree above our table relieved itself on my head.

This was a professional moment of truth. You can’t ignore a pile of white bird poop on your head, even if you have white hair like me. But you also can’t break your riveting train of thought.

So, as the wet, still warm poop oozed onto my temple, I continued to hammer home my point, as my colleagues tried to stifle their chuckles. I was determined they hear every word and cling to every point.

When I finally paused, a colleague handed me a napkin. Ultimately, I needed three to sop up all the goo. Then there was the trip to the restroom to wash out the residue and scrub my face and hands.

People may view this as a disaster. I chose to view it as a cost of doing business in an outside venue. Our waiter said nonchalantly that birds pooped on people there all the time. I clearly remember making a mental note never to go back to that restaurant.

Naturally, I was mortified. I had been pooped on in public, in front of work mates and right in the middle of my denouement. The only time I felt that bad was when I ran for office and got pooped on in public everyday.

Then I thought, who doesn’t flinch when you walk under a telephone line with a row of birds squawking and flicking their feathers, then notice poopy pock marks on the sidewalk beneath your feet?

Who hasn’t had a nightmare about a bird perched above your outdoor dinner table, ready to wreak revenge on your masterpiece creation of braised quail with wild mushrooms in a balsamic reduction?

Like all bad memories, I had successfully suppressed my bird poop humiliation until I saw the commercial with the angry meatball threatening some guy with heart burn.

Tums Meatball(The Tums-inducing meatball was disturbing in its own right because the meatball was the size of a human being. Luckily, I thought to myself, it just splashed red sauce.)

As I now recall, my land-use dinner colleagues were sympathetic. One said it could have happened to anyone at the table. They complimented me for pressing on despite the poop dripping off my head. One said it was charming. Another said it was disgusting. I’m pretty sure they meant the poop, not my dedication.

I can only imagine what they told their spouses and friends afterward. Imagine if Jerry Seinfeld would have said if  he was at dinner. “You shoulda been at dinner tonight. Hilarious. This intense guy with some ax to grind on land-use just kept talking with bird guano streaming down his face. Absolutely hilarious. He just kept talking.”

Luckily it was before Instagram so the image didn’t go viral. If it had, maybe there would have been a reality TV show, a funny clip on David Letterman or a bit on Saturday Night Live.

Maybe the messy incident paved the way for my career in crisis management.

Now that I think about it, I wonder whatever happened on the issue I raved on about so fervently? After the pooping, it just never seemed quite as important.





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