Shell Shocked: Birds of a feather
It was a lovely day in Sanibel, but the sky above was more crowded than usual. The air traffic controller was sipping on his third cup of black coffee all the while keeping his eyes on the radar screen, the control panel and the computer calculations.
It was one of those days where the need for total alertness overcame any other consideration. Lives were at stake and his job was to make sure there were no accidents, period.
A panel light was flashing and he knew that one of the flight lanes had the beginnings of a problem. He sprang into action.
Air Traffic Controller: This is the flight tower. Flight 114, can you read me?
Hawk: This is Flight 114. I can read you.
ATC: You are dropping precipitously from your flight pattern. You’re headed to the bay. What is going on? You’re endangering other birds below you. You are supposed to stay steady at 1,000 feet and in lane 200.
Hawk: I saw a red snapper in the bay and got hungry. I can see those other birds and know how to stay out of their way.
ATC: A blue heron is in the lane below yours and you are encroaching on its path. My radar screen has alerted me to the fact that if you don’t change course immediately there will be a mid-air collision. Your beak will collide with that of the heron and you will knock each other senseless. You will also endanger an anhinga, which is directly below the flight of the heron.
Hawk: Relax. I’ve been flying this route forever. I know it well.
ATC: Are you aware that at about six degrees longitude there is a covey of Canadian geese? There must be 200 of them flying toward Alaska. They are in lane 165 which they are cleared for. If you have a collision with the heron the two of you will find your way into their lane and all hell will break loose. The last time this happened loose feathers flew into the produce section of Bailey’s causing the Department of Agriculture to suspend service. I took a lot of heat for that.
Hawk: That wasn’t my fault. It was that crazy pelican with the massive throat. It was trying to swallow a manatee and the excess weight was just too much for it. He dove out of the sky like a nuclear missile and landed on a flock of roseate spoonbills.
ATC: That’s another incident that made us air traffic controllers look like fools. We know what we’re doing, but you crazy birds disobey us constantly. You think you know the skies better than we do. Well, my friend, if you keep this up you will find yourself playing with alligators in the Everglades.
Hawk: Well, you, my friend, had better keep your eyes on your air traffic control equipment. There’s a rare masked booby coming my way totally oblivious to air traffic control over Sanibel. What are you going to do about that?
ATC: Tower to booby, tower to booby. You’re flying in the wrong lane. Come in please.
MB: Lane, shmane, I’m just trying to get back to Tortuga. I’ve been flying in the direction of the sun but instead of reaching Tortuga here I am in Sanibel. I may stay awhile. It’s nice here.
ATC: You must ascend by one hundred feet to avoid mid-air collision with a hawk. He has the right of way.
Hawk: Yes, I do and I’m in a fighting mood too.
MB: Well, I’m called a masked booby for a reason. Ever hear of Zorro? Well, I’m the Zorro of birds. I take worms from rich birds like you and feed them to the poor. If you mess with me you’ll find yourself in a hawk hospice.
ATC: Stop fighting, you two. Here comes a flock of pectoral sandpipers. They’ve been flying 10,000 miles and need to rest on the beaches of Sanibel. They’re coming in for a landing. Come in pecs. Lower your wings and prepare for landing.
Hawk: Well, I’m landing first. I spotted a red snapper.
MB: I see another masked booby in Ding Darling. Not too many of us around. I’m landing, too.
ACT: Well, I’m landing, too. I’m getting out of here and heading right to Doc Ford’s. Six beers on tap will get me ready for my night shift.
-Art Stevens is a long-time columnist for The Islander. His tongue-in-cheek humor is always offered with a smile.