Saturday, February 2, 2008
Burgers, or steak
Our birds are snobs.
Well, they’re not our birds, actually—they’re the neighborhood birds that frequent our yard. But I think of them as ours…and now they’ve become quite standoffish.
Why, you ask? Because, you see, I purchased bargain birdseed for them. I was paying what I considered to be too much money for the good birdseed that these hoity toits love—the oiled black sunflower, primarily, with some other yummies mixed in. None of it was cheap, of course—the good stuff never is, now, is it? And the squirrels were scaling the feeder like determined little army recruits, and every day the feeder was emptied. I felt sad for the birds, but mostly I felt annoyance at the squirrels. And I thought, I’ll show you, squirrels—I’ll buy inexpensive seed that you don’t want. Then the poor, hungry birds can eat their fill instead of being terrorized by a climbing, swinging swirl of furry gray.
And the next time I bought seed, I paid $3.99 for 20 pounds. That’s right. 20 pounds. Except I forgot something: Just because they’re hungry doesn’t mean they’re desperate.
I remember the first time I figured this out. I was helping out at a grocery store, doing a volunteer project; I was to guard a table positioned in the store’s entryway on which shoppers were leaving donations for the local food bank. And as people dropped off their non-perishables, I was stupidly thinking Wow, look at all the great stuff people are giving. Of course, there were the typical donations of generic canned soup, store-brand beans, bargain pastas, etc. But there were good things, too: name brand soups and stews, expensive meats in tins and such, even famous boxed cereals sporting multi-colored spokes-animals. And slowly but surely, my brain said to me, Hey dummy, just because people are experiencing financial hardship, that doesn’t mean they’ve lost their sense of taste. They still like what everyone else likes. That doesn’t mean that someone in need couldn’t use my donated lima beans… but boy, I’ll bet they were wishing for some Dinty Moore instead.
It’s the same with clothes; it’s easy for me to drop off an old, misshapen sweater with pils on it. But next time someone’s collecting coats and such, maybe I should gather up a couple that I still like, or one that looks like new. That would be a real blessing to someone, right? I mean, if I were hungry, and two different restaurants were giving away meals, I’d go to whichever is closer. But hey, if the two restaurants were a burger joint and an expensive steak place, you can bet I’d work a bit harder to get to the steak place. Wouldn’t you?
And that, my friends, is what the birds—and likely the squirrels, too, those scoundrels—have done. I have a great neighbor a few doors down. She’s single, has a good job, and she loves animals, really loves them. And she has the bird feeder of all feeders, and it is stocked with high-quality seed. I would be willing to bet money that she does not shortchange the winged critters nor the thieving, fluffy-tailed rascals. I’m certain she buys the “steak.” And when I’m serving microwaved burgers, or the birdseed equivalent, I’m pretty much guaranteed an empty yard.
I can’t blame them, really. But I’m still not buying new birdseed until somebody eats all 20 pounds of this cheap stuff.