Lately, I’ve been working for the crows, and so far it’s the best job I ever had. I fell into it by a combination of preparedness and luck. I’d been casting around a bit, looking for a new direction in my career, and one afternoon when I was out on my walk I happened to see some crows fly by. One of them landed on a telephone wire just above my head. I looked at him for a moment, and then on impulse I made a skchhh noise with my teeth and lips. He seemed to like that; I saw his tail make a quick upward bobbing motion at the sound.
Encouraged, I made the noise again, and again his tail bobbed. He looked at me closely with one eye, then turned his beak and looked at me with the other, meanwhile readjusting his feet on the wire. After a few minutes, he cawed and flew off to join his companions. I had a good feeling I couldn’t put into words. Basically, I thought the meeting had gone well, and as it turned out, I was right. When I got home there was a message from the crows saying I had the job.
That first interview proved indicative of the crows’ business style. They are very informal and relaxed, unlike their public persona, and mostly they leave me alone. I’m given a general direction of what they want done, but the specifics of how to do it are up to me. For example, the crows have long been unhappy about public misperceptions of them: that they raid other birds’ nests, drive songbirds away, eat garbage and dead things, can’t sing, etc. all of which is completely untrue once you know them. My first task was to take these misperceptions and turn them into a more positive image. I decided the crows needed a slogan that emphasized their strengths as a species. The slogan I came up with was Crows: We Want to Be Your Only Bird.„¢ I told this to the crows, they loved it, and we’ve been using it ever since.
Crows speak a dialect of English rather like that of the remote hill people of the Alleghenies. If you’re not accustomed to it, it can be hard to understand. In their formal speech they are as measured and clear as a radio announcer from the Midwest though, as I say, they are seldom formal with me. (For everyday needs, of course, they caw.) Their unit of money is the empty soda bottle, which trades at a rate of about 20 to the dollar. In the recent years of economic boom, the crows have quietly amassed great power. With investment capital based on their nationwide control of everything that gets run over on the roads, they have bought a number of major companies. Pepsi-Cola is now owned by the crows, as well as Knight Ridder newspapers and the company that makes Tombstone frozen pizzas. The New York Metropolitan Opera is now wholly crow-owned.
In order to stay competitive, the crows recently merged with the ravens. This was done not only for reasons of growth but also to better serve those millions who live and work near crows. In the future, both crows and ravens will be known by the group name of Crows, so if you see a bird and wonder which it is, you don’t have to waste any time: Officially and legally, it’s a crow.
The net result of this, of course, is that now there are a lot more crows which is exactly what the crows want. Studies they’ve sponsored show that there could be anywhere from 10 to a thousand times more crows than there already are, with no strain on carrying capacity. A healthy increase in crow numbers would make basic services like cawing loudly outside your bedroom window at six in the morning available to all. In this area, as in many others, the crows are thinking very long term.
,This 10th Anniversary Article appeared in the April 2001 edition of the now (sadly) defunct DoubleTake Magazine.