What to do when chased by a wild goose

March 29, 2007|by TIM ROWLAND


Hagerstown has certainly had its go-rounds with geese, cataclysmic upheavals that I've always just sort of written off as Hagerstown being Hagerstown.

Every year at "City" Park there is some goose-related crisis that touches off endless meetings at City Hall entertaining ideas for reducing the goose population while avoiding the PR disaster of having PETA-types jumping down our throats faster than Cheese Doodles on a stoop-sitter.

Only here, I thought, would it be possible to have a protracted debate centering on the ethics of shaking goose eggs so they wouldn't hatch.


I didn't find that to be inhumane, I just worried that the eggs might not be shaken hard enough, and you might wind up hatching a bunch of geese that were merely brain damaged, which would leave taxpayers open to the liability of SSI payments.

But geese, it seems, are not simply a localized problem, and as evidence I turn to an Actual Memo to employees from the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch facilities maintenance department.

It begins:

"Spring is upon us and our waterfowl friends have again taken up residence for the 2007 season. It is very important for your personal safety that you understand some basic habits of this particular species during the nesting season."

Fair enough. There's a bit of a disconnect, in my view, between "friends" and having to look out for one's "personal safety," but they could be simply warning against stepping on eggs and slipping on the yolk. Explain that to the insurance adjuster.

But then the memo becomes darker:

"The female will begin laying eggs from mid March to early April; it is the female you will see tending the nest. The gander will normally be in the area and no more than 20 yards off. You must be alert and aware when walking to and from the building; the gander will attack you if it believes you are too close to the nesting female or pose a threat. This attack can come from any direction so take notice of any geese in the area that you see while walking."

Whew. You don't know whether they're talking about a corporate campus or a Nintendo video game. "Night of the Goose; the Flock Strikes Back."

Sounds as if just to get from the building to your car you need a pad of graph paper and a slide rule. Warning - 30 yards to car, 20 yards to goose. Engage evasive countermeasures. Coming to work every morning turns into "The Hunt for Red October."

To be fair, we are assured that, "The facilities maintenance staff, as in years past, will make every effort to limit any human-goose conflict situations by all legal means at our disposal."

Human-goose conflict situation. As any good SWAT team member can tell you, an HGCS is a serious deal. I have a friend who works at the Dispatch, and out of concern for her safety I dropped a note asking about the number of HGCS incidents a year.

She didn't know. Apparently the problem is not at the main newspaper office, but at the out-of-town print shop. "I've only been there three times in 17 years," she said.

Well I reckon so, if every trip puts you at risk of being clocked by Donald Duck. And that begs the point, if you are at risk of an HGCS, why must you remain in the realm of the "legal?" I don't care if it lands me 30 days, I'm taking a baseball bat.

But the memo says there are other solutions, including:

1. Maintain direct eye contact with the goose and face toward it.

2. If the goose acts aggressively, calmly and slowly back away.

3. Maintain a neutral demeanor, do not act hostile or show fear.

4. Never turn you back to an aggressive goose.

5. If a goose flies toward your face, duck and move at a right angle to the direction of flight while maintaining your front toward the goose.

Lessons for life. In reading it over, it struck me that men might even be able to strike the word "goose" and insert the word "wife" if things reached that stage.

We'd all be better off if we applied the rules of nature to our everyday lives.

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