O Canada, please take your geese back

Let me make three things clear: I like birds, I like Canada and I like Canadians. That said, would you Canadians please take your Canada geese back?

I don’t want to cause an international incident—goodness knows Canada might be the only country we’re not at odds with right now—but the geese have to go.

Yes, yes, I know Canada geese are at home roaming red, white and blue turf and they are federally protected here in the U.S., but Canada is part of their name. Obviously, they hold a deep and abiding allegiance to Canada. Being that you Canadians have a reputation for niceness, I’m sure you will welcome them back with open ponds.

Canada geese have taken over parks, ponds, golf courses, shorelines, subdivisions and airports. I hate to say this, Canada, but we might need a wall. Maybe even a fence—a really, really high fence.

Oh, let’s cut to the chase. They identify with you, so take them.

They’re nesting again. Nesting is completely natural for geese; what is completely unnatural is that Canada geese are shopaholics. They nest in every planting bed and small green space bordering every strip mall. This means that to get to a store you have outrun a gaggle of aggressive, territorial, giant Canada geese in attack mode. They’re large, they’re loud, they have extremely disgusting tongues and they’re intimidating. They own the west entrance to Macy’s as well as every grocery store parking lot on this side of the city.

I’ve given up on new shoes, but we need milk and eggs.

And then there are the sidewalks. I took some of the grandkids for a walk and we had to play a little game called “Don’t Step on the Droppings.”

“Step over or between them, girls. That’s it, you’ve got it! Oh, NOOOO!!!”

Walk on the grass, you say. Impossible. The grass is slick with droppings. Walk on a grassy incline and you will slide downhill. It’s like skiing in spring without the benefit of snow or slopes.

Here’s a fun fact from National Geographic: “Just 50 geese can produce two and a half tons of excrement in a year.” Why is that not a surprise? Walk a mile in my shoes. Make that rubber boots.

Canada geese used to be a novelty—pretty birds flying in a V-formation that you’d catch a glimpse of now and then. Now you see them all the time, marauding about on land in large, boisterous groups taunting vehicles and pedestrians.

Today’s Canada geese have attitude and it’s because they’ve been away from Canada too long. Everybody knows Canada doesn’t do attitude. It’s illegal. Take them back, Canada; make them maple syrup sweet.

Please. Do it for world peace.

Finders, but not keepers

I have a knack for finding money and things. It’s not like it would be worth following me around because I find great treasures, but it is often more than chump change.

I found $8 on a shelf at a craft store once. The bills looked like they’d been rolled up in the hand of someone who didn’t want to bother with a wallet. I asked the manager to announce over the speaker that some money had been found. She said, “If I do that, everybody in here will charge up front.”

She suggested that she take it and ask the employees if any of them lost it. I declined. She suggested that the money belonged to the store since it was found in the store. I suggested the money belonged to me because I had it in my hand. I left my phone number in case anyone reported losing money. Nobody ever called, so a few weeks later I gave it to some boys at the grocery store manning a fundraiser table.

I found $5 in a gravel parking lot at the fair once. It probably fell out of someone’s pocket when they were fishing for car keys. The husband and I bought an elephant ear figuring the money came to the fair and that way it stayed at the fair.

One time I found a Hello Kitty coin purse at a sparsely populated New Jersey outlet mall. Ten minutes later I saw a forlorn little girl about 7 and asked if she lost a coin purse. Her face lit up like a Christmas tree. It was a great moment, until her mother started unloading on her for being irresponsible. An older sister mouthed thanks while the mom was still railing.

One of my more valuable finds was a new iPhone in the middle of a busy intersection one Saturday morning. The phone was locked, so I had to wait for an incoming call to identify the owner. A woman called with picture ID, and the name on the screen was a derogatory term for the phone owner’s mother. The mom was glad to pick up the phone. Her son had a few more calls before she got here (I didn’t answer) from girls with picture IDs that looked like bad news. If the girls called again while the mom had possession of the phone, I’m guessing the young man wasn’t going to be that happy to see his phone. Or his mom.

Last spring I nearly ran over a weed eater in the middle of a side street during a pounding rain. It turned out to be a commercial Weed Eater worth nearly $400. The ink on the tag had run in the rain, but the city and first letter of the business were legible. The business owner was ecstatic someone tracked him down and picked it up that night. In thanks, he offered to later trim a tree, but he never did.

It’s satisfying when you can reunite someone with something they have lost. I’d do it full-time if I could, but there’s no money in it and the finds are few and far between.

Going toe-to-tail with a mouse

I went nose-to-nose with a mouse last week and I’d rather not say who won.

I was taking a meal to a friend recovering from knee surgery when my cell rang.

“There’s a dilemma,” she said, “and it involves you. My cat found a mouse and I don’t know how you feel about cats with mice, although I have the impression you are afraid of bugs.”

“Your impression is wrong,” I said. “Bugs are afraid of me.” I used to be afraid of bugs, but I flipped that equation after I was bitten by a brown recluse. My new philosophy is simple: get them before they get you.

“I’m not afraid of bugs and I will get the mouse, but there may be screaming.”

The mouse was under the ‘fridge when I arrived. The cat was standing guard, slowly swishing its tail. I tried to shove a broom handle beneath the ‘fridge to force surrender, but there were too many coils. My friend pulled up a chair at the table and I pulled a chair beside the ‘fridge, armed with a plastic box as my trap.

It was a good plan, but like most plans, it didn’t go according to plan.

As we were chatting, the mouse poked his head out. I knelt down on the floor in front of the ‘fridge and angled the box to create a no-escape trap. The mouse ventured out farther and I slammed the box down, closed my eyes and internalized a scream. (An internalized scream sounds like a car that won’t turn over in 20 below weather.) Unfortunately, the only thing inside the box was the mouse’s tail, still attached to the mouse, which was now spinning its little legs in an attempt to escape. (More internal screaming.) The cat just sat.

Meanwhile, I had the impression my friend was going soft on the mouse. “Don’t you dare name it,” I said. “Once you name it, this is over.”

The mouse crawled up on the broom handle I’d used earlier and we were now eyeball to eyeball. If I’d wanted to – and I didn’t—I could have grabbed it with my teeth.

I yelled that I needed something else to get the mouse. My friend hustled over, as fast as her post-surgery self could, and a spatula descended over my shoulder.

“A spatula? This is a MOUSE not a MOUSSE! We’re dealing with one S here, not two!” She handed me another container. I lowered box two over the mouse’s body, still on the broom handle, with his tail still in box one. Despite my two-box move, the mouse escaped and shot back under the ‘fridge.

I told my friend to leave the kitchen light on and maybe the mouse would stay under the ‘fridge and not wander into her bedroom at night.

Shortly after I left, she found the mouse. It was in her bedroom basking in a patch of sunlight. The cat was sitting next to the mouse soaking up the rays as well. She said they were a cute couple. Learning from my mistakes, she got a box—and a lid—and said the mouse all but jumped in the box and helped her seal the lid. She tossed him into a field.

His name is Mortifer.

Mud prints on Hoosier Hospitality welcome mat

Many of you who read this column assume that I live in your area. I take that as a compliment. Let’s do coffee.

I actually live in Indianapolis where, until a few days ago, we were known for Hoosier Hospitality. Hoosier Hospitality is a Midwestern kindness exemplified by getting to know the greeter at Wal-Mart by name, offering jumper cables to anyone with a car hood raised, and opening doors for others wrestling packages and small children.

In recent days a firestorm over a Religious Freedom Restoration Act engulfed our state legislature and we have been anguished to see our great state smeared as a hate state. Any potentially polarizing legislation is worthy of debate—civil debate—but this debate turned into runaway disparagement. Falsehoods, fabrications and outright lies about who we are popped out faster than buds on the maples.

We’re not paradise, but we’re probably pretty similar to the people you know and the place where you live—with the slight exception that we may be more likely to bring a loaf of banana bread when someone new moves into the neighborhood.

We haven’t recognized ourselves in recent days. We’ve been portrayed as low-IQ buffoons who can barely string a compound sentence together, let alone tie our own shoes. For the record, we do have electricity, running water and indoor toilets.

Some of the chatter has made it sound like we offer welcome packets at the state line with tips on hating puppies and kittens and guidelines for taunting the disabled and infirmed.

We’ve been slandered, maligned and unfairly portrayed as bigots, unfit for business. As companies, organizations and activists jockeyed to cover their backsides and denounce us, it quickly escalated into a contest to pile on and smear. We’ve even been mocked by a graham cracker.

It hasn’t mattered one bit whether the trash talk was true or not; all that mattered was that the fire burned brighter and the flames leaped higher.

It has been a surreal and stunning experience. A lot of us have been wondering whatever happened to truth.

Truth was tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail on this one. She was trampled by lies, hypocrisy and hysteria fueled by “deep thought” social media. Yeah, complex issues resolved in 140 characters or less. Perception trumped reality. Facts didn’t matter. It was all about cramming every person in this state into a bigoted narrative marinated in hate.

Image and reputation that took decades of vision and hard work to build were vandalized in mere days. Millions will be spent repairing the damage and it won’t be a quick fix.

For now, there’s a lingering disbelief. It all happened so suddenly. It was like being sucked into the path of a tornado as we went from everyday people to pariahs within minutes. Those winds had the distinct feel of tyranny. That’s a specter you don’t forget.

Why does any of this matter to you? Because it was us and our good name this time, but it could be you and yours next.