Sounds From The Bathroom – Porto, Portugal
New to the city and in an unfamiliar bed I was in a light sleep when the screeching from the bathroom caused me to lift my head from the pillow. I held my breath to hear the eerie sound more clearly while my brain sped through the possible causes for it.
We were sleeping in a guesthouse in Porto Portugal on a street that catered to the construction trades not tourists. In the stained buildings standing shoulder to shoulder like encyclopedias on a shelf were shops offering lumber, plumbing parts, electrical supplies and a cold beer. Others offered nothing but dirty windows, empty shelves and locked doors. Our guesthouse was the only one on the block and attached to it and sharing our bathroom wall was a four story ruin that had no roof overhead or glass in the windows. It was gutted, a skeleton of the building we slept in. But it’s massive two foot wide stone walls were still strong and could stand for at least another hundred years.
I listened to the screeching for a few minutes while I sat on the edge of the bed in the dark. The sound was constant and high pitched like the whining of a child. The slick wood floor in the bedroom felt cold to my bare feet as did the narrow hallway that led to the bathroom. As I inched my way into the small room the cries grew louder and more focused. They were just above my head. I flipped on the light. The sound was funneling into the bathroom through the exhaust vent. Now I heard not only the constant whining sound but also background noises, cries that came in sharp bursts. Again my brain sorted through the possibilities and came to a conclusion. The cries I heard that night and I would hear again the next night were made by gulls living on our roof and in the gutted building next door.
I crept up to the rooftop terrace and looked at the night sky. To my surprise these gulls were not on the same sleep schedule as robins and chickadees. The reflection of the city lights caused the lower sky to glow and in that glow were silhouettes of gulls swooping and diving as if it were midday at the beach.
I don’t know much about gulls but I have read that some are so intelligent that they can pick up a stick and use it as a tool. Others have been seen dropping bread into the ocean to draw fish to the surface. And like humans, gulls can fall out of love and divorce their mate, but the flock will make them pay for it in social status for years. There are many species of gulls such as the Pagophila eburnea commonly known as the Ivory gull or the Xema sabini which is better known as Sabin’s gull. That night it was too dark for me to see the markings or identify the species that flew overhead but the one crying in the bathroom vent I was sure about. Using the Linneaus classification of species I identified the bathroom gull as “Damndest annoyus”, the most annoying damn gull I have ever met.