Campus Life

Talking Turkey

Who the Hack Is Mr. Gobbles?

OK, so a turkey hangs out in Kendall Square. Big deal — I’ve seen a lot of turkeys in my lifetime. Maybe that’s just because I grew up on a rural Minnesota farm, but that isn’t an explanation for why barely anyone around here seems to know what a turkey is. You see, I walked down the path that leads past Quantum Books into East Cambridge twice a day for over a year. In that time, I saw some pretty strange episodes involving the Kendall Square turkey, affectionately known as Mr. Gobbles. I’ve seen him walking, running, flying, sleeping, munching on grass, and being chased by everyone from obese women to skinny kids.

One of the first incidents was when a short woman wearing wrap-around sunglasses and a flashy yellow shirt passed Mr. Gobbles and asked me, “Hey man, is that a peacock?!” I wanted to give a witty reply about how stupid her question was, but no, I held my tongue and politely explained that it was a turkey. Wikipedia states, “Turkeys are … rarely mistaken for any other species.” That site needs amending!

Other days, I hear bits of cell phone conversations like this: “I don’t know what it is [pause as other person replies]. It’s on the other side of a fence.” A couple of times young mothers, with babies in strollers, suddenly have a burst of energy and quickly speed walk past Mr. Gobbles to keep their child out of harm’s way. Mothering instincts or Darwin at work, perhaps? More like ignorance — what is he going to do, eat your kid?!

The worst incident was when two obese women (approximately in their 40s) chased Mr. Gobbles, grinning, laughing, shouting, and clapping. I suggested they stop. They became very defensive and said that no, this was not for their entertainment (yeah, right) but for the animal’s protection (they didn’t know it was a turkey either). They thought he would run into the street and get hit by a car. Again, I held my tongue and told them, no, he’s been around here for a few years now and has done fine, so please leave him alone. They left looking very sullen, but at least Mr. Gobbles had his peace and quiet.

And then there are all the bored tourists on the trolley tours. They look totally exhausted as the trolley pulls up to the stop light. Then, like wildfire, I see them exchange exclamations of surprise and delight. Suddenly everyone on the trolley whips out cell phones and cameras to shoot pictures of the turkey from across the street. Then they put away those same cameras as they get a green light and the driver explains, “Up next is MIT, a very famous institution ….” MIT just isn’t as exciting as a turkey, apparently!

Occasionally I see a group of twentysomething, strapping, smartly-dressed lads from local businesses exchange glances, laugh, point at the Mr. Gobbles, and then mutter something like, “I bet my dad knows what it is.” Come on, you have how many degrees and you don’t know what a turkey is?

When I was in grade school, every fall we had to make drawings of turkeys by tracing our hands. Were most of the so-called intelligent people around here so smart that they skipped these grades? So, hackers, the gauntlet is laid down — please transform the dome into a giant turkey so I don’t have to answer stupid questions any longer and so people will know what they are eating on Thanksgiving.