Here we go again I thought as yet another member of the local urban wildlife made an appearance on my windowsill. This time, while taking a break and watching some of the World Cup from Brazil, I clearly saw the pigeon land and peer in my window.
Thinking the bird was, like most of the world, just interested in watching the game, I took no great notice. I’ve seen many people looking into restaurant and bar windows to get an update on the match. But within a few moments the cooing took on a tone that caught my attention and when I went over and opened the window my guest introduced himself.
“Pierre Pigeon here,” he said. “I believe, unless I am greatly mistaken, that you are the bug guy.”
Now I admit that I’ve been called much worse than that, so I was not terribly offended. And I kind of knew he was referring to my recent role as spokesperson for various insects, yet it still amazed me how word gets around.
“I am indeed. What can I do for you, Pierre?” I asked.
I was hesitant to invite him in, but before I had to cross that bridge he told me he preferred to stay on the ledge. He paced back and forth as pigeons do while enlightening me on his request.
“I need your help in writing a letter to your mayor,” he replied. “He’s been in the news lately and we pigeons want to hold him to his word on an issue of great interest to us.”
Our new mayor has indeed been in the news a great deal as of late, and in this era of political scandals I’m pleased to say it has been for all the right reasons.
“Okay …. can I have a few details?”
“You wrote recently about how your mayor had taken quick action to have the egregious anti-homeless spikes removed from a number of downtown locations. Well, we’d like him to take similar action on those hideous anti-pigeon spikes that are found on many buildings.”
Having said this he took a smartphone from under his wing and asked me for my coordinates so he could send me the photo below that he snapped showing some of the anti-pigeon spikes. “I know you don’t fly, but you must be able to imagine the discomfort one would experience when landing on these things. It’s getting harder and harder to find a spot to rest for a few minutes without being rudely shooed away. And imagine this: a pigeon gets up early to get the worm. Heading back to her nest with a couple of shopping bags of worms for her brood’s breakfast, she stops to rest for a moment on a ledge not noticing the dastardly spikes. Let me tell you this brings about a whole new meaning to the term pigeon holes”
I was about to commiserate with him when he started again, evidently having hit his stride as he paced on my windowsill.
“Pigeons, other than that great actor Walter, don’t get any respect. Look at Matadors, held up in their communities as brave heroes because of the way they fight big bulls. We have a similar pastime, you must have seen it, where we stand on the street and stare down a car to see who will give way first – will the car stop or will the bird take off at the last split-second, hopefully. We uphold as heroes those pigeons who dare to partake of this challenge that has been around since there were pigeons and cars. And what do people call it? Playing chicken! What part of a pigeon in a High Noon like confrontation with a Mazda makes you think of a chicken?”
Finally getting a word in while Pierre caught his breath, I complemented him on his ability to communicate with humans. “Pigeon English” he said. “No biggie,” and he was off again.
“Did you know we have a long military history?” he asked. But before I could reply he continued. “During the world wars homing pigeons were used to carry messages to the front. Countless pigeons lost their lives in this valiant way, no doubt saving human lives, but is there a memorial to them? And those brave birds that made it back, do you think they got pensions. Did they hell!”
I pointed out that in a similar fashion canaries were used for years in the mining industry as a means of detecting dangerous air conditions underground: if the canary gagged, coughed, puked and dropped dead it was high time to get out of the mine.
“Um … excuse me, but how does a caged canary being toted into a mine compare with a brave pigeon freely flying into battle with vital information strapped to his leg?” Got to admit he had me there.
“Well Pierre, I must say, you certainly know your stuff” I said.
“Big guy, a bit of advice. Don’t ever, ever say stuff to a bird,” he snapped back at me. “Whether in a taxidermic or epicurean sense, it doesn’t conjure up a joyful experience.”
I agreed to draft the letter for him and said it would be ready in half an hour. I told Pierre he was welcome to stay on my windowsill but he pointed out that the match was now over so he’d do some things and be back. Sure enough just as I was taking the letter from my printer there he was back. I slid the paper under the screen and he took it, stood on it and then from beneath his wing produced an odd-looking pair of eyeglasses that he affixed to his head. Noticing my amazement he said “When your eyes are on either side of your head you have to go for a goggle-style frame. These babies cost a pretty penny let me tell you, but I can’t read a thing without them.”
We discussed a few small changes he wanted to the letter and then we were done. He thanked me kindly and was off. But later I noticed on my windowsill a shriveled earthworm, a bread crust (whole grain I believe), some seeds and a cigarette butt. I’ve left them there as I’m not sure if they are a gesture of his appreciation or if he just forgot his shopping and will be back for it. .