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Google Is Free (Even Twenty Years Ago)

, , , , , , | Learning | November 9, 2022

I grew up in California, and we have a species of Condor called… wait for it… the California Condor! I was and still am an animal lover. In elementary school, I would read books about all kinds of snakes, lizards, vultures, and condors — basically, creatures that most little girls wanted nothing to do with. (To be fair, once I learned how spiders “ate” and then about “spider wasps”, I kind of noped the hell out of the insect/arachnid kingdoms.)

As a little girl with eclectic tastes, I spent my childhood perking up with a lot of interest upon hearing about how the California Condors had gone extinct in the wild and how conservationists were reintroducing them from captivity breeding programs. By the time I hit high school, I was ecstatic when condors began wheeling and circling in the skies around my hometown. For some odd reason, they really seemed to like our imported-long-ago eucalyptus trees.

Enter [Girl]. [Girl] went to the same school as I did, and we ended up butting heads off and on throughout my childhood. Now, for whatever reason, [Girl] believed that it was her life’s goal to out-knowledge the local animal lover. Unfortunately, [Girl]’s life’s goal coincided with absolute conviction that she was right about so very many — VERY, VERY many — wrong things.

Snakes are slimy — regardless of what the books say. All snakes are poisonous. There is no such thing as venom; that’s the incorrect and out-of-date term for poison. Constrictors are poisonous, too. Frogs and toads can give you warts — because the human papillomavirus (HPV) can be contracted from amphibians. Cows are animals, NOT mammals — because the two are mutually exclusive. Ants are NOT animals; they are insects — again, mutually exclusive.

And the crux of our story: the giant birds circling over our town were red-tailed hawks. As I watched our condor population soar (pun intended) from six to twenty-plus individuals over the years, [Girl] and I had several verbal altercations over the identity of our birds. This sums them all up.

Girl: “Oh, the hawks are back!”

Me: *Looking up* “Nope. Those are condors.”

Girl: “No, they’re hawks! Want to know how to tell the difference? The shape of their wings. The wing shape of those birds says they’re red-tailed hawks.”

Note: these birds were circling and coming down to land on our eucalyptus trees at a height of about three stories up in the air. They would land awkwardly, flaring their huge wings until they got their balance. Even from this distance, you could see that their heads were naked of feathers.

Me: “[Girl], these birds don’t have feathers on their heads. Their tails aren’t red. And their wingspan is huge.”

A condor’s wingspan is about 9.5 feet. A red-tailed hawk’s is 4.8 feet at most, y’all.

Girl: “Nope. You’re wrong. You just can’t see the red of their tails from below. This is one thing I know more about than you.”

Me: “No… No, you don’t, [Girl].”

Girl: “Yes, I do. The shape of their wings says hawk, so you’re wrong.”

She turned her back and walked away the instant I held a science book about animals anywhere near her. She wouldn’t even acknowledge anything that could possibly prove her wrong. On the plus side, this provided me with a very “cross versus vampires” way to make [Girl] shove off during my school years.

Twenty-two years later, [Girl] is a staunch anti-vaxxer. She found me after a twenty-year gap and spent far too much of the next two years yelling at me on social media to wake up, do my research, and stop injecting my body with autism before I blocked her. Yes, vaccines don’t GIVE you autism; the injections ARE autism. I just can’t even anymore.

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