Blinded by black

There are two distinct disadvantages to living close to the bay on garbage day. One is the seagulls who love to raid the garbage cans for those yummy tidbits of rotting food; the other is the people who insist on using white garbage bags.

For some reason, 99 percent of the time the seagulls leave the black-bagged garbage alone. Maybe they don’t see it. Maybe black looks like night and it puts them to sleep. Maybe that color reminds them of the gaping maw of a larger bird of prey. Whatever the reason, the black bags sit unmolested at the curb, while the white ones are usually torn open and the contents strewn as far as the wind can blow.

Elsewhere in the neighborhood, they’ve begun on the white bags, while the black remain untouched.

If people like that sort of mess, well, have at it. But when they live close enough to me that the windblown refuse ends up in my yard, that’s when I put my foot down.

George and I live within sight of the waters of Sturgeon Bay. Today, while we were eating our noon meal, I looked out the window and spotted a seagull landing on the top of a lidless garbage can a few doors down the street–the only can in the area filled with white bags. I groaned.

“We’re going to have a mess in about two minutes,” I told George.

Sure enough, the big herring gull sliced through those bags with the skill of an expert swordsman. He must be the Zorro of his flock. In no time he had meat trays, soggy paper towels, empty food wrappers and other debris scattered in every direction. As he continued to forage, he was joined by another gull, and others were circling overhead. I could see a feeding frenzy developing. If the wind picked up, the results would be…well, have you ever turned on a blender before putting the cover on?

Right about the time we finished our meal, the first fast-food wrapper began somersaulting its way toward our yard. I knew that by the time those neighbors got home after work, the entire neighborhood would look like someone had had a confetti party–and a smelly one at that.

So, I grabbed my rubber gloves and a black garbage bag and headed down the street, scattering seagulls as I went. I picked up everything that was strewn around–I now know what those folks have had to eat for the past week, what brand of cigarettes they smoke and where they buy their groceries–and dumped it all back in their can. Then I slid the black bag upside down over it all, and went back home.

As I got to my front yard I turned around, and sure enough, one of the seagulls had returned. He stood in the middle of the street looking befuddled, and then walked up to the can and stared at it. I could almost hear him thinking.

“I know there was garbage here a few minutes ago. Where the heck did it disappear to?”

Then he flew off, followed by the ones who had been circling overhead. You see what I mean? They just don’t seem to see black.

I, on the other hand, am very good at seeing red. Since picking up my neighbor’s smelly garbage isn’t high on my list of fun things to do, I’ll be dropping a few not-so-subtle hints the next time I see them outside. Nicely, of course. The love-your-neighbor command even extends to people who don’t know–or perhaps don’t care–that seagulls can’t see black.


About Monica Sawyn

I'm a retired newspaper reporter/columnist, and although I still freelance, I miss the weekly column I used to write. I still "see columns" in everyday life and need a place to put them after they're written--thus, this blog. I'm Catholic, have been a Benedictine oblate since 1977, and live with my husband and our beagle in Sturgeon Bay, Wis. When I'm not writing, I'm probably reading, sewing, taking photos or walking the dog.
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