14 Apr

Missed Opportunities: A Sequel

I enrolled at Portland State University that fall as a Zoology major. Ornithology classes would have to wait a year or two, my adviser told me. “And you’re really not going to do much with birds until graduate school,” he said. So I joined a birding club. Keep the fire going and all.

Birdwatchers are total dorks. You go on a Saturday outing with them, and they gush over their rare finds.

“Last week, we saw a king eider!”

“Don said he saw a curve-billed thrasher, but Renee swore it was just a California thrasher.”

“Rumor has it there’s a crested caracara near the inlet.”

They go on and on like this all day until somebody spots a plover or a wagtail. Then they go silent and gaze through binoculars, holding their breath. “See the second pine tree to the right of the rocks?” they whisper. “Look at the bushes just in front.”

They utter exclamations in hushed tones until the bird flies away, and then they erupt into noisy chatter like blue jays. Complete and total dorks.

But it’s contagious. And before long, you’ll find yourself peering at the nearest foliage for winged rarities. You’ll feel a certain compulsion to observe every creature that flutters into your line of sight. Because it’s about opportunities. It’s about not missing out.

One afternoon, just before my Biology class, I was sitting on a bench on Park, looking up at the tall evergreens when some guy stepped into my field of vision and said, “Well, well, well.”

I expected to see another birdwatcher, joking about our skyward addiction, but instead I saw myself – or, you know, another one of those guys who looks exactly like me.

This one had the same haircut, the same backpack, and the same haggard look I’d been noticing on my face in recent months every time I looked in the mirror. The look of the overworked college kid.

“This is so weird. We were just discussing Heidegger’s views of ontology in class.”

I hate college kids who try to impress you. “Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny,” I said.

“What?”

“See? I’m smart too.”

He chuckled nervously. “I’m Jake.” He offered his hand, and I shook it. It’s such a surreal experience, shaking your own hand.

“Your name’s not Eric?”

“No.” He turned his head like a confused dog. “It’s Jake.”

“Nice to meet you, Jake. I’m Eric.” We both looked down at our still-shaking hands and pulled away.

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