Rated PG – Language
When I was around eleven, I got a Myna bird. Interestingly enough, unlike my cats, I never really named him. My sister over the years had quite a few parakeets with some really clever names like Gregory Peck and Engelbird Dumpnstink (a play on a singer named Engelbert Humperdinck for those who do not know). I couldn’t think of anything ingenious for the Myna Bird, so we called him Bird.
Myna birds can mimic. They are better at it than parakeets and cockateels, about on the order of cockatoos but not quite as good as parrots. Three-hundred words or so for a Myna bird.
I worked with Bird for a long time. He simply would not repeat anything I said. He could imitate every single bird that ever got near the house and sang a song. He even imitated a pot of water boiling over and some of the chiming clocks we had in the house, but he would not do words.
Gregory Peck would say “Hello” and a few other things in the squeaky little voice that parakeets have. You sort of wonder if they said anything at all. You almost have to be told what they are saying and then you can hear it.
One day I decided I would really fix Bird. He was going to learn a word whether he liked it or not. I happened to own a small, portable, reel-to-reel tape recorder.
OMG, half of you reading this have no idea what a Reel-to-Reel is. Well, a long, long time ago, in a land right under our feet, recordings were made on this magical stuff called “Magnetic Tape.” The Tape looked like a brown ribbon that was 1/4 inch wide and was rolled up on a Reel. You would thread the tape from one Reel over a “Magnetic Head” onto another Reel. The magnetic head could put magnetic impulses on the tape when you recorded and read those impulses and turn them to sound when you played it back. I know, iPods are so much easier but we didn’t have those back then, in that time long, long ago.
I recorded myself saying “Hello.” Then I cut out that piece of tape and spliced it into a loop – called a Tape Loop. So when I put the small recorder/player into play, it would say, “Hello. Hello. Hello,” over and over until I stopped it.
I got up the next morning and right before I headed off to school, I turned the recorder/player on, the tape loop doing its thing. Bird was going to learn to say “Hello,” gosh darn it!
Now, I didn’t really think it through. This was a portable reel to reel. For the time period it was very cool because it was small, about the size of a large water bottle. To be portable it ran on batteries – three C cells to be exact. When I got home from school, I walked in my room to find that the batteries had worn down at some point. The recorder/player was playing this really low pitched, very slow, “Hhhheeeelllloooo.”
I thought, “Oh gosh, I hope Bird didn’t cue in on that. Heck, it can’t have been playing like that for long anyway. It had to be playing normally for most of the day.” I tested him, saying, “Hello” a few times. Nothing. The darn Bird hadn’t picked it up.
Later that night while doing homework.
“Hhhheeeelllloooo.” God Damn It!