Sunday, 20 January 2013

On Storks and Why, God?

I feel a special affinity towards pigeons.1 Ours was not a bond formed of one chance encounter, or a fleeting glimpse across a subway platform. Rather, pigeons are beautiful for their constancy. In my home city of Chicago, they can be found anywhere there is trash nearby.2 When I moved to Brooklyn sophomore year of high school, they were among the first living things that greeted my entrance into the world's capital. When I went to college, pigeons were there, solidly dependable. Even in the course of my travels in Europe, pigeons were never far from my side. 

In short, I have always been sure of one thing upon arrival in an unfamiliar airport or train station: sometime in the next few hours, I will see a pigeon, and it will probably try to shit on my shoe.3 Such was my certainty that upon arrival in Kampala, I was so convinced that pigeons abounded here that I did not even spare them a conscious thought. I took our relationship for granted, and only after a gnawing feeling somewhere around my kidney4 realized that there weren't any.


Pigeons had abandoned me.5

1 Also towards pidgins, but that is neither here nor there.
2 Except, curiously, rarely in the trash itself. Foreshadowing alert: not all urban pests are like this.
3 Punk.
4 Also notable as probably the part of you a pigeon would most like to gnaw on.
5 My aforementioned shoe wasn't too broken up about this.

Thankfully, I've moved on. The reason is that Uganda has their own indigenous pigeons, which could probably eat American pigeons.

They're called storks.

Aren't they cute?

Storks are like pigeons in every important way. They are throughout the city nearly as numerous as human beings. They hang out on top of streetlights, in the middle of roads, and clustered in trees.

They actually eat garbage.

And they are denser than a truckload of cement.6

The phrase bird-brain expresses a questionable claim that birds are really stupider than most animals, an idea which crows and falcons, for example, give the lie to. But I submit that this claim is in fact true, solely because storks are so head-spinningly obtuse as to negate the relative advantage gained by their brethren.

6 Their abysmal intelligence has probably led more than a few to become trapped in cement at some point, so perhaps their density is more or less equivalent to that of average Ugandan cement.

Why did the stork cross the road?
Probably to play in traffic.
The Marabou Stork, the particular variety that infests Uganda's capital, is without a doubt the ugliest bird I have ever seen. It doesn't look capable of enough independent brain activity to keep its head upright, and you'd better well bet I judged the book by its cover, because it turns out the book's contents are really just the word “dur” repeated a few million times. 

Storks' terminal stupidity is illustrated quite well by the specimen appearing above in the middle of the road, which was captured exactly two seconds before a car whizzed by, missing it by inches. The bird in question made a little clucking sound, flapped its wings as if in indignation—and stayed in the same goddamn spot. And then another car passed by, coming just as close, and elicited the exact same reaction.

More than once while walking around Kampala, Sam and I have come across storks picking up sticks in their beaks and standing there as if waiting for something wonderful to happen. Perhaps it needed the stick to keep its oversized jaws from absent-mindedly knocking together. More likely they haven't had a thought in their lives and instead picked up the stick because who the hell knows why they do anything.

They poop on their own legs. Really.

In conclusion, storks are worthless wastes of oxygen and I want my pigeons back.

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