Everyone knows that intersections commonly have field sensors embedded in the asphalt to detect vehicles so they can control the traffic lights, right?
I’m basing this off some inductive reasoning because about ten of my fellow motorists and I were held hostage this morning for several minutes by someone ‘giving the intersection some space’.
Did they face some existential crisis when the light failed to recognize their presence? Or did the mental hate rays (and occasional horn) convince them that no, it was the UNIVERSE that was wrong? Did they shake their head at “yet another intersection that just doesn’t like them”?
If everywhere you go smells like poo, check your shoes. If every intersection ignores your presence, maybe it’s not the intersections that are broken.
Now, I realize none of YOU would ever do this and you’re all amazing drivers who know about induction loops and how they need a mass of iron or steel above them to trigger the sensor and all that, but if you could help your FRIENDS realize they’ve got to pull forward to the appropriate spot, that’d be greaaaaat. Your motorcycle friends (riders, that is. If you’re friends with a motorcycle, we should talk) already know because reasons, but even cars need to be within a freakin’ car length to make this work.
Meanwhile, this morning’s Mr. or Ms. Magoo continues to spread blood pressure spikes and upset drivers in their wake. I really thought I knew all the ways to make the world a little worse by now, but this morning I learned a new one.
I’ve been struggling with my dishwasher for a while and it has been both educational and humbling.
A few years ago, we noticed that ours wasn’t doing as good of a job as before. We cleaned filters, rinsed it out, but it just wasn’t clearing stuff off the plates as well as it used to. It’s a good dishwasher (one of those Kenmore Elites designed (presumably) to get even the toughest caviar stains out of your wineglasses or somesuch nonsense) and it seemed to be working its little heart out, but it _just wasn’t doing as well_ as it used to.
We started rinsing more off our plates before putting them in. While we never quite got to the point my dad has (where he does the dishes by hand then loads them into the dishwasher to be dish-baptized or something), but we scraped and soaked.
We tried different detergents. Powders, liquids, gels, nada. A few months ago, KayDee bought a big box of household cleaning materials from one of her friends with a home business and it had a big foil packet of these little dishwasher ‘pellets’, a meatball-sized chunk of soap wrapped in some sort of wonton-like dissolving wrapper. We loaded one of those in and saw an improvement, and that was good! It still wasn’t as effective as our dishwasher was in ‘The Good Old Days’, but it wasn’t bad. Alright!
Eventually, the package ran out so one of us grabbed the next foil packet and started using it. Dishes were still getting clean…ish, but the job didn’t seem… quite as good. In fact, as first one then two weeks passed, the situation grew increasingly dire inside our mystery pit of washing. The dishwasher (with its little dirt detecting brain) would run longer and longer but dishes were starting to have some sort of kinda glaze on them that we’d have to rinse off. ALSO, the inside of the dishwasher started to get a weird greasy coating. It was not awesome.
Once again, I cleaned the filters thoroughly. I drained the reservoirs, I got a brush and degreased and scrubbed the inside of the dishwasher because we’re not animals. Well, technically we ARE animals, scientifically speaking, but specifically we’re not ‘Satisfied-To-Have-A-Dirty-Dishwasher Animals’.
No improvement. Still got that weird glaze. I read up on the problem and learned a lot! In fact, I learned why our dishwasher had grown less effective a few years ago, It turns out that Oregon is one of 17 states that outlawed sale of dishwasher soap containing trisodiumphosphate. TSP is the stuff that makes dishwasher soap really WORK and the stuff we could buy in the store didn’t have it anymore. It’s kinda like when Sudafed switched from Ephedrine (which could be used as a precursor for methaphetamine) to Pseudophedrine (which can be used as a precursor for methamphetamine) to protect, well, nobody I guess from methamphetamine. In the case of TSP, phosphates were believed to cause toxic algae blooms in our rivers so it seemed sensible. The fact that we’re having toxic algae blooms in our rivers three years after the ban went into effect is probably an interesting data point for someone, but I’m certainly not qualified to determine if it suggests anything important about the efficacy of that ban.
I also read a tip that white vinegar (added to the rinse cycle reservoir) could help in this post-phosphate world so I did, and there was indeed a modest improvement but it wasn’t _good enough_.
So…. a few days pass and we’ve assigned a loading/unloading cycle to the childrens. Having planned and executed the whole ‘Having a child’ thing over a decade ago specifically so we could offload chores, the whole ‘kids’ thing was starting to finally pay off. Now, any parent knows that while we want kids to do things around the house, the kid often wants to NOT do them for some reason. Of those who don’t follow through on their basic obligations to the household, some will just say ‘No!’ and need to have various privileges put on the line until they do the job. Some slightly brighter kids will agree to do a chore then not get around to doing it while maintaining plausible activity in some other acceptable fashion, and the really bright ones… the ones that are most exhausting… they’ll make sure that having them do a chore is harder for the parent than the parent just doing it themselves.
Have you ever frustratedly told a kid to just “go somewhere else” so you could jump in and properly do something you had assigned them? “I don’t have time for this”, you might think to yourself while industriously scrubbing or shoveling or burning something. “I might as well just do this myself next time”.
Stop! This is a win for the child, and unless WE keep the upper hand at all times, they’ll grow up thinking they’re inheriting the world from us and not simply servants to our every aging whim!
So it was with this eternal struggle to Keep Youth Down in mind that, when one of my kids told me we were out of dishwasher soap while loading, I knew instantly what was going on. “No, you still have to load it because we’re not out. We have soap right next to the sink in that foil packet”, I confidently informed him.
“No, that’s laundry detergent.”
I rolled my eyes. This little exercise in rebellion was getting out of control. “No, it’s dishwasher soap. You can’t just get out of a chore by making it difficult for us to assign, we’re onto you. Use it!”
My kid read the back of the packet again. Dubiously, he tried again. “Are you sure? It talks about clothing and I think it’s for the clothes washer.”
RIDICULOUS! Now I could tell that my kid thought I was a moron, too. This little tactic was about to backfire and I was going to deal with this little slowdown issue once and for all. The mistake he’d made this time was to give me something I could immediately disprove and then use as a jumping point directly into a nice long lecture about the importance of doing your assigned chores, respecting your parents, and making sure they have the finest quality retirement homes to live in when old and decrepit.
“Bring it over here”, I confidently instructed, my hands reaching out to take it so I could point out the error in his ways. He picks it up and brings it over. I know this pouch, I think I even opened it when we ran out of the last batch of-
Hmm, that’s odd. The little dishwasher picture on the back has a circle on the front of it. For some reason, that woman in the photo is loading clothing into her dishwasher. ‘SILLY LADY, that’s not how you use a dishwasher!’ I think to myself. The packet promises that the (redacted) will be completely color-safe. I can’t quite make out the word that’s redacted, every time I try my brain resets. The phrase ‘No Streak’ is nowhere to be found, but the words ‘Folding’ and ‘Fabric’ are prominently…. displayed….
For the last two weeks, it seems, we have been using laundry detergent in our dishwasher. When KayDee bought a box full of cleaning supplies, it came with a bunch of stuff including one package of dishwasher soap pellets and one packet of almost identically packaged and visually similar laundry soap pellets.
The weird glaze on our dishes? Probably fabric softener. The greasy film building up on the side of the dishwasher? Who knows, but apparently when your dishwasher soap doesn’t contain any actual grease-cutting dishwashing power AT ALL, that’s the kind of thing that starts to build up.
So that evening, one of our sons… won. They won. There’s no getting around it, he was right and we were wr-wr-wr-wr-wr…. He was right and we were wr-wr-wr-wr… he was right and we were less right.
I’ve since gotten actual dishwasher detergent and miracles of miracles, the dishes no longer have that glaze. I’ve scrubbed and rinsed the inside of the dishwasher again and the greasy wallcoat hasn’t started coming back yet, and while the dishes still aren’t getting quite as clean as they did before TSP, they’re certainly not as terrible as they were when we were trying to wash them with laundry soap. GO FIGURE.
So… moral of the story: Dishwasher acting up? Check the label on your soap to make sure you’re NOT AN IDIOT. And hey, if you’ve got a box of TSP sitting around, maybe you can add a dash occasionally for those days when you think your poor dishwasher deserves to have a victory. They work hard for us, it’s only fair. Not like those lazy, scheming kids, that’s for sure.
I don’t usually concern myself too greatly about perfectly matching them because MY EYES ARE UP HERE PAL but there’s something uncomfortable already about walking shoeless through Kohl’s; having tremendously unmatched socks while I do it escalates that unease.
Then suddenly actual physical escalator. What.
I knew I was going to lose something on this thing, I just didn’t know if it would be a sock, toe, or entire foot. Through providence, the only thing I lost was dignity as I yelp-hopped away from the chompers at the bottom.
What did I learn? Ideally: don’t buy crummy shoes that wear through in a week, or maybe ‘get the replacements before you visit customer service so you can remain shod’, or maybe even just try to match socks.
I entered the final phase of today’s project with one main goal: Don’t Die.
A few weeks ago, I decided that my stairs had far too much wasted room. As I haven’t finished my life-size ‘Indiana Jones frozen in Nazi carbonite statue’ to hang above it yet, I decided to try something new. What’s the big thing this year? CATS. That’s right, folks, it’s all about cats this year. With that in mind, I decided to put up some shelves for the cats to ignore.
The problem is that to put the shelves up where I wanted them, I would need to go up a ladder. My ladder doesn’t have crazy adjustable ‘one side longer than the other’ legs so yesterday at the shop, I glued and screwed (that just sounds wrong…) some scrap together to make a StairWiderer. A couple pieces of 4×4 post glued together with some inch thick ply and I had a… thing… that could extend a step out to be wide enough for my ladder to be sideways to the stairs.
While working on it, my 11 year old burst into tears when he saw me up there. At first, I mistakenly thought he was concerned for my safety but it turned out he was worried he wouldn’t be reliably able to catch the cats anymore. Oh.
I’m pleased to report that I was able to climb up to neck-breaking altitudes and back several times without dying. With this specific deliverable realized, I feel confident reporting that my main goal was met successfully.
Some shelves are up now and I’ll be periodically hurling the cats up onto them until they figure out these are a new place for them to withhold affection from us. Bonus: The big octagonal window that sheds mocking light on the wasted space of this stairwell will be a great viewport for them to judge the neighborhood from. It’s nothing fancy to be posting about, but heck, it’s an easy way to establish an alibi if nothing else, officer.
Our neighbor (the crazy one) has some trees that overhang our property. A few big branches were unable to deal with a few hundred kilos of ice during the freeze and broke. For the most part, they gently settled down against the roof of our house and stayed there. Hoping they would Jesus themselves back into position, I waited the customary three days but the holy spirit was not with them so, you know, they stayed broken against the roof. This period was pretty scary because at least one of the branches that was creaking and moaning every time the wind blew and sounded like a g-g-g-ghost pirate ship at sea.
We’ve got a two-story house so getting to the branches was tricky. KayDee suggested I climb up onto the roof and back down the steep roof to the 20 foot dropoff and ineffectually kick at the branches hoping they’d spontaneously fall away until I myself fell off the house (these weren’t her words exactly, but basically what would have happened) but I had a better idea.
I got a couple pieces of conduit from the local recycling place. I drilled some holes, bolted the two pieces of metal pipe together, then used big hose-clamps to attach my electric chainsaw to the end of the newly constructed sawlongerer. I taped the trigger permanently to ‘On’ then ran an extension cord from the saw.
I balanced this contraption near the offending branches, Marcus plugged it in then retreated to a safe place where he could disconnect the power without being in the DANGERRRRR ZOOOONE, and I began cutting. Slice slice slice goes the saw, swish swish BAM go the branches. One of them hit my face on the way down after bouncing off something else, but it probably only improved my looks.
Finally, we were down to one, the BIG one. I sawed at it. BZZZZ! BZZZZ! My little electric chainsaw bit and chewed and finally the large branch broke free and, through some series of ricochets, its 100+lb mass fell… directly onto my brother-in-law’s quad that he had left parked behind the house this weekend. Now, Tim doesn’t seem to use Facebook so there’s no real chance he’ll find out, but thankfully the branch came down on a footrest and didn’t do any damage. It WAS, however, balanced there and I had to figure out a safe way to get it off the quad without causing damage but that’s a story for another day (that I’ll never tell, because honestly, it’s really not much of a story. Mostly lifting things and swearing but just imagine it’s something good.)
Once it was off, I popped the quad into neutral and wheeled it to safety and tried to figure out how to fix this limb. It was now standing straight up, was about 10 inches thick and maybe 12 feet tall and thick conifer branches were holding it up. If I left it, some day it would fall over and smash my house, my BiL’s camping trailer, the Great Wall fence that keeps my crazy neighbor and her rampaging hordes out of my back yard, or possible even the hot tub (well not really, I just wanted to mention that I technically have a hot tub because hey, hot tub).
I ended up cutting a v-shaped wedge out of the middle until there was a tiny bit of wood holding it together. Clearing out an escape route, I lined up, took stock of all of my martial arts experience (none), and executing a flawless (that’s a lie) karate kick against the branch. It snapped and folded neatly in half, dropping down vertically like a finely designed demolition job and not doing any damage. Honestly, if I had planned this, it would have been spectacular, but it was really mostly “I should probably do something with wedges, that’s what the pros do…”-level planning. You know, like when an amateur who finds themselves caring for someone in labor asking for boiled water and towels. What do they do when they get them? They’re probably hoping a real doctor gets there before they need to deal with the facts that in addition to the ‘violently pregnant woman’, they also now have a ‘I’m responsible for a pot of boiling water and some towels’ problem. Anyway, I lucked out.
Back yard now has a number of severed limbs (none human), a miraculously undamaged quad & house & camper, and the house should be quiet again tonight.
I’ve had to disassemble the Sawlongerer for now because some repairs are needed and also because having an electric chainsaw is a dangerous enough lure; having one that can cut things 20 feet away…. that’s a full blown crisis of temptation. May these parts be ever stored separately lest they come together again when my will is weak.
It’s that time again, the biennial replacement of the bacon wallet. I love these things but for some reason, they seem to wear out.
Now, I’ve heard all sorts of different crazy theories like “you have too many things in your wallet” to “maybe it’s because your wallet is too full” and even “seriously, you should clean that out”… they’re all over the place! So as you can tell, nobody really knows why but they all seem to think it’s weird. See, I think that replacing a wallet once every couple years is a perfectly cromulent thing to do. Things get used, they need to eventually be replaced, right? I mean, we don’t all have the same toothbrush we did when we were kids, right? Of course not, because we use them and they get worn out and eventually we get another one from the toothbrush store or wherever it is you get them.
“But Ben”, you may say as some sort of hypothetical straw-man, “there are plenty of things in life that should last you a while. Maybe if you cleaned out you-” Shut up! This isn’t the time or the place for wild conspiracy theories. Plus, I have plenty of things that last a long time. For example, I’ve not replaced the blade in my Gillette Fusion razor since 2008 and it works just as well today as it did in 2010. Every morning, I admire the distinguished patina of protective corrosion on it before scraping it across my neck to manage what would otherwise become an unruly IT neckbeard and it works just fine. People who replace these before they age properly have no connection to their past, no sense of continuity in their lives. Some things, you see, are meant to last and I’m just saying that maybe wallets _aren’t_ that thing.
So this morning, I made a successful transplant from old to new. Looking into the new bacon wallet, I’m comforted by all the things I expect to see. Egyptian currency from six years ago, a Vons card from when I lived in Los Angeles (because I would feel pretty silly if I was in LA _without_ it), and my emergency Canadian penny. I heard a rumor that Canada has ceased production of their penny so by the sacred laws of supply and demand, if I hold onto this long enough I should be able to ride this baby into a plush retirement.
One thing of note, the new wallet kinda creaks a little when I squish it down. As you can see from the picture, it’s a little misshapen which I assume is just a quirk of the material or something. This has happened before so I’m not that worried; I find that cramming it into my pocket long enough seems to beat the resistance out of it after a while and it eventually accepts its lot in life, like a pony that’s been broken to saddle.
Onwards to the future, new wallet! And old wallet: it’s time for you to rest. Into the drawer with the rest of your kin, the stable has one more retired beast to while away the days. Your hard work over the years (both of them) is appreciated, but it’s time for a new generation to have its chance.
It’s been a year since the events surrounding what I think of as the Raccoon Wars of 2012 and there has been a change. If you are new to ‘As The Ben Turns’, you may not know of the epic struggle in which I was embroiled: Inhuman foes, elaborate traps, puzzles, and coming face to face with snarling enemies are all parts of a series of escalations I’ve documented here.
For the past few weeks, there have occasionally been mysteriously clean dry-food plates in the Catfeteria. As we all know, a dish that is 50% or below full of catfood = empty as the soul of an MPAA executive in the eyes of a cat, so finding the occasional catfood bowl that’s picked clean has been… concerning.
Fast forward to 4:30 this morning. Coming down the stairs, I heard a deliberate mechanical crunching. Our cats are very casual eaters, so the chomping machine I was hearing was not normal. CRUNCH CRUNCH CRUNCH it went with the subtlety of a woodchipper being fed Federal witnesses. CRUNCH CRUNCH CRUNCH.
Turning on my flashlight, I crept around the corner to see a bag of dry food jerking and wiggling as it was methodically disemboweled by some sort of furred monster. “It can’t be him… I defeated the raccoon” I told myself, but the evidence of a non-cat invader couldn’t be ignored. ‘Maybe it’s a stray’, I told myself unconvincingly.
I snuck closer, then shined the line directly at it. “Ah HA!” I yelled. “!!!!” it snarled and then, in a panic, disappeared _into_ the large bag. I wasn’t sure what I had seen, but I knew a few things:
1. It was not a cat.
2. It was not a raccoon.
3. It was angry and uncoordinated.
The bag spun around and danced as the mystery creature struggled to, well, literally fight its way out of a paper bag. After an embarassing 5-10 seconds it finally succeeded and tore out of the house through the open sliding glass door. Crud, I’d forgotten to reset that last night, at least now I had a theory on how it had gotten in.
During its sprint, it looked over at me and for a moment, time slowed down and I got a clear look at what I was facing. I could see every greasy hair on its pointy head as it turned to glance at me before majestically plowing into the corner of the slider and bouncing out the door. Time returned to normal, but now I knew the name of my enemy.
The small, land equivalent of a Great White Shark, the possum has approximately one billion teeth in its mouth. I’ve been able to see a couple examples of this over the past few weeks when my mighty cats have brought in living possum yutes for us to presumably adopt. Their mouths, when they’re hissing at me, appear to be lined with inward facing teeth like some sort of furry Sarlacc Pit and their beady little eyes contain only hate for a world that does not respect possums.
The yutes I’d carefully taken outside had been maybe 8-10 inches but the thing that erupted out of that innocent bag of Kitty Kibble must have had a torso that was more than a foot long, uneasily attached to an overly muscular tail of the sort you’d expect to be found on display in the Snake House at a zoo.
This ‘possum battleship’ blasted out of my house at a fearsome clip and I quickly closed the screendoor behind it, but now I’m left wondering: has this creature been coming in through the cat door before now?
Have the Raccoon Wars re-opened with a new ‘End Boss’?
Browsing reddit this morning, I enjoyed this completely accurate picture and had to share my solution.
This is why I built a rain shower.
Out of PVC, I made a rectangular hoop of sorts that I hung from the ceiling. It had holes drilled in it and a tube going to a diverter valve I put between the normal shower head and my monstrosity.
On a lark, I painted it gold. They had brass, but I felt it was important to go with gold for reasons that will become clear shortly.
Once calibrated, I had a device that could allow both my wife and I to stay warm in the shower at the same time! We could spend lots of extra clockcycles in the shower and many good times were had.
A few weeks later, we were at a party and wife was telling some friends about the device I had built. We were having a nice conversation, then she mentioned that I had painted it to look sort of like brass pipes which was neat.
“Gold”, I corrected, then took a sip of my drink.
“Brass, gold, it’s just spray paint, you get the idea” she responded, making eye contact with her friends and smiling.
“Yeah, but no, they had brass. I picked gold.” I cocked my head very slightly, patient. One of her friends suddenly twitched, then another.
After a moment, one of them asked my wife: “So…. he made you… a golden shower….?”
I don’t remember much about what happened immediately after that, but all in all, I’d put this in the ‘success’ category.
I just washed my hands at the office after breakfast and realized that I have become a wizard. Well, if I were technically correct, it would be more like a Technomage from Babylon 5. Those were the dudes who made ‘magic’ happen with a lot of advanced technology.
So like I said, I was washing my hands. Stepping in front of the mirror I automatically reached out and, without needing to do anything so crass as turn levers or valves, I called water to my hands. Scrubbing, I made a gesture to one side and collected the soap that dispensed itself into my hands per my will.
The water shut itself off once I wanted it to, then I lifted my left arm towards a nearby dispenser and summoned paper towels into my grasp.
A minute later, I strode through the halls of the office, then spoke a small incantation. The phone in my pocket invoked the voice of my wife (who was sitting many miles away). I asked her how the weather was, and without any perceptible effort, she called forth knowledge of the weather patterns with her web browser and told me exactly what to expect today.
After the spell that allowed me to speak with her had completed, I sat at my desk and, with a few minutes of concentration, summoned powerful communication sorcery that placed this message in front of you without regard to how far away you are.
We’re all turning into Technomages, but like the frog in the slowly heating water, we’re just not realizing it because of how gradual it is. This isn’t really a rant or me being my usual raving asshole, just an observation.
After a recent meeting, I found myself with a big bag of hamburger buns that, while not moldy, were not quite tasty enough to save. Always looking for a way to avoid waste, I decided it would be a nice exercise to feed these to the ducks with my kids.
Picking them up from school, we drove out to the local duck pond. “What are we doing here, Dad?” Child One asked as we pulled in.
“We’ve got too much bread, and these ducks are probably hungry. Let’s solve two problems at once!” I responded, excited at the upcoming magical adventure in animal interaction.
As I pulled into my parking spot, I noticed that there were quite a few geese wandering around the area and pecking at the grass. “Hmm, geese. I wonder what they’re doing here?” I thought to myself. “Plotting”, is what my future self would have answered.
As we got out of the car, I grabbed my bag of buns and we walked into the park. Some of the surrounding geese had turned to watch our progress silently. As we walked into the area where the water ponds are and the ducks hang out, I began to realize a number of vital facts.
1. There weren’t any ducks. Well, there were maybe three or four token ducks, but for the most part, no ducks.
2. There were geese. Possibly hundreds of them.
3. Geese are bigger than ducks.
Finally, as we entered the open area beyond the shielding bushes, I realized one final thing.
4. Geese are tall.
Apparently, we were not the first humans they had seen, and they had grown to understand that humans often produce wonderful bread. The birds began to wander in our direction, so I opened a small tear in the bag and pulled out a pair of hamburger buns to give to the boys. “Tear them into small pieces and throw them”, I instructed. As I pulled out my own bun, I noticed that the birds were wandering a little faster than before, less of a meander and more of a walk.
“Dad,” mentioned Child One, “there sure are a lot of geese”.
“Yes”, I responded jovially, “and they look hungry. I bet they’re going to like this!” I tore off a piece of bread and threw it towards the nearest birds. The ‘walk’ I had noticed gradually transitioned to a light trot, and the birds closed with us even quicker.
One goose walked up to Child Two (who was dutifully trying to tear off a piece of bread to give to it per instructions) and struck. It’s beak flew out and neatly grabbed the lower half of the bun out of his hand.
“Dad!” Child Two squawked. I began to turn towards him when I heard a scream. Child One had suddenly been surrounded by geese and had thrown his bread away. While the geese had turned away from him to go after the bread, he was still surrounded by tall birds and was quite intimidated. “Don’t worry”, I re-assured him, “they just want the bread.” Child One pulled his arms in and smartly tucked his face into his coat, yelling continuously. I needed to act, so I headed towards him.
The birds, however, didn’t care. As I lurched towards the mob, I turned to check on Child Two and discovered that he had disappeared, but as there didn’t appear to be a pile of feeding birds concentrating around an kid-sized lump on the ground, I turned back to Child One who was still yelling. I stepped towards him, and the birds advanced on me. Their heads were higher than my waist, and they stared at me with unblinking avian eyes and opened their large mouths, and I suddenly had a flash of insight. I remembered that after the age of the dinosaurs had passed, the only living remnants of their great monstrous age were animals like Alligators and… the birds. The dirty white birds clustering around me and closing in on me were, I realized, descendants of the Velociraptor, a pack hunting animal of fierce ability.
Also, this pack of Raptor-children knew that I had their food.
Trying to keep my voice steady so Child One wouldn’t be scared any more, I re-assured him again that the birds just wanted the bread, and as I said this, I began to almost desperately tear at the bag in my hands to free the rest of the bread. I was hoping that the birds understood that the bread was in the bag and not buried deep within my abdomen because if I was wrong, this situation might get even uglier.
The birds keep advancing. I step back once, they waddle forward twice.
My casual backwards motion towards Child One started as a casual repositioning, then became a withdrawal and finally Full Retreat. The white feathered Velociraptors (because this is the only way I can see them now) are swarming on us from all locations. The birds despondently picking at the grass by our car have heard the cry of ‘BREAD!’ in gooseltongue and my situation is becoming a cinematic mash-up of the Jurassic Park and the Burly Brawl scene from the second Matrix movie.
Finally, I get the bag open and throw another bun into the crowd. At this point, I learn that geese are not brilliant. The only ones that detect the bread are the ones that are hit in the face by it. The ones I’m worried about (which are standing right in front of me with their cavernous mouths fully open) do not see this and continue to advance. I drop some bread in front of me the way a firefighter deliberately creates firebreaks to stop a raging forest inferno and gradually, the most menacing of the birds drop back to feed on this. I throw the last of my buns into the middle of the mob as I reach Child One. I pull him away from the birds and towards the car.
“Alex!” I yell upwards, knowing that wherever Second Child is, he’ll start coming. I see motion out of the corner of my eye and my stocky five year old comes charging from around the other side of a barrier behind which he had retreated. I glance back and all of the birds are now clustered around the central bread carnage, feeding. Their tailfeathers bob up and down in the air, and the resemblance between them and the creatures of Jurassic Park is unmistakable. These Velociganders surround their prey, and their razor sharp beaks tear at the starchy corpse in front of them with vicious efficiency.
As Child Two runs up, he sees my empty hands and howls with outrage. I later discover that while Marcus and I are locked in a battle for our lives against the hundreds of dinosaur-analogues, Alex’s finely tuned sense of justice has kicked in and he has realized that the geese are bullies and that there must be ducks somewhere else. Running, he finds a small cluster of them milling about far away from The Hoard and has carefully torn up his remaining piece of bread and made sure that each of them gets a piece. He angrilly stomps up to me and yells “But I only got one piece of bread!” Worried that the flock will soon realize their bread supplier has left, I turn the kids towards the car and try to casually urge them into the safety of the car before the second wave attacks.
In the distance, I see one, then two, then hundreds of heads pop up from their feeding frenzy and look around. A few of them begin to wander in our direction, so after re-assuring Child One (who remains quite distraught), I bundle the boys into the car and start the engine.
As we drive out, I find myself glancing in the rearview mirror from time to time. As far as I can tell, they aren’t chasing me, but whenever we drive through a shadow, I check the sky briefly to make sure we’re not being followed.
“Dad”, begins Child One, 6. “That scared the… the HELL out of me.” I can relate, and I re-assure him again that they’re just birds, but deep inside, I can’t quite make myself believe it.
One thing’s for sure, I now know where I will test my net-throwing gun.