The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Friday, April 04, 2008

PARROTS AND THEIR USES: You may not have noticed this, but most people spend a good-sized chunk of their lives doing things that are fairly pointless. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a little pointlessness every so often; it goes well with French philosophy, especially the existential meat dishes, and there’s nothing better than a tasty bit of pointlessness with a good red French wine, but too much of anything is not good for the digestion and with a diet that rich you should not be surprised if you come down with the gout if you overindulge. And while monotony has its comforts, after all, the truth of the matter is that over an extended period of time monotony can slip inexorably from the comfortably numb to the excruciatingly mind-numbing, taking a large part of our sanity with it. In these circumstances, people will do almost anything to break the daily tide of tediousness, or, at the very least, reduce the tide to manageable proportions. Some people will take up a hobby like collecting stamps, coins, or eighteen year blondes named Bambi, while others trapped in the iron jaws of ennui will travel to some part of the world they’ve never been to before in order to take pictures of foreigners screaming at each other in a strange language before they start taking potshots at one another for reasons that not immediately discernible to the naked eye. In any quarrel, it’s usually best not to think too much about the reasons for the quarrel; most quarrels do not stand up well under close examination and, as the great Irish philosopher Sir Lucius O’Trigger once explained, most people like their quarrels as they are; trying to explain the quarrel rationally would only serve to ruin it. All of these hobbies have at least some small merit—they will break up the general monotony of life, especially that bit with Bambi after your spouse and her lawyer find out—but I find that there is nothing that will break the stifling monotony and purposelessness of daily existence quite as well as training a parrot to do root canal.

I know what a good many of you are thinking to yourselves right now—what possible advantage could anyone derive from training a bird, any bird, much less a parrot, in the subtleties of root canal? I do not have a good answer to this question at the moment; I am sure an answer, and a very good answer it will be when it finally arrives, will come to me shortly, just after it picks up its luggage and goes through security and gets its passport stamped, but at the moment, I fear, you will have to do without an answer or your lemon danish. I’m not sure how lemon danish figures in all of this; it’s almost certain that you can’t have any with your French philosophy and I don’t even want to think about what’ll happen if you ask for a bottle of ketchup.

Obviously, for those of you who may want to take up this hobby, there are a few problems to overcome. I know that I had a whole slew of obstacles in my way, the first of these being that I don’t really know anything about how to do root canal work. I’ve had root canal done, in my case by a woman dentist who did her best to put me at ease about the procedure between running out to smoke Camels and calling her bookie to put bets on Philly’s Folly in the sixth up in Saratoga, but sitting in the cheap seats at Yankee Stadium does not mean you get to hit in the clean-up spot, and so I began my career in avian education with no small degree of trepidation granted by a degree mill in the state of denial. However, ignorance of the subject matter is the last refuge of the intellectually callow and, frankly, a flimsy excuse not to do something. Christopher Columbus, for example, didn’t know where the hell he was going in 1492 and still managed to arrive in the Bahamas before the tourist season began and to have the capital of Ohio named after himself before Donald Trump fired him for not staying at a Trump hotel, as Columbus’ contract with the Donald required. All Charles Goodyear wanted to do was to perfect a whoopee cushion that smelled as bad as it sounded. He spent years trying to perfect the thing, mixing the raw rubber with hair, onions, dirty sneakers, a teenager’s unwashed laundry, used car salesmen, and finally sulfur. Goodyear tossed a handful of the stuff into the pot, having no idea that he was about to unleash the miracle of vulcanization and its logical consequence, the automobile tire, which will help you get a girl alone, preferably in some shady wooded area far from the madding crowd and the eagle eye of her mother, and the condom, which helps the girl you got alone stay alone. Goodyear’s dream of the olfactorily as well as the audibly disgusting whoopee cushion, however, had to wait another hundred years or so for someone whose name is escaping me now to invent. These men and thousands like them had no damn idea what in the hell they were doing and their names have gone down in history, while tens of thousands of men who did know what they were doing have vanished, their names unknown to posterity, after they did the sensible thing and wound up spending their lives peddling life insurance to the easily duped. That’s what listening to your parents will get you and don’t you ever forget it, buster.

There are, in the periodontal training of parrots, a number of problems you will need to address right away. The first of these is the parrot’s basic lack of sympathy for human dental problems. Parrots do not have dental problems, as they do not have teeth; they have a powerful beak, which is a sensible two-piece system capable of cracking open any seed you care to think of and which the bird can also use to pop the cap off of any brand of bottled beer sold in the United States, either foreign or domestic. In the past, parrots could also open cans of beer with alacrity in the absence of a can opener; however, the invention of, and the now near ubiquity of, the pop-top can has rendered this service unnecessary, if not completely obsolete in our more modern age. Being clever enough to open our own beer cans, parrots cannot, as a rule, see any reason why we should need their assistance to perform root canal. Parrots understand that the human beak, as they think of it, is an internal rather than an external organ, but they fail to grasp how any species that considers itself the paragon of animal evolution could get stuck with such an unwieldy thirty-two piece dining room set and with no means of returning the set for a refund. Getting the bird to understand that there is, in fact, a vital need for his /her services is the first step to successfully training your parrot. The parrot will not sympathize with the human dental plight, but they are willing to go along for the ride, particularly if there’s a free meal involved somewhere along the line.

The next great hurdle for the hobbyist to overcome is the parrot’s willful lack of an opposable thumb. Parrots do not have thumbs, as they regard thumbs, opposable or not, as unnecessary as well as unsightly. Parrots do have wings, which are often brightly colored and help parrots fly up to the telephone wire directly above your freshly washed and waxed car, the better to crap all over your roof, but wings, brightly colored or not, are a poor substitute for a thumb. The ability to fly under one’s own power is not really a required skill in almost any branch of dentistry you can think of, except for hovering, which eliminates the need to have the patient turn their head this way or the other. Parrots, however, cannot hover; only hummingbirds can hover and hummingbirds are essentially untrainable, except for some specialized fields such as computer science and tuna fishing, where they excel. Parrots prefer to use their beaks and feet for any operation that requires them to hold on to something, so when the trained bird actually performs the root canal on a patient, the patient will need a general anesthesia during the operation and some first aid afterwards in order to staunch the facial bleeding. Parrots find it difficult to operate from a perch while operating and prefer to stand on the patient’s shoulders or face during the procedure, digging their claws into the patient to make sure they don’t fall off.

The last great problem, the one that is greater than the parrot’s lack of reading skills or their inability to add past the number seven and one that I would ordinarily not bring up in such an open forum, is their constant need to take hits off the nitrous oxide. In any scenario involving a parrot and dentistry, a human must handle the anesthesia. This is a given. If allowed to have their own way, no parrot would ever see a patient. They would lock themselves in a room with ten or twelve or twenty of their closest friends, open the valve on the laughing gas all the way, and fly around the room at top speed singing dirty songs until they started bouncing off the walls. Nitrous oxide addiction has ruined the careers of thousands of promising psittacine periodontists and taken a terrible toll on their families. If you decide to take up avian periodontics, you must, must, must keep your parrot away from the nitrous oxide. If you do not believe you can do this, then I advise you to take up some other form of recreation; avian dentistry is clearly not for you.

But for all of its difficulties, training your parrot to do root canal can be a great deal of fun and incredibly lucrative as well. There are millions of people who have no dental coverage in their insurance plans and who wouldn’t mind having an otherwise very expensive operation performed for literally peanuts, which the patients will have to buy from you at hugely inflated prices. The American Dental Association, of course, hates the very idea of parrots performing root canal, but they would, wouldn’t they? Their psittacine loathing hasn’t stopped them from investing in Ritz Crackers or Planter’s Peanuts, has it? No, it hasn’t, not by a long shot. Hate the birds or no, the ADA knows that parrots will be dominating root canal work in ten years or so and they are getting ready for the changeover. The parrots, of course, are looking to move on up in the world. Today the teeth, tomorrow the tonsils, and finally, the world! Well, maybe not…

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