I spent all day Friday as a prisoner in my own basement. My tub and shower were being replaced with a Bathfitter acrylic surround, and there were some smelly chemicals involved. Birds are extremely vulnerable to chemical toxins, which can cause their delicate little lungs to hemorrhage, so I wanted to keep them as far from the bathroom as possible.
But it’s no easy task to temporarily relocate parrots. They’re just not very portable. Simon’s cage is seven feet tall, four feet wide and three feet deep. Kazoo’s isn’t much smaller. You can’t just move a cage like that to a friend’s house without renting a truck and some burly guys. You can’t even move it down to the basement. And it’s impractical to take a bird to someone else’s house without a cage. It’s not just the poop; it’s also that unfamiliar places tend to frighten birds, and when they’re frightened they want the security of their cages. Left loose, they might panic and fly into walls and windows.
So…I had to take some little cages down to the basement, and then take the big parrots and squish them into those little cages. They weren’t impressed. They didn’t like the little perches and the little toys and the flimsy little confined spaces. Birds aren’t known for their love of adventure, so even going down to the basement in the first place was a bit disconcerting for them.
In an effort to minimize the trauma, I spent the day down there with them. I brought a chair down, and my laptop, my phone and a book, and the four of us sat in very close quarters while the day passed slowly by.
The weird thing was that the book I was reading is “The Man in My Basement” by Walter Mosley. It’s about a little man in self-imposed exile who lives in a cage in a stranger’s basement. He pays the stranger almost $50,000 to be his warden for 65 days. So I’m sitting in my basement, in my own self-imposed exile, reading this book, surrounded by big birds in little cages. When you’re surrounded by cages, it’s easy to forget which side of the bars you’re on. I felt like both the warden and the prisoner in my basement.
It was a freaky moment when I looked up from my book, surveyed my surroundings, and realized all the parallels. The main difference was that (sadly) nobody was paying me $50,000. (That wasn’t the only difference; the book ended with someone dying, whereas my birds and I all survived.)
As it turned out, the bathroom renovation wasn’t nearly as smelly as I expected. There was a vinegary smell from the silicon, and some lingering rubbing alcohol odor. The birds probably could have spent the day upstairs in their regular houses after all. But I really love those birds, and the thought of them all dropping dead simultaneously because of some preventable exposure to toxins, well, that just freaked me out. (And not just for a day or two, either. I worried about it for weeks in advance.)
They were very happy when I brought them back upstairs at the end of the day. They all flew to their houses and drank lots of water. (They had access to water in the basement, but they were too stressed to drink or eat much.)
Here’s Simon, happily back in his big house, next door to Oboe’s little house. Can you see Simon?