09/14/04: John vs. pigeons

Gather 'round my children, and I'll tell you a tale of woe...

You may recall from my 8/26 post that John has a problem with pigeons on his fire escape.

To refresh your memory:
John's got these big windows that look out on his backyard, and one window that looks out onto his fire escape. This fire escape is a local hangout for plump pigeons, and there's this one pigeon that sits in this one spot and the window frames him perfectly. I just about pee myself when this bird sits there.   John, however, isn't as fond of the birds (well, more specifically, what the birds leave behind), so he knocks at the window when he sees a gang out there. The birds flutter away but are back in 2 seconds. But last night John shook this giant stuffed snake at them and I swear, you could smell the fear. The image of a mid-30s doctor shaking a stuffed furry snake at pigeons on a fire escape was possibly even funnier than watching a mid-30s doctor chasing a squirrel around my apartment with a red plastic shovel. I laughed so hard I got a charley horse in my ab muscle. Ha ha ow ow ha ha ow ha ha ow ow ha!

Anyway, John has propped the stuffed snake in the windowsill and the pigeons have been gone all morning. Doesn't he understand that he's robbing me of my cherished friends?!? I'm all aloooooooooooooooooooooooone and my pigeons are the only ones who will listen!

John told me last night he was worried I was bored. I said no. (What, the fact that I'm befriending pigeons is cause for alarm?)

Anyway, since that post, the birds are now a bit more used to the stuffed snake perched in the window, but this doesn't stop John from shaking it at them every now and again.

I find this whole pigeon battle unfathomably hilarious, and as such, he gets no sympathy from me whatsoever. I think he secretly hates me for it.

John: Damn, the pigeons are back!
Jill: Pigeons! Bahahahahahaha!
John: I will chase them away with the snake!
Jill: The snake! Bahahahahahahahahahah!

They say the key to a successful relationship is being supportive or somesuch. Pbbsssshhtt. :-)

Anyway, yeah, so, pigeons are just funny to me. The sounds they make slay me. The way they move their heads around like they're really interested in understanding more about whatever it is they're looking at makes me die laughing. Their little birdie feet make me giddy.   And of course, stuffed snakes are funny. John is also very, very funny. Combine the three and I am reduced to a giggling, snarfing pile of gelatinous idiocy (so what else is new).

On Sunday morning, some bit flipped in John's head and he decided that he was gonna get rid of this pigeon problem once and for all. He whipped out his trusty clipboard and ran into his closet of miscellaneous hardware to take inventory, and he feverishly drew up a diagram for a 12-volt bird-squirting system with valves and hoses and c-clamps and PIC programming and a compressor and a low water sensor -- this thing was gonna be f-ing Robocop. John was in the zone, yo, and he had this fire in his eyes... the fire of bird-hatred.

Quick note for my Arizona peeps: Could you imagine what would happen if Mark and John got together? Duuuuuude, the stuff they'd build...

With a coach-like clap of the hands, we sprinted over to the hardware/plumbing store on Clement. On the way, John was scheming ways to power-wash the bird poop off of his fire escape. "I could stand below the fire escape and squirt water up through the grates... that would loosen it up. Then I could climb the fire escape and you could hook-shot the hose up to the second floor where I will then blast the poop off the window sills and the rest of the grating. Muuahahahah! YES YES YES!!" He is almost foaming at the mouth.

We arrive at the plumbing/hardware store and spend 30 minutes digging through bins of valves, adapters, T-joints, PVC pipe and epoxy building the perfect thing, when John realized he needed just one certain kind of fitting which we couldn't find. A friendly inquiry to the helpful hardware guy redirected us entirely from the do-it-yourself every-hour-on-the-hour water-shooting flame-throwing bird eradication unit to... THE OWL (see left.).


I think John had the wind sucked from his sails a bit when he learned that for a mere $29.99 + tax he can have a humane and ludicrously simple way to get rid of the pigeons and the detritus they leave behind. No building, no PIC programming, no soldering, no hoses or compressors, just a stupid plastic owl with creepy eyes and a 360-degree rotating head. He shows it to me, and I ask if it shoots pea soup from its mouth. (Sadly, it does not.)   We purchase said owl. It is double-bagged for safety. We bring it home, and the feverish poo cleaning begins as described before. Fire escapes are sprayed from above and below, hoses are thrown and caught in mad Paul O'Neill style, environmentally friendly cleaners are used. For the stuff he couldn't reach, trenches were dug so water would be routed effieciently for maximum guano erosion. It is far from spotless, but the improvement is so significant that John is relieved. He decides to let it dry a bit before attempting owl placement, and he is sure to keep a watchful eye on the fire escape to make sure no birds are nullifying his hard work in the interim. Back inside, every once in a while I catch him glancing longingly at the diagram he drew, and I think I can hear his heart breaking just a little bit. (cue violins.)   He mumbles something (a la Milton from Office Space) about maybe rigging the owl so its head will not be breeze-dependent for movement. Maybe he could build a solar-powered servo of some kind...

A few hours into the drying process, John looks out the window and makes a comment about the large cloud of flies that are now enjoying the wet poop. I ask if he'd rather have a fly infestation over a few pigeons hanging out, and he said, "Flies, definitely. Because then maybe some fly-eating birds will come along and eat the flies, the maggots will aerate the poop, and then..." and we just riff on that for a while. No need to type it out.

A calculated decision is made to let things dry overnight, and yesterday (Monday) after work John decides it's now time to install the owl. He fills the owl with some kind of weight and places it on the fire escape; a majestic fanfare is sounded and golden beams shine down from heaven. John lovingly illuminates a carefully-directed lamp to bathe the owl in pigeon-visible golden light for the evening hours. It is inspiring, like Mount Rushmore. We look at it every so often, basking in its mighty presence. There are indeed no pigeons, surely they are quivering at the unholy wrath they face if they come near.   Triumph to the humans!!   (cue celestial choir.)   We sleep soundly that night, taking comfort that the precious fire escape is bird-free. Sweet dreams are had by all.

(cue sunrise music)

This morning, John got up for work and he took a peek out the window to find the fire escape pigeon-free. He feels powerful, supreme, majestic. There is a spring in his step I have not seen in a long time. I am proud of his accomplishment.

With coffee in hand, he left the apartment to grab the bus for work and I began my day. I plopped in front of the computer to continue working on the Mosko-site (yay, income) and was enjoying my breakfast.

Within an hour, the unspeakable occurred (cue atonal horror soundtrack): I heard the familiar flapping of pigeon wings. I looked out the window and could not believe my eyes: one lone pigeon was roosted (albeit, tentatively) on the railing to do some site evaluation. He is clearly the surveyor bird. He then gave the nod to his not-so-bright lackey (I've named him Gus) who flew over to the ground-level just three feet away from the big terrible owl, and he starts to inch closer.   Their little birdie-heads inquistively twitch and you can almost see the cartoon question-marks appearing over their heads. Are they trying to communicate with it? Is Gus just trying to taunt the owl? Gus inches closer... and closer.

As I watch this unfold through the window and I am laughing so hard out loud I can hardly control myself. I don't know whether to cheer for the pigeons or to stand by my man. My loyalties are torn... So I do what any self-respecting person would do. I take pictures.

I grabbed John's new digital camera and tried to snap pictures, but the birds heard me laughing and flew away. No worries, they return in moments and I do manage to snap a few here. Just looking at these are making me pee myself.

The scout pigeon scopes
out the situation
Gus makes his move

I am very fortunate that I have a place to be tonight. My friend Anna's early music group from Stanford is rehearsing tonight and I'm gonna sit in and sing a bit. This is especially good, because I won't have to break the news to John that the owl didn't work, since there's no way I'd be able to do it without laughing. I don't want him to think I'm laughing at him; I'm just laughing at the situation. (It's not mockery! It's love!) So, I'll just skulk out of the house a bit early so he can discover this on his own.

And maybe he can use the pictures he'll surely find as fodder for the money back guarantee that comes with the owl. :-)

Fortune Teller Miracle Fish today tells me that I am: passionate.   Whoa!

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