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Old February 9th, 2010, 01:48 PM   #1
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Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Florida
Posts: 1,110

Default My letter to the editor

I am a military veteran who has served in peace and wartime, in good places and bad, and seen what I consider the best and worst that humanity has to offer. I've settled in Florida because I'm proud of the people who live here and greatly enjoy the environment of central Floridian life. That especially includes the wildlife we enjoy here.

I'm lucky in that I own a house that has a lake in the back and even luckier in that among the herons, ducks, and other birds, we have swans. We now have three. A couple years ago we had ten.

That situation changed a small bit last night when my fiancee and I were walking along the sidewalk of one of the busiest streets in the area. As the sun set, we noted a swan carefully moving along the opposite side of the road, heading back towards its mate. Traffic on that side has stopped to allow him to pass and the drivers of those vehicles enjoyed the unexpected show of such a large magnificent bird crossing right in front of them. One laughed appreciatively, noting the uncertainty that such a large aquatic bird had at moving along the black roadway.

When the swan reached the center divide, it looked upon the oncoming traffic with understandable concern. I shared its uncertainty. This was certainly no place for a swan to be.

I stepped to the side of the roadway, about a dozen feet in front of where I expected the bird to cross and attempted to stop the traffic on its behalf, holding my hand up as best I could to indicate that a frightened, living creature was trying to get back home. I can't say that any of the drivers shared my sympathies. A few spotted the swan and accelerated, swerving around it to ensure they wouldn't have to slow down. This made both the swan and I more nervous.

The next wave of drivers seemed to display something closer to irritation, given that I and the swan might be delaying them for a short time. In hindsight, I can't say that all of them saw me or that all of them saw the swan, although its hard to imagine how anyone who should be looking out for road hazards could casually miss a large white swan or a six-foot tall man wearing a white shirt.

Yet, regardless of my attempts or the swan's hopes, just as it stepped off the curb, the oncoming car accelerated in an attempt to race past it before it got in its way. I can only speculate that in the past, the swan had used this tactic with drivers who were more alert and more caring. Unfortunately, in this case, it didn't work out that way, either for the bird who placed his trust in a human controlling a quarter-ton of steel or the driver who was certain he could bypass a bird without having to wait for it.

The sound of the vehicle impacting the swan was sickening. It was truly heart-wrenching. The bird was thrown several feet back into the center divide and from the brief glance I got, the driver seemed more irritated than concerned that he had just caused such an accident. He sped away as the swan kicked its leg involuntarily and died. An innocent creature had been killed due to this driver's apathy and unwillingness to drive sensibly.

To be fair, I can't say for certain that he saw the swan. His speeding might have well been poorly timed. He might have just then been distracted by his cell phone ringing. He might have simply not cared. I don't know.

What I do know is that our lake now has 30% of the swan life it had a couple years earlier. Our homeowner's association has no plan to protect the swans. They're also not sure how to replace them. I can't blame them. Swans aren't schooled in population growth and traffic patterns. They don't understand the dangers they're flirting with when they decide to walk near or across a roadway. They simply try to get from one pond to the next with the hope that humans will look out for them.

Sometimes that faith is placed in the wrong person.

I understand that accidents are accidents and you can't stop them entirely but I know you can mitigate them. I wonder just what activity could be so important in anyone's day that any creature needs to die to so a driver doesn't have to be inconvenienced with a concept like safety. Certainly, in the past couple years, on at least seven occasions, the lives of the swans in my neighborhood weren't valuable enough for some to risk having to arrive at their destination two minutes later.

Now, as I look at my lake and see the three remaining swans, one of which is missing its mate, I can only hope that the driver who seemingly deliberately ignored my efforts made extremely good use at that extra two minutes they gained.

I also hope that the next time one of our Florida birds has to cross the road, the driver they encounter can afford the time to drive a bit more cautiously and be a lot more aware of their surroundings.
I respect French maids for their minds.
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