Opinion » Street Talk

Don't drink the water


Life as a Shredder can be surreal at times. Most of this humdrum existence never changes I think, therefore I shred but every so often something sublime slips though a crack somewhere in the cosmos and bonks me on the head.

It happened just this last week. I was strolling along the sands of Pismo when a pigeon fluttered down from the pier, all puffed out feathers and panic.

"Ya gotta help me," he said.

I have known a few talking birds in my lifetime when you're in my line of work, you meet all kinds but a flying pier rat with at least a rudimentary vocabulary was a first for me.

Not having much else to do, I decided to sit at the tide line and listen to this avian's tale of woe. He poured out a real tearjerker, let me tell you, full of cruel lies and crueler truths.

The thrust of his monologue was that his kind has, of late, been getting the short end of the stick metaphorically and literally. Ever since the rule-makers and legal leaders in Pismo decided to pin piss-poor water quality around the pier on the innumerable pigeons and their indiscriminate waste dropping, birds of his ilk have been strutting around with virtual bull's-eyes painted on their chests.

The official city word has, up till now, been that exterminators are going to make whole swaths of pigeons into reptile food, but at least a few leaders in Pismo are admitting that such a decision might have been a mite hasty. Granted, pigeons aren't condors or bald eagles or even seagulls, but they're not all bad.

Knowing that a pardon is in the pigeons' future the City Council ultimately agreed to send the birds packing instead of serving them up as entrees I clapped my feathered friend on the back and told him to keep his chin up, if he even had a chin. I even risked a $100 fine and gave him the last bite of my pretzel. But he just wouldn't shake his melancholy.

"You haven't heard the worst," he said, ducking his head under his wing.

It seems that a few Homo sapiens vigilantes have got murder or at least mayhem on their minds, and human-on-pigeon acts of violence have erupted on the wooden walkway. It got so bad once or twice, police were called. Scattered among recent Pismo blotter reports of tripped alarms, lost property, reckless driving, public drunkenness, and people skulking in bushes were mentions of hooligans taking out their aggression on the pier's winged denizens.

"And nobody even really knows for sure that the pollution problem comes from us," he said.

I tactfully declined to point out the fact that he had shat right where he stood five or six times over the course of our conversation. I'm nothing if not genteel. But I got his point.

Still, I pointed out, with the exception of an apparently anti-pigeon minority, the council and at least a few others, like me, for one are trying to be more tolerant, more accepting of our smaller brethren who have no public bathroom facilities and whose sole crime seems to be the very nature of their egg birth.

I assured him that I would do what I could to spread his story, but he just shrugged his wings and flew away.

"I hear there's a canary in Santa Maria who tells it like it is," I heard him say as he flapped toward the county line. "Maybe she'll have some advice."

Tired and only slightly nonplussed, I turned to watch the sun set over the ocean. A chill wind kicked up sand around me. Summer's starting to draw to a close, which always makes me sad. All fall and winter and spring long I look forward to baseball games and popsicles and running around in the sprinklers in my underwear. And soon, that will all come to an end, much to my neighbors' delight. Apparently some activities are cute when 3-year-olds do them and police-cruise-by-worthy when someone older gives them a try.

It's all for the best, anyway. I shouldn't be wasting my water on such frivolities. Not with the Nipomo Community Services District playing the drought card.

Celeste Whitlow, a conservation and public outreach specialist for the CSD, recently sent out a release informing Nipomo-ites that utility workers will be patrolling neighborhoods, doling out doorknob hangers that gently remind folks that watering sidewalks and driveways is a tad unproductive. While the measure seems fairly benign, kind of like a polite cough to get someone's attention, the sprinkler brigade is marching ahead of the threat: "The District wants to avoid mandatory water conservation measures if at all possible, but if the Nipomo Mesa experiences another dry winter, and if residents have not saved enough water to offset the decreased rain recharging the aquifer, mandatory measures may be necessary."

A follow-up notice took matters a step further, with the Nipomo CSD basically saying that it's facing the worst water situation in California after hitting a "drought trifecta" made up of low rainfall, a decreasing aquifer, and a court order that could take years to fill to a point where local water users would actually see a difference.

Oh yeah. And don't forget customers who use lots of water, "more than the customers of many of the other local water suppliers."

With new development just a sneeze away, Nipomo's water problems could get a lot worse very quickly. Bracing itself for an avalanche of permits it can't hold back, the CSD is saying that its only hope is, quite frankly, you. Or me. Or whoever lives in the area and uses water.

So dehydrate your roses. Drink vodka instead of whatever comes out of your tap. Wash your car in some nearby city that has water to spare or at least more than Nipomo. Remember: You and your long showers are the reason Nipomo is facing this problem, so start taking dust baths or something.

And if all else fails, if you pave over your lawn and save your sweat and tears to fill your low-flow toilet tank and Nipomo still shrivels up like a prune, don't fret. Just blame it on the pigeons.

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