I’m Old, Part XXXI: Geese. Oh the Geese.

When I worked at Bell Communications Research, I was in the Morristown office, which had two buildings on the site, some green space and a couple small ponds.


I worked in the building with the three wings. The building had 3 floors and each wing had 3 corridors that ran from the center to the end (most of the time – sometimes labs blocked the center corridor). Each wing also had cross corridors.

The really entertaining thing about this layout was that instead of, say, putting letters on the corridors and numbers on the offices, they let a mathematician choose the numbering scheme and he chose polar coordinates. He divided the layout into wedges and then numbers went from low to high from center out. Which is a fantastic way to do it, if offices weren’t so chunky. The end result was that you could end up with an office with a D letter right next to an office with an M letter. Finding anything close to the hub was a pain in the ass.

When I started, each floor was a different color: red, green and blue, but over time they repainted and shifted the colors so the green was more a sea foam and the blue was closer to indigo.

At the time, the buildings had no direct communications between them. There were tunnels that connected them, but they wouldn’t run fiber or copper. If you wanted to move data from one building to the other, you used a 1200 baud connection. In a brilliant move of ad-hoc infrastructure, two offices that faced each other installed a laser-based communications system to pipe data between the buildings. This was all well and good except for the geese.

The laser connection was fairly fault-tolerant and could cope with a songbird blocking the beam, but it couldn’t handle the blackout time caused by the geese.

Since the site had two ponds and had some green area, it was an ideal location for Canada geese to nest. There were geese at that site all the effing time. Which meant that all the green space was covered with feces. And the parking lot. And the side walks.

For the most part, the geese were benign. If they were in my way, I would spread my arms out which is a dominance display. A goose that sees that backs away from the sight of someone with huge a huge wingspan.

Except when they’re nesting. Then the ganders not only don’t back down, but get aggressive. Security would put out traffic cones around the nesting sites to keep people from parking there, but the geese don’t care too much about that. At one point, I was biking home and on the way out a gander clipped me on my helmet. I stopped immediately and grabbed my bike pump off the frame ready to take the gander out if I had to. It retreated.

Buildings and grounds tried a couple things to reduce the goose population. The first thing they did was put out foam swans. In theory geese and swans don’t like each other and geese won’t land where there are swans. Do you know the difference between theory and practice? In theory they’re the same, but in practice they’re different. The geese ignored the foam swans. One of the swans ended up decapitated and drifted around that way for months.

Then they tried stringing a lattice of wire over the ponds thinking that if they made the ponds inaccessible, the geese would find somewhere else. As it turns out, geese can land perfectly well on land and walk into the water and duck under the wires.

No luck.

There was no end to the geese.

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