Rats with wings would be an appropriate description, but I’m pretty sure that award has already been claimed by the noble pigeon, first cousin to the dove. Seagulls world-wide dodged a bullet with that one, and with the best public relations in the game, they continue to fly under the radar. Let me set the record straight; seagulls are vicious beasts, and I know them well. It is impossible to sit in any outdoor space in New Zealand and avoid the plague of beggars that come in search of scraps, only to end up with mostly cigarette butts and bubble gum wrappers. Despite my best efforts to poison the entire population, they always seem to come back for more.
Screeching and diving and pooping, they are a menace best handled with pellet guns and industrial strength wolverine poison. The sad truth of the matter though, is that I could handle all this outrageously anti-social behavior if I didn’t think the seagull was capable of more. No, if the seagull was inherently like the possum, vicious and weird and stupid, driven only by a primal blood lust and a genetic need to destroy, then I could forgive this vulgar sea bird. But I cannot. For you see, I know the seagull is capable of more. With my own eyes, I have seen a pack of well organized gulls run a wicked distraction game on helpless outdoor café staff. One seagull swooped at the stack of water glasses while the others snuck onto a side table to grab the scraps of French toast left by a family of fat Italian tourists. When the staff ran to disburse the mob dining crudely on French, another seagull attacked an unguarded bread basket. I applaud those seagulls. I applaud any such bit of organized madness. Successful organized madness. Those seagulls ate well; those seagulls were kings for a day. Legends.
That was a flash of greatness that I’ve never seen replicated. Not even close. No, instead the seagull mind normally functions like that of the rabid mongoose, territorial and mean. Often, one seagull will approach the table meekly; timid and shy. Head bobbing, cooing gently, posturing, if you will. Almost cute. And then another seagull, sometimes smaller, but not always, will come running; head ducked low, little seagull shoulders hunched around its skinny seagull neck, screeching angrily at the first. Pecking and cawing, it chases the first away, claiming that little scrap of red brick plaza for its own. Where as I might have been inclined to toss a piece of bread to the first seagull, the respectful seagull, the second receives only my scorn and disdain. The second seagull will glare at me, as if to imply that I should be impressed by his act of malicious vulgarity toward his brethren. But I am not impressed, and so I only return his glare. That second seagull will then screech and peck and chase away any other seagull that comes into his area, and I am forced to endure this bird on bird aggression, firsthand. I will throw ice cubes at this second seagull, and thus earning a stare from a passing hippie who only knows half the story.
I will return that glare too.
And now my peaceful morning is ruined, and for what? If these seagulls would work together, they could rob a bread truck and be legends in the aviary community. Instead, they are reduced to fighting amongst themselves for my discards. Receiving neither my respect, nor my bread. I will marvel at the stupidity of the seagull, and the wasted potential of such a crude species. The seagull will continue to fight with his peers, getting madder and madder, because he knows the bread is close, and yet in his heart of tiny black hearts, he knows that the bread will not end up in his hungry seagull belly. Occasionally, out of pure spite, I will throw the tiniest scrap of bread into the middle of the large flock and watch them fight for it. Pecking and gouging, shoulders shaking with fury as they fight. They bleed; they rip food from each other’s mouths with venomous disdain, each laying their claim to my castaways. Meanwhile, I fill my stomach with meat pie and amusement; perhaps I order another beer.
And then I open my world news page, and I read about what’s going on back in The States. I wonder how we managed to allow ourselves be divided. We are all the same, and yet we fight about silly things, causing us all to suffer. We carve out our niche, our own little piece of special red brick interest and then we defend it, shoulders hunched, screeching and clawing, and fighting anyone who comes into our space. Screaming at anyone who professes a view that differs in any way from our own. Instead of working together from a position of strength, we allow those in power to distract us from what’s important. Instead of becoming legends, we fight for their scraps.
And we’re happy eating their cigarette butts, while they laugh at us and order another round. We should be plotting to rob a bread truck. We should all be legends.