I live up in the sky.
In order to get home, I have to take the world’s slowest elevator some 150+ feet above Pike Street, at which point I stare out a window that overlooks Downtown.
I like it up here. I am at once in the middle of it all, yet isolated from the activity of the streets below. I can stare down and watch people and traffic pass beneath me, yet those who I survey are completely oblivious to my existence. I can almost relate to the hundred new acquaintances I made today.
Living up in the sky does have some idiosyncrasies, however. It does take some getting used to, especially in Seattle.
Being up here means that I am serenaded day and most of the night by the world’s most awful sound. “Squawk, squawk, squawk” it goes … and when it will stop, nobody knows. You see, the roof of the building across the street is home to a large colony of seagulls. The gulls wake up early, go to sleep late, and every word in their vocabulary is exactly the same:
Now, some people hate the seagulls. The birds are considered pests. They are big, loud, pushy scavengers. They are the New Yorkers of the bird kingdom.
It just so happens that I like the winged rats, though. They provide a background noise that I would certainly miss were they ever to leave. They remind me how close I live to the water. They remind me that not everything can be bought. Word has it that the telephone company tried to rename them “The Century Link Avian Species”, but unlike our stadium authority, the birds refused to sell out.
To show my appreciation, today, I befriended these flying beasts.
This afternoon, while sitting at my computer and gnawing on a slice of pizza, I turned to throw the crust away. Before I could dispose if it, though, I thought “how wasteful”. How could I throw away perfectly good food? After all, there are throngs of Apple sweatshop employees that would love to eat my leftovers. Sure letting these people starve to shave 4 cents off the cost of an iPhone is so worth it, but still, I felt a bit guilty.
While sitting there with the crust in my hand, wondering if Sally Struthers was still taking donations; wondering if Sally Struthers was even still alive; the bird colony across the street caught my attention. Two birds were fighting over an inconsequential piece of garbage one of them had brought to the roof, and a light bulb immediately went on over my head.
“Turn off the damn light, it’s too bright in here,” I shouted to my friend who had flipped the switch, and I then went back to contemplating the disposition of my food.
“Hey, I bet the birds would like this!”, I thought, at which point I directed my attention out of my window.
How would I get the crust to them, though? It’s 40-50 feet from my window to the next rooftop, and pizza crust is not aerodynamically fit for such a journey. This being the case, I did what I do whenever I try to catch the attention of a random animal.
I began calling it like a dog.
I opened my window, held out the crust, and began whistling “woot, woot, woot, here boy, here boy, want some bread?”
As asinine as it seems, it worked.
Before I knew it, one of the seagulls was heading toward me. It was a big one. He left his perch and made a beeline for me so fast that I thought he would surely come through my window.
About a half second before hitting me right in the face, the bird reared up and did what I can only describe as the back stroke. He was literally treading the air 3-4 feet in front of my face, but it was clearly not a move that he could hold for any length of time. With each passing fractional second, he began to drop faster and faster.
Realizing the bird had done all he could to reach me, I looked him in the face, took aim, and with all of my strength I flung the crust into the mighty bird’s mouth.
It worked. Crust-in-mouth, the seagull dived to pick up speed, and then swooped off into the canyons of the city.
He didn’t share, though. He took the entire crust for himself, and as I sat there, window still open … another bird back-stroked in front of my window. Then another. Then another.
I felt like complete shit.
I had emptied my entire load into the mouth of one bird. Sure, he was happy (how could he not be?), but what of the 20 or so other seagulls that were left completely unsatisfied?
Not wanting to leave my fellow sky-dwellers hanging, I went to the kitchen, scoured the cabinets, and grabbed a full loaf of bread. When I returned to my window, the seagulls were still there … hovering and begging.
I grabbed a piece of bread, tore it into pieces, took aim, and launched it into the mouth of another seagull. When he flew off, I did this again. And again. And Again.
For 20 minutes, I rolled up bread, calcultated my trajectory, and tried to catapult it into the mouths of birds who tried their best to catch it mid-air.
It was literally a team effort, however, and I had to be precise. If I threw a bread piece too high, too low, or too fast, it floated down to the street below. I missed quite often, wasting about half of my shots and sending them down to the streets.
Some of the birds came back for seconds and thirds, but when all was said and done, I think everyone got at least one piece. I tried my best to give the biggest pieces to the smaller, weaker birds, as I knew they didn’t get much of the collective bounty on an average day.
Now that I have done this once, my guess is that the birds will be back. Seagulls are smart, and if you feed them once, they’ll forever harass you for more.
Tomorrow, I am going to the grocery store. I’m going to get different types of bread so I can give them a variety and ascertain which is their favorite. Once I find out, I will always make sure to keep it in stock.
Oh, and for those of you who wondered why it was raining bread in Downtown Seattle today, well, now you know.