May 2, 2010

"Tenemos una problema con los pajaros"

Birds in vents, like bugs in dates or ants on the counter, are the little things that make expatriates throw temper tantrums. The housewife calls her husband in tears--"I'm not fucking living in this hellhole anymore!"--not because the new culture denies her opportunity to work, or requires her to cover her head, or takes her away from friends and family, but because there are weevils in the flour, which she discovered when she went to make cookies that morning.

I woke up to birds in the house, again. It's been a week-long saga, women vs. birds. It began when Alaina found two dead under the window; while we slept, they had battered and exhausted themselves in their efforts to escape. "But where did they come from?" we asked. Alaina identified the source--the vent in the kitchen above the water heater, which connects to the great outdoors. They had built a nest up there. Since then, one or two fall down the vent each day and must be guided out through a window or door.

It took a few days for an action plan to emerge. Alaina talked to The Haj, our neighbour. I haven't been keen on The Haj since he told me in Spanish that I didn't speak Spanish ("Pero..."). I've come back around, though, because we both agree on siestas. Anyway, Alaina and The Haj together bought a metal contraption to block the birds from entering from outside. Before we applied it, we had to to get the man who delivers the gas tanks to come up and clean out the nest.

As of this morning, the man who delivers the gas tanks had not come. Two birds had fallen through the vent and it was not even 11AM. I knocked on The Haj's door. "Tenemos una problema con las pajaros." He saw the wildness in my eyes (Plus, having woken to birds, I had not brushed my teeth or brushed my hair). He jumped into action.

And here is where the weevils and bugs and ants and birds are balanced by the humanity of dealing with such problems. In North America, getting someone to come and fix something for you requires a phone call, an appointment, maybe half an hour with customer service, and then a wait. The Haj went downstairs, found the man who delivers the gas tanks, and came back up, bringing his own ladder. Fifteen minutes and two full bags of nest later, the metal contraption was in place and sanity was restored to our home. The Haj suggested I tip the man who delivers gas tanks 10 dirhams ($1.10), which I already had in hand for the occasion. Bueno.

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