by Joanna D'Angelo

The summer I turned 17, I had just started a part time job working in retail. An accessories shop targeted at young women and girls. Retail jobs were fun because when I was a teen - we loved hanging out at the mall so working at the mall was the next best thing.

One of my other favourite things to do was watching movies with my mom. My mom was a big movie buff and Hitchcock was one of her favourite directors. He became one of mine too. Later, when I studied Hitch in university I realized how brilliant he was on so many levels. I love how he could manipulate the audience into feeling what he wanted them to feel. The very first movie we saw in our first year film studies class was Psycho. What a way to kick off the semester. The day after the screening, our TA was leading a discussion and brought up an example of Hitch's breaking with convention - by killing off his protagonist - Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) about a third of the way into the film. That was a big deal. Still is. Then he asked the class if we'd noticed anything else that was different. My hand popped up and I brought up the scene where Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) wraps up Crane's body, shoves her in the trunk of her car and drives it into the swamp near his motel. My TA's eyes lit up. Did I mention he was cute?

I went on to say that something struck me watching that scene. At the same time that Bates was anxiously waiting for the car to sink, Crane's sister and boyfriend were driving up - getting closer and closer. It was at this point that my sympathy switched over to Bates. I felt his tension. I feared, just as Bates did, that the car wouldn't sink in time before the other car drove up - especially when it got stuck on its way down. And I thought that was an odd reaction to have. The TA nodded his head wisely and then launched into an explanation of Hitchcock's master manipulation of the audience - forcing us to identify with someone who clearly was not the hero - at least not the hero we were used to seeing in movies. I glanced at the girl sitting next to me. If looks could kill I would have been Marion Crane.

Keep in mind this was first year film. More than half the class was there because they thought it was an easy credit. In truth, there was nothing easy about film studies. The concepts were all complex - not only were you studying a particular style of film but its relationship to a particular era and culture. When you wrote a paper you only had your memory and your notes to go by. Yes, you could rent the movie and watch it again - if you could find it. But, try finding an obscure film from the Republic of Georgia. Not gonna happen. At least not when I was in school - er - shortly before YouTube.

But I am jumping ahead when I should be going back to the start...the beginning of my "real life" connection to Hitchcock.

Back to the summer job...

I was walking to catch the bus early on a Saturday morning as it was my turn to open - when I noticed four large, black crows hopping about at the bus stop. I didn't really think anything of it - until I got closer and they didn't do what birds usually do when a person walks up to them. Fly away. Instead they turned and watched my approach. They began making that "cawing" sound. It was loud. I started getting nervous - but I still kept thinking (hoping) that they would FLY AWAY! All of a sudden they did fly up into the air - but only to swoop down again - around me. At this point I thought - okay these nasty crows are looking for breakfast and my eyeballs are probably looking pretty tasty to them right about now. So I ran into the bus shelter across the street - thinking - there is no way they're going to follow me into the shelter. HA HA HA - WHA?!?

The next thing I knew they were swooping down around the shelter and slamming into the Plexiglass windows. This couldn't be happening. I was always nice to birds. Why were they turning on me? Once, I even rescued a little bird who had smashed into a shelter at the west end bus station. I carried him in my pocket to a bird rescue centre near by. Didn't word get around in the bird community?

So, there I was huddled in the corner of the bus shelter with those huge crows taunting me outside. I tried to convince myself that they couldn't possibly come in. They wouldn't dare come in. But they did come in. Two of them hopped up into the shelter while the other two continued to menace me from outside making that "cawing" sound. Once again I ran across the street, wondering where the hell the bus was. There wasn't time to walk to the next stop - I knew I'd miss the bus. That's the way the law of buses works. Then I saw her. A woman walking towards the bus stop. I almost cried in relief. Someone to help me ward of these crazy crows. But the problem was she barely made it to the stop before the birds started in on her. She finally did make it beside me and the two of us just looked at each other like this was the weirdest thing we'd ever encountered. Keep in mind not a lot of time had elapsed here - just a few minutes but it felt like hours.

So, there we were standing close together keeping a wary eye on those four big black crows who were still flying around and swooping down then back up again. And while this was going on the bus finally shows up. I was so happy I could have kissed the driver. But when I stepped inside I saw he was laughing his head off. He'd seen the birds and thought the whole thing was just a riot. No hug for him. Instead, I gave him my best malocchio stare and stalked off to the back of the bus. As the bus drove away I looked out the back window but the birds were gone.

For the rest of the summer I avoided that particular bus stop like the plague but it was hard to avoid "nature". Everywhere I went I could see and hear - well - birds. A few weeks later I was flipping through the channels and a Hitchcock movie was just starting. The Birds. I kid you not. Needless to say I was riveted and sympathetic to poor Tippi Hedren's plight.

Over the years, I've told this story to family and friends. Everyone has always had the same reaction. Laughter. They laugh at me. They think it's funny that I was attacked by a bunch of crows. I no longer have a fear of birds. But I don't like crows. And I adore Hitchcock.

Photos courtesy of http://www.universalstudioshomeentertainment.com/


  1. I love birds, love crows, too, but wouldn't want to be stalked by them like you were, yikes! They'd obviously seen the movie LOL. I've saved & taken care of injured & sick birds many times, and even raised a baby robin, but I suspect the bird world wouldn't care, if some of them decided I looked like a Big Mac & fries on legs. Nature can be one mean b*tch ;-D

    BTW, thanks for posting the trailer to THE BIRDS movie. Got a kick out of it. Alfred Hitchcock was amazingly talented. But, ya know ... one strange old dude (she said, staring suspiciously at a starling flying by the window).

  2. Thanks for your comment Nikki. I love your comment about looking like a Big Mac! I suspect you're right! I've actually rescued many a bird over the years - all those smash ups against the windows. Try as I might, I just can't warm up to crows - not after my experience. I can laugh about it now - but back then I was really scared.

  3. DIVINE darling!! OMG, I laughed, but not at you and the birds, simply with you alongside you at this wonderful story. First, at the TA and his eyes lighting up and the girl next to you giving you the stink-eye. Then, at you being in school shortly before - er - YouTube. Then again at how you thought word would have gotten around the bird community of your kindness towards them. And finally at your giving the stupid bus driver your best version of Malocchio! This was one story I will always remember. The day Jojo was attacked by The Birds!

  4. Thanks so much Nina! ;D I did have a major crush on that TA - and as the course progressed I ended up sitting with the "film" types - eventually the students that were serious about film stuck with it. Yes - one of many run-ins I had with public transportation authorities. And of course those birds - I'll never forget them. I'm glad you enjoyed it ;D

  5. I adore Hitchcock & all his quirky goodness. I've seen the birds several times since I was a kid and the eerie atmosphere has always stuck with me.

    Recently I watched a documentary on crows and it seems they are very intelligent. They can memorize faces and mourn family members. They mate for life.

    Are you sure you didn't accidentally diss one and he told his friends about you? :)

    Are y

  6. Sandra - LOL! Absolutely not! Unless they mistook me for another human who did something nasty to them. But that is very fascinating. I still don't like them though. ;D Thanks for your comment!

  7. Nina already mentioned all my Joanna's-greatest-hits, so what she said...

    I had to click on your link to malocchio. LOL! And a Tippi Hedren Barbie from The Birds. LOL!

    And I have to applaud you on sitting with the film tribe. If I had been at your school, I would have been sitting there, too!

  8. Julia - well given your cinematic background I'm sure you were too cool for school! *winks* I know - I saw that pic and couldn't resist posting it - if only they'd had one when we were kids :( Thanks for your comment!

  9. Love this post, Joanna! "If looks could kill I would have been Marion Crane" - too funny! The best type of villain is one who readers/viewers can identify with, making him too complicated to hate because we can empathize, if not sympathize.
    Awhile back, the NY Times published a story about how intelligent crows are. They can identify a person by sight. Had you done anything to piss off a crow? They remember... mwahahaha! :)

  10. Cate, I swear they must have had me mixed up with someone else! ;) But I'll remember that in future - just in case. Thanks for your comment!

  11. I saw this and thought of you, Joanna

  12. OMG! That's so funny! And now I'm scared....


Post a Comment

We would love to hear from you but hope you are a real person and not a spammer. :)

Popular Posts