The Penguin Man

The Penguin Man

Something always happens every single day of my life- something. When I say something, I mean something weird. I live in a colorful world, and if I don’t bring the color to my world, the world brings it to me.  The other day I had to go see my doctor- nothing big, just a check up and a lecture about my “sleep habits”.  All things were good. It was a quick appointment, so I thought “Hey, I got some time. I’m gonna hit a few of my favorite antique shops.”
As always, I stayed out much longer than I wanted to. So now I’m overheated, overtired, and need to get home and get some actual work done. Unfortunately, there was heavy traffic-everywhere. Every light I got to was red and I got stuck in several spots where they were working on the roads-which is pretty much everywhere in Illinois. (For some reason, our roads need updating every six months or so.)
So I’m feeling anxious. Over the last few days I’ve purchased many items to work on, recreate and re-invent, (and a few that are perfect just the way they are). “I’ve got so much to do! I just gotta get home!” Now my mind is wandering and thinking about the colors I’m going to use and what I’m going to re-invent and…”Noooo! Missed my exit!”
I was almost home. Almost mixing paint and unpacking my goodies. The only other way to make it home a bit faster was to turn down this lonely little side road; a local road, not used by many. Remember that I said that.
So I turn down this road and bank the corner. To my left was a beautiful field of colorful purple and yellow wildflowers dancing in the breeze, perfectly back lit by the late afternoon sun. The trees which bordered the field were so green and deep. As I got lost in all that beauty, a flock of white birds flew overhead in sync. There were a few bunnies moving about the pretty flowers- and a man, in a penguin costume, running through the field. “Wait?…What did I just see?…  A dude in a penguin costume. That figures.” (Here comes the colorful part of my day) Needless to say, I had to do a double take. “Am I really seeing this? OMG, I AM!”

Now the thing was, he was running, full speed, to catch up to my van. In a big, thick, heavy costume. Full speed. As we caught up with each other, I realized he was wearing a sign. It read, “Stop driving cars. Your [sic] killing us”.
Now I’m wondering what the meaning of the whole thing was about. Are cars randomly running over people in penguin costumes? I had no idea so many people were wearing penguin costumes. And why are we running so many of them over? Is this some great, new problem I’m just hearing about? Do my friends know about this?
As I came out of my fog of confusion, I realized that penguin man was standing in front of my van. I, of course, had stopped by this point. (I’m beginning to understand WHY so many “penguin people” are getting hit by cars) I just sat there, staring at him. The big, wide-eyed penguin was holding his flippers out in front of him in a gesture I assumed meant “Stop, don’t make me another man-in-penguin-suit statistic!” Which was a lot better than “Here’s a pebble. Marry me!” (Look it up)

OK, I stopped…um, now what? Was this penguin injured? Was he lost? Was he escaped from a high security mental ward?
The sign on his chest suggested that perhaps he was making a statement of some sort. Now a smart person might have put their car in reverse, or sped around him while keeping an eye on where his flippers were at all times. After all, he might be a sword wielding penguin man with anger management issues.
Of course, I’m not one of those. I had to look at him and say “I take it you’re trying to make a point”. He said nothing. He just stood there, flippers up. “OK, then, I’m just going to go around you.” I was putting my van in reverse when I saw out of the corner of my eye, the large penguin was dancing and pointing to his chest. OK, there IS a message. “Yes, I see the note. I’m looking at it.”
He stopped dancing and put his flipper wings up to his eyes and mimed crying. Then, he dropped his flippers to his side and started shaking his head. OK, I get it. No one is listening to him; he’s giving up. By this point I’m really overheated and wondering how to get penguin man to get to the point. “So, what’s your point”, I asked. After all the pantomime, he said in a muffled voice something about pollution killing all the penguins. I asked him to remove the mask, as I couldn’t make out everything he was saying. He just shook his head. “OK, then would you speak up?”
In his human voice, louder, albeit a bit muffled, he replied “Yes, I can speak louder”. So he did. He told me about how pollution is killing our little black and white friends in Antarctica. I told him I understand what he was trying to say, but I had to ask “Why are you here, on an empty road?”. He was afraid to go too close to traffic, as he was afraid he might get hit by a car. “Um, OK…but you’re not really getting anywhere by being here.” I asked how long he had been there and how many cars actually stopped. He told me I was only the 6th car that had stopped, and he had been there since 9 AM (It was now about 6 PM).
I suggested he might get a better response in a public place like a park. He was afraid to scare children. I suggested standing at the side of a busy road with a picket sign. He was afraid that people would throw things at him. I threw out a few other ideas, when he walked over to my car and said “I know I’m not making a huge difference, all at once. Maybe I’m not starting a big rally, but maybe one of the six drivers that stopped today will think about me and what I’m doing. Maybe they will at least read about it. Maybe someone that went by today will start a rally or petition or something.”

Then he said something to me that made me completely “get it”. He said, “I can have hope”. Hope is one of the most important words in the English language. Hope is a word that is used in our lives daily. We may not think about it and we don’t always use the word literally, but it’s there. “I hope my water bill isn’t too high.” ” Will the kids go to to bed tonight with out arguing? I really HOPE so.” – and so on. But Mr. Penguin’s hope is of a different kind. It’s a deep belief in mankind. He sees that there is a chance that some people are interested enough to hear what he is saying and act on it. Maybe he is not too “off”. I wonder how different the world would be if we had that same kind of hope?

With that, I bid farewell to my penguin friend, assuring him that I would indeed read about penguins and pollution. I thanked him for sharing with me. As I drove away, I watched penguin man creep back into the woods. The rest of my drive home I was thinking about the penguin. I wondered how many drove past him thinking he was a bit “off”, ignoring him, or fearing for their own safety. I can certainly understand their concern.
I’m glad I stopped. I learned a little bit more about the meaning of “hope”. Wouldn’t it be great if we could think a little more like Mr. Penguin? He has hope enough to believe that his small gesture can bring about positive change. Maybe he’ll get to save the penguins yet. At least he can hope.

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  • marylou says:

    Hi Anita….I think there was a reason you missed your turnoff other than all the ideas going thru your head…just maybe Mr. P needed to be seen and heard by someone who would share his story?? I would like to think this and in doing so I am hopeful, each and everyday!!…make it a great day and thanks for the fabulous read..**smiles**

  • Susan Wagner says:

    I agree ~ Sounds like this encounter ~ was meant to be !!

    And thank you for sharing ” HOPE ”

    We can all use some ~ hope, daily !

    • Anita Spero says:

      Hi Susan,
      Thank you for commenting. It was a I have gone back that way and have not seen my penguin friend. Hopefully he has found a place where he can let his penguin flag fly…and find some like minded friends.

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