Never forget: Hard work is for the birds

You think you have it hard? At least you’re not a grouse.
You think you have it hard? At least you’re not a grouse. AP

We work hard in the Queen City. You don’t attract the industries we attract by being lollygaggers. Yet middle age finds me reflective, for working adulthood can be a grind. It’s easy to lament the struggles of everyday life.

Consider how common hardships – the high cost of living, petty office politics and drudgery, wearying business travel and unrelenting domestic responsibilities – weigh down on us. It can make you want to stay in bed all day, binging on Netflix.

Strangely, it’s by watching Netflix that I learned to stop the midlife whining. After watching “Planet Earth” and learning about the male African sandgrouse, one thing is clear. It’s not a jungle out there for me. Not even close.

Take the high cost of living. There’s no joy in paying a king’s ransom to live near Uptown. But for the first two months of his hatchlings’ lives, a sandgrouse’s workplace is any water he can find. In the desert.

During this period his babies need hydration to survive. That can be a 50-mile commute each way, every single day. Why doesn’t papa-bird just put a white picket fence down by the nearest waterhole? Because falcons circle there, looking to devour sandgrouses.

In other words, real estate for us is about location, location and location. Sandgrouses have a different saying: no predator, no predator, no predator. And sure, I’ve floated a losing bid on a home in our hot market before. To date, however, no competing bidder has tried to rip me to shreds. High cost of living? Sandgrouse 1, Me 0.

Nobody enjoys office politics. Gossip born at water coolers harms career prospects. But I’ll take loose lips over tearing talons at the bubbler every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Cutthroat workplace? Sandgrouse 2, Me 0.

Tedium can make office life feel like Bill Murray’s in “Groundhog Day”. My calendar, though, has never read every single day for two months straight “Fly 100 miles through desert … Tote water for chicks … Don’t get killed by angry falcon.” The only Falcons that concern us live in Atlanta.

It’s not just drudgery for the sandgrouse. If I lose focus, a typo sneaks into a memo. If the sandgrouse loses that falcon in his blind spot, he joins the choir invisible. I’ll take “Not Even Close” for $1,000, Alex. Sandgrouse 3, Me 0.

A 100-mile commute may not seem like much to Charlotte Douglas frequent fliers, but let’s be honest. We’re not flying, we’re reclining while enjoying Architectural Digest. I’m sure the sandgrouse would trade places, even for a middle seat. True road warrior? Sandgrouse 4, Me 0.

All this for what, to pay a mortgage and some college tuitions? Sure, that’s pressure. But if the sandgrouse doesn’t bring home the water even once, his hatchlings die. There’s no Hallmark Card to the missus for that screw-up, my friend.

Speaking of friends, I spend time with mine. The sandgrouse gets no “me” time. He might have the pipes to sing like a nightingale, but we’ll never know, because he’s never larking at the piano with his mates after work.

He’s in the rack, knowing tomorrow he must work like John Henry. Domestic responsibilities? Please. Sandgrouse 5, Me 0.

It’s a tough world out there, but the workmanlike bird has taught this Charlottean one thing for certain: I’ve got nothing to grouse about.

Kerrigan is a Charlotte attorney. Email: