I went to school for a little while with a kid named Stephen McCracken. You likely went to school with a kid very similar to him. Stephen was the kid who ate the tops off of erasers the way other kids ate candies. We all made fun of him for it naturally, so he stopped. But then he moved on to eating glue. We made fun of him for that as well, so he stopped. He replaced that gross habit with another one: picking his nose and munching on whatever he dug out of it. You guessed it, we made fun of him for that, just as we made fun of the crusty goobers that became caked to the ends of his nostrils once he replaced using his middle finger with a tissue. It took a few years, but Stephen eventually came to learn what was socially acceptable and what was not. The last I heard, Stephen grew up to be a well-groomed bank manager with a wife who had spent time on the beauty pageant circuit. You’re welcome buddy.
I say “You’re welcome” because if it hadn’t been for us, Stephen might not have learned the social graces necessary to succeed in life. That’s why I worry about the kids of today. They’re no longer allowed to make fun of the freaks of the world. That would be considered bullying, and bullying is wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I agree that bullying is wrong; it’s just there’s a difference between being nasty to someone in a wheelchair (something they didn’t choose for themselves) and being honest enough to say to someone who opted to wear their underwear over their pants, “Dude, you look like a fool.” One’s just being mean for the sake of being mean, while the other’s trying to help someone clean up their act before it’s too late. Could we have been more diplomatic in our approach? Sure, but this all happened before we had even reached the compound fractures portion of our academic careers. We had our own life lessons to learn.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is: making fun of someone in a wheelchair is not cool. First of all, a person can’t help that they’re in a wheelchair. Secondly, it’s not as if you making fun of them will make them go, “Oh my God, being in a wheelchair is stupid! I’m going to get up right now and walk away from this thing on my own two feet. I may even flip a cartwheel. If only I had thought about ditching these wheels earlier!” It is what it is, and you being an ass about it won’t change a thing.
That’s why I hate it when people are mean to seagulls. No one’s ever terrible towards crows, even though crows wake us up at the crack of dawn with their squawking, and dig holes in our lawns, and tear open our garbage bags in the middle of the night; only you don’t notice they’ve torn a hole in your garbage until you’re pulling out of the driveway to go to work, and then you’re like, “Shit! My garbage’s all over the sidewalk! Now I have to clean it up and I’m already running late. Crap! Is that the garbage truck down the street? Great, now I have all of three minutes to get this mess cleaned up!”
Still, though, everyone just lets the crows do their thing. But when it comes to seagulls – well, it’s all out war. The second one comes around, everyone throws a hissy fit and tries to shoo them away as though they were being pestered by the Laridae version of a snot encrusted Stephen McCracken. It’s not as if seagulls had any say on whether or not they were born a seagull. “What’s that God? Do I want to be a beautiful swan? No thanks, I’d rather be the bird that everyone hates!”
Poor seagulls. They’re just trying to make their way in the world, much like you are, and save your life at the same time. That’s right, I bet you didn’t know seagulls have rescued more human lives than any of those melodramatic doctors on Grey’s Anatomy could ever hope to save. Every greasy French fry they steal from your plate while you’re not looking is one less heart attack for you. Every second you spend chasing them away from your picnic spread is another calorie burned. Every minute your kid is distracted watching them fly is sixty seconds of sanity saving “Me Time” you weren’t expecting to get that day.
So the next time you’re down by the water or at the park and encounter a colony of seagulls, toss a treat their way and say thanks. And if you happen to see an old guy in red suspenders and a trucker’s hat doing the same, well that’s just me. Gary, the biggest fan of seagulls that’s ever lived.