All aboard: The train (of thought) is about to leave the station.
First stop: Nassau Street and Washington Road in downtown Princeton, where motorists need to be wary, and pedestrians need to practice their “defensive walking” as they cross paths with possibly distracted drivers. My concerns, expressed in an April 15 column, got an endorsement from Gail A. Mitchell of Robbinsville:
“I drive to Princeton three times a week to attend classes at the Princeton Senior Resource Center and the library and always, always encounter cellphone engrossed pedestrians and others who ignore the left turn arrow onto Witherspoon. Thank goodness my therapist has helped me curtail my anger as I drive along Nassau! I am not alone in my feelings!”
I also got a call from Robert Landau, the Nassau Street retailer who had read my column on pedestrian safety and thought I might be interested in some pictures he had taken that same day on Washington Road, not far from where the graduate student had been struck by a car, sending her to the hospital with serious injuries. (The motorist, a 20-year-old Princeton man, was charged with reckless driving and failing to yield to a pedestrian.)
Landau’s photos showed a rooster — apparently a wild rooster — blithely crossing Washington Road, and not at one of the marked crosswalks. The rooster made it across unscathed as motorists graciously halted to clear a path. To me it was another example of what to expect in Princeton. People may come and go, but animals — especially wild animals — are treated with supreme deference.
We have seen it before. In January of 2003 a 24-year-old patient from the Tenacre Foundation’s Christian Science treatment facility ran away from the center, ended up inside the home of Princeton financier William Sword, and soon started brandishing a kitchen knife against Sword and his brother-in- law. The two men fought off the mentally unstable man, and he ran into the yard. Soon four officers from the Princeton police arrived and surrounded the man. This wasn’t Ferguson, Missouri, but the results were the same. The young black man, barefoot in the snow and armed only with that kitchen knife, was shot and killed by the four officers.
At that time the community papers were filled with letters of outrage. Few of them had anything to do with the killing of the young man. The outrage was over the culling of the deer herd in the township — whether or not the deer should be killed at all, and whether the method of killing them was humane.
Thank god no one ran over that rooster on Washington Road.
Approaching our next stop: Squirrel Town. With the safety of the rooster established, my eye was caught by a letter to the Town Topics community paper. The writer was making a plea for reducing sound pollution — a subject dear to my heart. But one of the sources of this writer’s bothersome noise was something I had never known before: “Squirrel alarms.”
A squirrel alarm? Maybe, I wonder, they are the latest gadget designed to keep squirrels away from bird feeders. Stories abound about the devices people have used to keep the squirrels away from those gourmet feasts that are provided for the birds. I have heard of spherical “beer balls” — empty, of course — strung on the line that connects the bird feeder to a tree. I have heard of people who slather olive oil on whatever physical device they mount.
On so many occasions the squirrels still manage to get through. So maybe this is the latest alternative — a honking loud bell to scare the nuts right out of their jowls.
But then I read the letter more closely. “The intensity of those high-pitched devices also causes incredible discord to the system and, if you live off Nassau, you live in ‘Squirrel Town.’ There really is no keeping a squirrel off your property. They’re everywhere. So how about we agree to consider the possibility of that alarm as an ‘unsound solution’ to the ridding of squirrels — as actually worse than the ‘problem.’ We’re all connected,” said letter writer Dana Lichtstrahl.
So the squirrel alarms are like the deer whistles that some people mount on the front bumper of their cars. In theory the air moving through the whistle generates a high-pitched noise that people can’t hear but deer can. The noise drives the deer back from the road as you approach. The squirrel whistles operate the same way, except that they emit the noise continuously, theoretically keeping the little critters away.
But the trouble with these whistles is that they don’t seem to work. Not for deer and not for squirrels, either. Even worse for Lichtstrahl, the victim of the noise pollution, the squirrel alarms turn out to be audible to her. So a quiet morning on the back deck turns into an episode of temporary tinnitus.
Now approaching our next to last stop: It’s quiet at the eagles’ nest 70 or 80 feet up in the tree at the Duke Farm nature preserve. When we last reported from that webcam’s-eye view, the two fledglings had just been born, and were spending most of their time smothered under the belly of their doting parents.
At the age of three-plus weeks, the eaglets are now snuggling with each other as the doting parents seem to spending more time out of the nest. The little eagles are still more furry than feathery, but they are flapping their wings and no doubt have turned into big eaters. The next big event will be in May, when the “state climber” hauls himself up to the nest, fends off the protective parents, and brings the eaglets down for weighing, measuring, and sampling, and then takes them back up with bands installed that will help the wildlife experts monitor these birds.
Now arriving at Chris Christie Station. The only sounds here are the continued slow leaking of the value from the state’s credit rating, and the eroding viability of the state’s pension plans. If you hear some bellowing from afar, that might be the governor way off in New Hampshire, telling voters how he’s going to fix Social Security and Medicare.
But (isn’t it strange?) you don’t hear a peep from the U.S. Attorney’s office, investigating Bridge-gate. Maybe they have just forgotten all about that. Or maybe not.