I nervously set down another piece of bread on the pedestrian overpass, trying to not look directly at the raven perched at eye level in the pine tree nearby.
“CAW! CAW! CAW!”
Another raven flitted down to join it and added its voice to the clamor.
I learned earlier this year ravens and crows have the ability to distinguish and remember human faces, even after months or even years have passed. It helps them differentiate friendly, dangerous, or unknown individuals. This really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.
You’re smart, right? You learned the alphabet. You know what your favorite celebrity (Bill Nye) wore to work every day for the last thirty years (it’s a magnificent array of bowties, in case you forgot). You remembered to put your milk away after only a couple of hours. You’ve got this, right? Not so fast.
Here is a picture of a raven. Please answer the question about arguably the world’s most famous raven, freshly plucked from its perch on its Wikipedia page.
Curious to know the answer?
It is not Harold. It is not Larry. It sure as beans isn’t Shaniqua. That name was banned in the Geneva Conventions of 1949. This raven has a name, too.
You’re all wrong. Please don’t get upset–this is one of thems lurning opurrtunateez. You’re not a raven, and so I hardly could have expected you to know something every raven instinctively knows:
This raven is named Lloyd. In fact, all ravens are named Lloyd, regardless of gender. Every last one.
Each Lloyd grows up knowing this from the time she or he is a chick. They also notice pretty quickly that every other Lloyd looks and sounds almost exactly the same as them. Therefore, they learn to remember the little differences to help them keep track of who’s who–Lloyd dat got dem 90’s frosted feathertips, (friendly), Lloyd that speaks Spanish(neutral), Lloyd that ain’t got no bath since ’82 (menace to corvid society). With their impressive mind for details, telling the difference between
is no big deal.
I wanted to see where I stood with these jet-black beings, so when I spotted some on my way to school, I hurried and dug some bread out of my bag to get their attention, a classic tactic to get attention from ducks, seagulls, and babies in stores.
I placed a couple hunks out in front of me and waited for their avian adoration.
Nothing. Then, “Caw!”
Before long four or five ravens had gathered, making a cacaphonous racket. They didn’t sound happy to see me. In fact, they seemed to be growing more agitated by the second, hopping from branch to branch in anger. But why would they–
Then I remembered.
Someone once told me it’s important to find new pursuits as we get older. I interpreted this to mean chasing animals I find around campus. This usually means quail, ducks, or–on particularly exciting occasions–herds of stinkin’ deer. Deer smell awful. Why anyone would chase a deer given their considerable stench is an important conversation but best addressed another time.
On one of these occasions I encountered a raven. Without thinking about it I dropped my bag and sprinted after my jet-black quarry, chasing the protesting bird from tree to tree. I never caught up, but I chased the thing over at least one hill before it finally went all stratospheric on me and glided out of sight.
Months later, my past had caught up to me. Lloyd and I had apparently met again, face-to-face. He wasn’t happy about it. Lloyd imperiously regarded my pitiful offering of bread, the sun’s first amber rays revealing it for the heap of stale crumbs it really was.
“Caw. CAW! CAAAAAAAW!”
The chorus of assembled Lloyds filled my ears with harsh cries.
I’d wanted to get in to the Raven Club, inexplicably craving their approval, but it was too late. My confusion gave way as I looked at Lloyd directly in the eyes, in that moment I understood. “CAAAAAAAAW!”
Quoth the Raven,