GC and I found ourselves out in Manotick the other night, visiting the mansion of people we’ve never met.
Why? Because they had a talkative two-year-old African Grey parrot for sale, and I wanted it. The ad said she had an excellent vocabulary, loved singing and dancing, and was friendly and lovable. I was smitten from a distance.
So off we went, GC and me, to meet this parrot, in her natural habitat: a massive modern mansion on a huge lot in a new development on the outskirts of Manotick.
We rang the doorbell, and listened as the deep sonorous chimes announced our arrival. After a few moments, the door swung open and we found ourselves in the front hall, right beside the Christmas tree. The presents were all wrapped in the same blue paper, which they told us later they’d bought at Costco three years ago and which seemed to be a never-ending roll of gift wrap.
The front hall overlooked a huge room with cathedral ceilings and floor to ceiling windows, and the parrot was perched on a play stand in the center of this giant room.
We took off our boots and introduced ourselves to the nice young couple who lived there. We all went into the giant room and gathered around the parrot.
“She talks non-stop!” said the woman, “Don’t you Paris?”
The bird stared mutely at us.
“She loves to sing and dance!” said the man, “Don’t you Paris?”
The bird stared motionless at us.
“Her favourite food is sunflower seeds!” said the woman.
I just happened to have a pocketful of sunflower seeds, so I extracted one and held it out to the bird. She bit me, and ignored the seed.
“Did she bite you?” asked the man.
“Yes,” I said, “But it didn’t hurt.”
“That’s funny,” he said. “She never bites.”
“She’ll love you forever if you give her some of her baby formula,” the woman said. We all went into the cavernous kitchen, where she mixed up a batch of formula. She handed me the syringe and I fed the bird a couple of squirts. Then she flew back over to the woman and continued ignoring me.
For the next twenty minutes or so they tried valiantly to get the bird to do something more impressive than biting me. They kept saying all the words and phrases the parrot knows.
“What’s for supper?” asked the man.
“Where’s the bird?” asked the woman.
“You’re hot!” exclaimed the man.
“I love you!” said the woman.
The bird burped.
“Our son taught her to do that,” said the woman apologetically. “But she doesn’t say any swear words.”
They told us that the bird would learn a new word or phrase in less than a day. You just had to say it to her a few times, and she’d pick it up.
The bird, of course, had nothing to say about that.
Finally we all sat down and had a conversation and pretty much ignored the bird.
Mid-conversation, the man stopped and said “Did you hear that?”
“What?” I asked.
“She said ‘I love you’!”
“I missed it,” I said.
I did, however, catch the bird making noises like water dripping.
The thing is, I have no doubt this bird can talk, but African Greys are notorious for not showing off on demand. And in this particular bird’s case, she knew we wanted to take her away from her mansion, where she could fly non-stop for five minutes in any direction, and where she even had an outdoor summer cage by the pool. She knew we wanted to take her to a crowded little house in the city, where she would spend the rest of her life slumming it under the watchful supervision of an opportunistic orange cat.
I do hope she likes her new home, wherever it is.