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Death Valley in New Jersey

We’re often not aware when we live in extraordinary circumstances. For example, a kid growing up on the Rivera doesn’t wake up and think, “Wow!!! I live on the RIVIERA!!!” More like, “Ho hum, another day, another turquoise sea.”

All this is prelude to the fact that there was a vulture outside my window at work. Mind you, not a huge, Death Valley vulture, waiting for me to gasp, twitch, then fall face-first onto the salt flats. Just a turkey vulture, three feet tall and with a wingspan of six feet. Ho hum. But I guess you probably don’t have one outside your window.

Photo © Peter Wallack

It’s not in the nearby woods—where, if it were, it probably would be circling overhead watching for something’s last twitch. Instead, it’s standing patiently on the building property, waiting for road kill. This is probably the vulture equivalent of dining out: the restaurant is swanky, but the service is slow.

Photo © Dori Merr

These birds are not attractive, as the picture here shows. (Yes, you’re seeing clear through that nostril to the other side.) It’s not their fault. No vulture has ever pecked its way out its egg, looked in a mirror, and said, “What a relief! I was sooo afraid I was going to be a cute fuzzy duckling.” More likely, it pecks out and says, “When’s breakfast?”

Which brings us to the vulture’s eating habits, which are not its fault, either. (And let’s face it, that’s the thing we really object to. Not their bald red heads.) Vultures just do what they’re meant to do. I only wish they would wear bibs while they do it. The bibs could have red piping around the edges, to match their little, mean-looking heads, with embroidered letters reading, “Time for Num-Num!”

Someone else in the office took note of our luncheon guest.

“There’s a vulture outside.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Last week’s was bigger.”