Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Pigeon Defense and High-Stakes Laundry

It's not just here in Spain. Many places have problems with pigeons. There's even a world-wide pigeon-defense industry, with netting, spikes, and electric contraptions used to deter pigeons in various places. Cairo has solved the problem in the most practical way: they eat their pigeons. But Spanish cities are still in the trenches with the rest of the urban world. And there's even an additional level of nuisance here (probably shared by many other warm-weather cities). Almost all Spanish apartment buildings have balconies. This is a nice thing. It makes it easier for the residents to enjoy the temperate weather, grow sun-loving plants many stories above ground level, and hang their laundry in the fresh air for pigeons to crap all over.

I couldn't believe there was no ingenious European solution for this problem, but after our friend warned us about his laundry lines, I started looking around at other people's, and saw that while some people had flung ragged sheets of plastic over their laundry, and some had pulled their long balcony-blinds over the clothes, most people just seemed to be hoping that the neighborhood pigeons would choose another balcony to poop off of than the one right above theirs. And while I'm all for positive and hopeful thinking as a way of life, that really seems to be taking it a bit far.

So I have made Pigeon Poop Defense Shield 1.0 out of some dowels, a woven-plastic tarp and some plastic clips. It folds nasty-side-in to hang up and store, and if the Poop Alert Level gets raised (pigeons are fickle creatures), it's exactly the right length to be covered by three opened (clipped-on) sheets of the local daily newspaper (a sort of the-world-is-your-birdcage kind of strategy).

Don't hold your breath for the unveiling of version 2.0, or even 1.1, since it only has to work for the month that we're here, seeing as how I'm pretty sure our friend thinks I'm crazy. The thing'll be in a Spanish landfill before we board the plane home. But if I were here for longer, I bet I could refine it enough that these nutty European clothes-washers would see the light, and pigeons everywhere would see their laundry-defiling plots foiled.

But while the pigeon issue (can't resist. not sorry.) has been dealt with, laundry-hanging here is still more challenging than laundry-hanging at home. Our friend's apartment is three stories up (on what is confusingly called something like the Piso Primer). The laundry lines hang off the balcony railing, so the laundry dangles three stories above what might be called "the backyard," but really looks more like an alley where Bad People hang out. I think the scruffiness of the yard might be intentional, to increase the chances of the first-floor (or whatever they call it) resident's being able to keep all the manna that falls into it in the form of other people's clean, damp underwear and towels. Everything about it seems to say, "Forget it. If you ever want to see your dropped pillowcase again, knock three times on the door and leave 60 euros in a bag under the fourth bench from the bus stop. Otherwise, finders keepers." I'd love the catch a glimpse of the guy, so I can see if his socks match.

So, three floors up, something I wouldn't think twice about at ground-level becomes a bit of a feat, and I'm a lot more attentive to my laundry-clipping technique. I feel like a construction worker sitting on an I-beam eating my sandwich 30 flights up. Can you tell I'm not a big rock-climber? Hanging out laundry in Spain really does produce enough adrenaline to keep me for a while. As far as I'm concerned, I'm lucky to be so easily amused. Extreme sports are expensive. Laundry? Practically free.

1 comment:

stphen said...

i am really every happy that at least you are the person who doesn't hate pigeons, it sounds great listening to their chirping. well very nice post.