Fascinating Commuting Stories, Part 487

I seem to find myself endlessly entertained by my commute which is both a good thing (keeps my mind occupied, anyway) and a bad thing (you have to hear about it and I know you really, really don't care).

AND, now that I am armed with a non-broken camera, you will continue to be subjected to Things I Find Notable About My Mornings.

Such as.

The BART station where I emerge every morning has an issue with pigeons. This isn't really surprising (or notable – I'll get to the notable later) seeing as I live in a city, and every city has an issue with pigeons. However, I live in the Bay Area. And while I do not know the ins and outs of how our Bay Area goes about their pigeon problem-solving, I am damn certain that "but we must be humane" is a central factor.

You know how we are around here.

So one method of trying to get pigeons to stop landing where they (and their poop) are not wanted, is what I will call the Plastic Stick method. Somewhere out there, some plastics manufacturer is making a fortune (and laughing all the way to the bank) by providing strips of clear plastic sticks that, um, stick up.

Like this:


And everywhere you go, another strip of plastic sticks is being attached to a rooftop and stair ledge and guardrail and such. The theory, we may surmise, is that birds don't want to perch on plastic sticks.

It makes sense, doesn't it? I know I probably still have scars on my feet from the few times I accidentally stepped on Legos as a kid, so I agree – upright plasticy things? Not comfortable to land on.

However, the theory seems to have a hole in it. Literally.

Whether because of some Darwinian principle or, you know, simply because birds can SEE, many pigeons don't seem to find the plastic sticks as anything more than an inconvenience.

"I see those plastic sticks along the edge of the roof," a pigeon may say, "so I will not land on the part of the roof that has those sticks. I will perch on the part of the roof NEXT to the sticks."

And that would explain why every morning I awake to pigeons hanging out NOT on the ledge of my fire escape where my landlord has attached the plastic sticks, but on the STAIRS of the fire escape, which are stick-free.

Crafty birds.

But ho! Apparently, the BART people got wise to the crafty birds, too. And then they had to devise a MORE CLEVER plan than sticks, while still being humane.

And you know what they came up with? Because we're all technical and innovative here in the Bay Area?

(Actually, you would not believe me if I told you and didn't have pictures in support of my claim. In fact, I did not believe it myself until I put 2 + 2 together and realized how completely crazy the world has gone.)


Did you read that?


Attached with I-don't-know-what, perched high above the station, above where the pigeons most love to congregate, "they" (oooh, and I would LOVE to know who "they" are, because I will bet you a million dollars that "strapping speakers to concrete walls re: frightening pigeons" was never part of "they"'re original job description) have placed speakers.

Speakers. That emit loud, scary BIRD SOUNDS.

The first time you emerge from your BART car and take the escalator up into daylight, and your eyes aren't all the way open and you are daydreaming about your first sip of coffee and trudging through the Morning Commute Motions, let me tell you. Hearing WILD BIRD CALLS is not something you expect. Nor is it something your caffeine-deprived brain has the capacity to process.

I suspect most people do what I did when they first hear these bird calls. They think, "That is one DAMN LOUD BIRD." And then they move along.

But some mornings? Some mornings I am a little more awake (by which I mean bitter and ready to be pissed off) than others, and it was on one such morning that I realized something about the DAMN LOUD BIRD calls was not quite right.

"What the fuck kind of bird is making THAT racket?" I think. "Are we suddenly in the JUNGLE? Do I need to keep my eyes peeled for malaria-carrying mosquitoes and the occasional anaconda surfacing from under the stairwell? OF COURSE NOT because IT IS FREEZING HERE and also gray and concrete and HOW STUPID ARE YOU, JUNGLE BIRDS? The fog-frosted TUNDRA OF SAN FRANCISCO IS NO PLACE FOR YOU!" And I shake my head and feel bad for the stupid birds who, like so many midwestern tourists, did not bother to check the weather reports for this part of Northern California before leaving for their vacation.

So. On that morning, as the escalator brought me to the top of the landing and I realized the bird sounds were getting louder and louder – so loud that I half-expected an entire flock of exotic fowl to be prancing around the BART station like they owned it – I saw that there were no birds anywhere at all.

Well, except for the pigeons.

And that is when I then realized that someone was actually piping in the sounds of big, scary, jungle birds to frighten the pigeons away.

You don't want to be hanging out here, pigeons! Heed the warning of the jungle birds! EEEEP! SQUAWK! They are coming to get you!!!

Or um. Actually, I have no idea what the bird calls mean. Do they mean, "We are coming to eat you"? Or do they mean, "FLY AWAY! DANGER IS NEAR!"?

I do not know. I am not fluent in bird.

However. It doesn't matter what the message is, because it is not working. Not only can the pigeons see, but they can also hear and feel and sense, and they know. They KNOW that no dumbass jungle bird would be stupid enough to fly all the way to San Francisco. Or that, on the remote off-chance that some exotic bird DID choose to come to this city, it sure as hell wouldn't be to hang out in the FROZE ASS BART STATION.

Perhaps the jungle birds would like to fly around with the parrots in the Castro. Or poop on some upscale cars in the Marina. Or dive-bomb the Frisbee players in the Park. Or get a little nesting action in on the rooftop of some Pac Heights palace.

But scream and yell and carry on in a BART station? Please. City pigeons are no fools, they know the speakers are bullshit (even if most commuters don't)...


...and they are not afraid.


  1. Pigeons are seriously some of the smartest beings out there. I loved this post.

  2. Be on the lookout for the pigeons who just say Fuck It and perch on the little sticks anyway. I see that all the time.

    Honestly, I don't understand what the big deal about pigeons is anyway. I may be one of the few people on earth who notice them and think many of them are quite pretty.

    I can't say the same for the PEOPLE who use bart (and the stairwells) as a personal toilet... maybe we could line the stairs with legos.

  3. Jesus, k. Every big city commuter in the world shares your pain. But that is, BAR NONE, the funniest tale of flying rat extermination efforts I have EVER read. You crack me UP!

    In Toronto, we are somewhat less humane. Our sticks are made of metal, but the pigeons still call bullshit. My favourite thing to see is the tourists. FEEDING THEM! "Hey, Tourist From East Bumblefuck! Never seen a pigeon before? I have a suggestion! If you like them so fucking much, TAKE THEM HOME WITH YOU!"

  4. Ericha2@comcast.net4:11 PM, August 18, 2006


    I heart you! Seriously, BART pigeons are freakin' scary creatures. So are the ones in the square in front of Specialty's on Market Street. I used to TRY to eat my lunch there. They would attack you if you dropped so much as one crumb. And I'm not talking about 3 or 4 stray pigeons, I'm talking about a pack of them!

    I haven't been to the city in a while, though so I haven't had the pleasure of the new bird calling noise pollution. There's a car lot in Pennsylvania that uses the same thing and every time I would drive past I'd be like "Where the hell is that noise coming from???" I thought the car dealers were just really bored and were having fun with their PA systems.

    Thanks for setting me straight.

  5. Fing hilarious. It's crazy how you instantly become a moron if you work for the city.

  6. OMG, what a way to wake up on a Saturday morning after a f'n lousy week at work but to a laughfest. K, you crack me up!!! I miss seeing you every day. Thanks for a great laugh!!!!!

  7. They use the same system in Wrigley Field in Chicago. I don't think it works there, either.

  8. They usually play redtailed hawk calls, because it's pretty much a "I'm coming to eat you," noise.

    It works... ok.

  9. I like all commuting stories--I often spend entire bus rides thinking about the details of a EE commute. But we have never had anything quite like that in New Brunswick. The most exciting thing that ever happens is "talking buses"--buses that have speakers playing, over and over, "This is the EE bus from Cook/Douglass to College Ave. Please wait for all passengers to exit before entering the bus. Have a nice day."
    Honestly, what were they thinking? I would think that the speakers would be more of an annoyance than the actual pigeons.
    This was funny AND fascinating. Speakers!?

  10. I think pigeons are the next evolutionary step.
    I'm just sayin is all....

  11. They tried the speaker thing in our downtown area, too. It seemed to work for a little while (we don't have pigeons but some other kind of "dumber" bird), but after a while the birds figured it out. But the speakers were there when I first moved here and for several years after, so I got really used to them. So now STILL when I go downtown I think, "Where are the giant bird sounds? I miss them!" Maybe I'm not really much smarter than a bird, come to think of it.


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