The sounds of the city 

City’s anti-pigeon measures misguided

The other night, my wife and I were enjoying a stroll around Monument Circle when we were startled by a loud noise, similar to a Roman candle being detonated. We walked a few feet farther and it happened again. And again.

Our first thought was that we were being attacked by a group of murderous teenagers. If it hadn’t been for her calming presence, I might have pulled out a weapon and gone all Rambo looking for these kids. But we hurried our pace back to the car, dodging a mob of Christian conventioneers in the lobby of the Circle Centre Mall on our way to the parking garage.

I don’t know which scared me more: a band of thugs shooting bottle rockets into our midst or being forcibly converted to the Pentecostal religion by a cadre of junior Mike Huckabees and Tammy Faye Bakkerettes. Somehow we made it back to our Northside compound without injury and with no damage to the Cinnabons we’d purchased at the mall.

A few days later, while enjoying a smoke break at work, I heard the noises again. I looked around for cover. “What the hell was that?” I asked one of my colleagues, who was also enjoying a healthy cigarette outdoors.

“You must be new to downtown,” my colleague said. “That’s the noise they play to drive away the pigeons.”


“Yeah,” he said. “The government installed all these loudspeakers downtown and every half-hour or so, they play that noise to disperse flocks of pigeons.”

“You gotta be kidding me,” I said.

“Nope. There’s even signs on lampposts warning you about it,” he said.

A while later, on my lunch break, I saw one. It said that loud noises may be heard in order to scare away “pest birds.” It was the first I’d heard about it.

After thinking about it a while, it seemed even more ridiculous to me. We don’t have enough money to pay our cops and firefighters and our schools are in bad shape. Hell, even our new mayor can only afford to buy polyester suits. Yet we’re spending money to place loudspeakers around town to scare away birds?

First of all, it’s not even necessary. One would think that the constant bursts of automatic gunfire from Indiana Pacers players coming home from topless bars would be enough to scare away any pigeons crazy enough to hang around downtown at night.

Secondly, why are pigeons such nuisances that we have to scare them away with simulated rocket blasts? Sure, pigeons aren’t the prettiest birds in the world, but beauty is a subjective term. Besides, don’t the noises also scare other, more desirable creatures, such as cardinals, blue jays and downtown shoppers?

And how on Earth are our homeless people supposed to sleep at night when there’s this infernal racket going on? It’s bad enough to have to live over a heating grate but when the city sounds like Baghdad all night, it’s even worse.

Besides, downtown is not even close to being the capital of screeching birds in this city. There’s an area just north of 46th and Keystone where flocks of birds have taken refuge between two billboards. The noise from those birds can be deafening at times and the sounds of gunfire in the neighborhood serve only to embolden them. It’s rumored that some of them have even learned how to fire back.

If I’d known that you could get rid of disease-carrying pests simply by blasting loud noises at them, I would have set up a loudspeaker blaring Megadeth in front of the White House seven years ago. If simply annoying someone is a crime, why don’t we bombard the home of the governor with a tape loop of the Sex Pistols’ first album?

Why can’t we set up the NUVO Web site to play Black Sabbath at 200 decibels every week when that moron who posts that David Hoppe’s columns and mine should be replaced by coloring pages logs on? (Note to that guy: You’re really dating yourself with those Cappy Dick references. It was mildly amusing the first 150 times.)

Now that the Republicans are running the city again, look for these loudspeakers to go away. The pigeons will henceforth be dispersed by lobbing mustard-gas canisters into their midst. I don’t agree with their policies on most matters, but when it comes to finding creative new ways to kill, Republicans hold all the world records.

But seriously. Ease up on the pigeons already. This city has much bigger problems to face.

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