Q: Sitting outdoors at a cafe, I noticed a large bird on a branch above adjacent cafegoers. The bird looked like it was about to drop something in their cappuccinos. They were blissfully unaware. Should I have told them to move or let nature take its course? P.T., CLOVELLY, NSW
A: Obviously you would always warn a fellow cafe-goer if there was a serious threat of danger: say a cyclone was heading towards their table, or one of those rose sellers who shuffle around restaurants with the same sad, droopy rose they've been carrying all week. But if it's just a bird in a tree, there are two options. You can try the Altruistic Approach: lean across and say something like, "Excuse me. Thought that you might like to know, there's a bird over your heads and if you don't move, you might get an extra ristretto shot in your coffees, haw haw haw."
They'll laugh at your joke, they'll stand up to move, the bird will fly away, they'll sit back down again, you'll feel like an idiot and wonder why you have to be such a thoughtful person, it's been nothing but a burden.
Or you can try The Cosmic Approach: that's where you let nature take its course because tampering with a deterministic, non-linear system could result in catastrophic changes in a much larger dynamical system, according to the principles of The Butterfly Effect. And also, it could be really funny to see if the bird plops directly into one of their cups.
So I guess you need to decide whether you're an Altruistic People Irritator or a Cosmic Plop Observer. Me, I'm a Pompous Coffee Snob who thinks cappuccino drinkers are out-ofdate plebs and deserve a good bird-plopping. It's a personal thing: you make the choice.
Danny Katz is a columnist for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. He writes the Modern Guru column in the Good Weekend magazine. He is also the author of the books Spit the Dummy, Dork Geek Jew and the Little Lunch series for kids.
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