Why did the chicken cross the road?

A week or so ago, a friend posted a riddle on facebook that I found myself overanalyzing and I was pleased to discover, in the comments, that I wasn’t the only one. We were kind of laughing at each other for all over thinking, and I ended up writing in the comments: The chicken most likely crossed the road because of a depleted food source. Someone else commented seeing a T-shirt that read: I dream of living in a world where the motives of chickens aren’t questioned.

Why did the chicken cross the road? is such a commonly heard question you almost can’t not have an opinion on the matter. But I think the first question you have to ask is, what is your chicken story? When I made that joke about why the chicken crossed the road I learned a lot about my chicken. I could have said the chicken most likely crossed the road to flee a pack of wild dogs, but that wouldn’t have matched up with the imagery that comes to my mind when I ponder the question.

My chicken is in a field on a hill and can faintly see another field beyond a two-lane road. My chicken gets closer and closer to the road but always returns to its field to wonder more about the field across the road. When my chicken finally does venture across the road it isn’t because it wants something or is avoiding something; it goes because it’s curious.

My chicken is being watched, by me. My chicken is me and is also being watched by me. (The experience of simultaneously being a character in a fantasy and being a watcher of that character is even more distinct in dreams and has been reported by people who have experienced LSD trips. To a much lesser degree than in my dreams, the same thing happens when I write. I am my characters and I’m also a watcher of my characters.) So when my chicken finally steps out into the road, I see a car–a red convertible–come racing over the hill, and that’s as far as I get. The chicken never gets hit, and I don’t feel like the chicken did get hit; I just get a panicky feeling over the possibility that it could get hit, intensified by the chicken’s obliviousness to the danger of getting hit.

That’s my chicken story, and it speaks volumes about who I am. Some good, some bad, but it’s definitely me. One of the most interesting details is how alone my chicken is. Chickens are usually with other chickens. Not only are there no other chickens nearby my chicken, there aren’t even other chickens in the field! But my chicken, while alone, isn’t lonely. My chicken feels a joy in wondering about the other field that borders on euphoria. Yet it waits days to go over and actually have a look-see. My chicken is intrepid but cautious, curious but patient. He’s content but wonders what else might be. I like him. He’s a cool chicken. I more have a problem with the me watching and the me who brings the car over the hill. What does that mean about who I am? Why didn’t I bring slow drivers who would come to a stop and say, “Oh, how cute, look at the chicken crossing the road! I wonder why it’s doing that.”?

Why don’t you tell me your chicken story, or are you…in a mood where you’d prefer not to divulge? (See what I did there?)


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