At precisely 8:10 every morning the pigeons settle on a branch overlooking the corner of 92nd and Madison Avenue, where a flock of women wait in line outside a coffee shop. The pigeons are not particularly interested in conversations about children just dropped off for school, or yoga classes yet to be attended, or husbands too old to care.
No, the pidgeons study the complex system of ritualized postures and displays of affection — tousling blonde feathers, standing on one leg, squeezing clear containers of milky-brown liquid — within the group they’ve come to know as the plastic flamingoes.
Like the augurs of ancient Rome, this eminent group of pigeons selects a spot of high ground and uses their nuanced understanding of the flamingoes’ habits to determine the right course of action — usually regarding the correct time to defile a public monument.
With his eyes fixed on the exit door of the coffee shop, the senior auspex poses a straightforward — “do you approve?” — to the higher powers and finds the answer in the direction the flamingoes take once they disperse in clusters, drinks in hand.