I’ve written before about our local pond; mostly my observations about ducks and their offspring, oh, and there was the slightly ungainly goose I named Ewan.
There isn’t much to it; a round of tired concrete, a few benches with surrounding cherry and sycamores. Old folk sit, the ice-cream man visits at weekends when the weather is good.
Most recently signs were erected, tastefully done with a leafy background requesting that visitors not feed the birds bread. It explains the harms associated with carbohydrate loading in ducks and geese – obesity, arthritis, difficulty surviving the winter and suggests alternatives – shop-bought bird food, grain, millet. Ducks love millet.
Today I found a woman throwing little scraps of white Hovis to the birds; like children they don’t know that what tastes so good is bad for them, they just get the gluten-hit and paddle-off.
I double-checked the sign, considered whether I should say something, and, walked by. I didn’t smile.
Funnily, the podcast itself was about the birth of the McDonald’s French Fry in the 1990’s – beginning with the original production-line milkshake story in San Bernadino in the 1940’s. You can get it here.
It seems that a guy called Sokolov, after suffering a heart attack in his early forties went on a crusade against saturated fat and ultimately made the food chain, and others across the US switch from saturated beef fat to vegetable oil for chip (fry) preparation; this led to a whole number of unforeseen complications the least of which was the inadvertent generation of combustible clothing and aerosolised formalin.
I didn’t say anything to the woman; I am always troubled when I see someone pointing-out the obvious to another; putting aside the gender issue, which I think is a thing i.e. man asking woman to stop feeding the birds and man vs man or woman vs woman or woman vs man, no, this isn’t a gender politics subject, it is the whole unknown of what the woman is experiencing – where she is at and how she might take it; strange guy with albeit friendly dog lecturing on fowl nutrition at five on a Sunday afternoon.
I have the same issue at work when I see bad behaviour; there is the bad, bad behaviour, perhaps someone saying or doing something that is hurting a patient – I think in this instance we are all happy to step-in and say or do something (the risks of inaction are greater than the theoretical hazards of action); it is the more subtle situations – porter with patient bumping along corridor, catering staff talking too fast for old person to determine the menu, doctor with impenetrable handwriting or accent.
Sure, there is a correct way to do this – not dressing-down in public, taking the person aside afterwards, asking them about their actions, probing, analysing, yet, in a hospital environment that is one big cauldron of business and clinical activity, this is often not possible, and things are forgotten.
I see a connection between the low-fat chip, the bread-eating duck and the too-loud nurse; you can do something, say something, but there is always a risk of causing offence, equally, and particularly as was the case with the chips, you risk unintended consequences – fat-fried potato versus vegetable oil; stodgy versus crisp and fluffy.
It is important not to over-analyse our actions, to achieve a certain level of spontaneity, considering the feelings of others, their state of mind and situation is equally important.
Years ago, a friend bought me a book on assertiveness; you could construe these un-actions the result of someone who cannot assert themselves; I don’t think it is that, I think it is something within the realm of over-concern for the inner-state of others, which of course, is always unknowable.
When in doubt act, goes the aphorism; not always.