OF PIGEONS AND VACCINATIONS

by Stamen Manolov

The following is a true story that happened in Central Sofia a few days before this journal went to press

In the neighbourhood, I asked a retired woman, who habitually makes a public nuisance by throwing bread crumbs out of her fourth-floor balcony to feed Sofia's uncontrolled population of pigeons, to stop doing that because a uncontrolled population of pigeons carried many diseases that directly jeopardised the health of the other residents.

Predictably, a long conversation ensued. The woman argued pigeons were like "human beings" and they also needed to be fed. I tried to counter I had nothing against pigeons, or any other living creature big or small, as long as it got the concern rather than the food of humans. Pigeons, I argued, were supposed to live in parks and forests, not on urban roofs, and throwing bread crumbs out of windows to feed them only harmed both them and the humans who lived under those roofs.

The woman then told me about all her diseases. "I have had diabetes for many years," the woman said. "Then I got cancer. Feeding pigeons is one of my only joys in life."

"Madam," I insisted, "you could try feeding the pigeons _on[rather] rather than out of your balcony. To put it in another way, it would be more acceptable if you did it on your property rather than in the street, which belongs to the general public."

"Oh, no," the woman said. "We have two cats and the pigeons wouldn't come down because of them."

I indicated I would call the Sofia City Council pest control service (not that the Sofia City Council has anything like a pest control service or cares about pigeons – or rats – in the inner city).

"Please let me feed them two more times," the woman begged. "I have bought the best bread and I specifically soak it in filtered water for the pigeons. I don't want it to go to waste. Then I promise I won't do it again. I want to make sure you understand I am a serious and responsible person. I used to be a bank inspector."

"That's perfectly fine," I responded. "I do not want to force you to do anything against your wishes or convictions. I am only asking you as a neighbour to care about the health and well-being of the other residents."

And then I made the big mistake. A breakthrough of sorts, really. "In these pandemic times," I said, "everyone, especially people who have accompanying diseases, should get vaccinated, you know."

The woman looked at me above her glasses with what I interpreted to be that inimitable mixture of horror, indignation and self-determination. Plainly, she was about to explode. "I will NEVER get vaccinated," the woman barked and retreated into her flat with what remained of the bread crumbs meant for the Central Sofia pigeons. I haven't seen her throwing food out of her window since. 

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