Pedro spent much of Act III ruminating on the very limited knowledge he had of the national crisis on the East Coast, and his incredulousness over the group leaders’ decision to keep the information from the fellow passengers. Only they, Pedro, and Betty Pickett know at this point. (She found out accidentally in Act III when she boarded the bus while Pedro was listening to the radio at the top of Azucar Mountain.) Here is the pivotal moment when the birders are told. I wish I could take credit for the “Hotel California” line, but that was left intact from JP’s original version.
We arrive back at Azucar Mountain Road, and turn onto its straighter, flatter track. We are about twenty minutes from the campground now. Bird #1 stands up and takes the bus microphone in her left hand, chewing the fingernails on her right. She queues the microphone but stalls. I wonder what is going through her mind. Never in a kajillion years would she have imagined her role would entail such statesmanship. I guess I have to give her credit for dealing with such a difficult situation that lies far beyond her ken. The Birds were christened as leaders because of their knowledge of gadwalls, lesser yellowlegs and American wigeons, not how to handle a national crisis.
She struggles, but the words get out.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m afraid I have to report some very unfortunate….um, some tragic news. This morning, four planes that took off on the East Coast were hijacked, and crashed.”
A collective gasp, then a soft din of “oh my God” and similar offerings. No hysterics, just a handful of questions, mostly “where?”
She tells them: two in New York City, one at the Pentagon, one in Pennsylvania.
There follows a period of what you could call “subdued unrest.” Many of the statements that will be overheard in public for several weeks are said: laments about airport security and why we are so hated, how life “will never be the same again” (an odd phrase –when was life ever “the same?”) and so on. Not much emotion really. Maybe they do not feel personally affected yet. Not many conference participants hail from that sprawling East Coast city known as “BosNyWash.” Too much destruction of natural habitats for that to be a birding mecca, I imagine. Right now, for this group, it is probably on the level of a devastating earthquake that flattens a foreign city –it is horrible and tragic, but it doesn’t affect my family.
All I want to hear, though, is someone get up and say we should consider quitting early, that we know too little about the state of our world and this is far more important than a birding expedition.
No one does.
Not a single person.
The Birds are not a rogue element controlling the flow of information, disallowing grown men and women from making a crucial life decision. They’re just on the same wavelength. They knew how the people would react. They knew it would make no difference to their birding day. Betty probably knew that too, seeing as how she has globetrotted extensively among this subculture. My insurrection idea would not even get a talonhold with this flock.
Holy freakin’ hell. Floyd was absolutely right. These people are total loony tunes. So much for my scheme to liberate them. Welcome to the Hotel California. The birders are prisoners of their own device.