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August 5, 2010


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‘The Party’s Over’ for Chestnut Hill Hospital pigeons

As I was looking for my car in the Chestnut Hill Hospital parking garage the other day, I came across a sign which said that the facility has a “pigeon-deterrent system that periodically broadcasts (the) sound of predatory birds to discourage roosting.” I don’t know why they felt they needed to post a sign. I’m not a pigeon, and I wasn’t even thinking about roosting, but I nonetheless found the nonviolent technique intriguing.

While I doubt that most pigeons would think of Chestnut Hill as a destination spot, I suppose a few nonconformists must have been hanging around the garage and causing some sort of birdie mischief, or else why would the facility have gone to all the trouble of installing a state-of-the-art system.

It reminded me of the U.S. Army’s round-the-clock use of giant loudspeakers in 1989 to drive Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega from the Vatican Embassy in Panama. Since any direct action against the embassy itself would have violated international laws and constituted an act of war against the Vatican, the army decided to use music as a  psychological weapon.

The military broadcasters played various hilarious requests from the troops, including “Born to Run,” “Dancing in the Streets,” “I Fought the Law, and the Law Won,” “The Party’s Over” and “They’re Coming To Take Me Away (Ha Ha).” Noriega eventually surrendered.

Of course, in the ensuing years, the military has developed even more powerful musical weapons in the form of rap songs so powerful that even one rhyming couplet can generate a billion kilowatts of negative energy, capable of destroying entire civilizations. Let us pray that we never have to use them.

I’m sure everyone has some sound that drives him/her crazy. My wife claims that she can’t stand the sound of me chewing on ice cubes. Personally, I hate the sound of lawnmowers before 9 a.m. My neighbor has a team of lawn care ninjas who arrive every Friday at the crack of dawn and swarm out of a big truck like a weed-wacker swat team.

As I lie in bed with a pillow over my head, trying to get back to sleep, I envision myself lobbing mortars into their midst. Of course, that would be unacceptable behavior. Maybe I should just yell, “Freeze! Immigration police!” out the window and see if that has any effect.

Here are some other proposed uses of sound as a deterrent:

•The sounds of killer bees could be piped in over supermarket intercoms to prod slow, aisle-clogging shoppers into moving a little faster. Perhaps this could be augmented by the sound of employees screaming in the background. (By the way, what ever happened to the  killer bees who were supposed to be on their way here from South America in the 1990s? Did they take a left turn at Albuquerque?)

•To chase deer from the Wissahickon: the sounds of howling wolves might work. Perhaps the Friends of the Wissahickon could recruit interns to perch on hilltops and howl a few hours a week. Guys, you should consider volunteering; it would be a great way to meet women.

•How to clear local lovers’ lanes of all those steamed-up cars at night? Simple, just broadcast the sounds of wailing babies into their midst, and watch the passion fizzle.

•Church bells could be used to scare off evil spirits, Pagans, gargoyles and vampires. By the way, can anyone tell me why churches still need to have giant bells? Don’t they have newsletters telling people when to come to church? I like to sleep late on Sunday. I don’t want bells waking me up. If pizza parlors had bells, that would be OK. I don’t mind being awakened for pizza.

If you can think of any other repulsive sounds, just call me up and leave them on my answering machine (I’ll be sleeping). I will  add them to my growing arsenal, which I intend to eventually present to all the armies of the world. If we could just fight wars with sounds rather than guns and bombs, then we could go on fighting forever.           




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