This morning I had the occasion to solve a complicated logistics problem.
The area where I was working happened to be an apartment complex swimming pool. When I accessed the gated area, I noticed immediately three ducks on the pool deck, apparently distressed. I soon realized why-- there were about 15 little ducklings in the pool. And they couldn't get out.
The mother duck was perched at the edge of the pool, nervously quacking at the ducklings, rooting for them to get out of the pool like mom had done. This technique was not effective.
The ducklings gathered like a globule of Cheerios in a bowl of milk. They huddled together, waiting for the epiphany that wouldn't come, short of them growing up enough to step out or fly out of the pool.
My first though was to balance one of the chaise lounges at the edge of the pool, as a makeshift ramp, so they could collectively assert themselves up and out. But the chaise was too cumbersome and didn't balance well at the edge.
So I finished my work, glancing back at the ducks now and again to see if they'd made any progress. Unfortunately, they seemed fresh out of ideas.
I saw the ducklings swim into the filter area-- there are two such cut-outs in the pool's sides, with a flapper that swings under the weight of the water moving in and out of the filter. I walked over to the filter where the ducks were (and they promptly swam away to the center of the pool out of my reach) and opened the cover on the filter. I thought maybe I could angle the lid in the hole and create a ramp, but I was wrong-- the lid was too big to fit inside the hole, and was rigid so it couldn't be manipulated.
Next I saw the filter basket, and I devised a plan to systematically scoop out the ducks, one by one if I had to, with the filter basket. But that quickly proved to have no merit, as the ducklings were able to evade my advances deftly and efficiently.
So I ran out of ideas. I tried herding them towards the pool steps, thinking they might be able to get a foothold and jump out, but that didn't work either.
So I gave up. Reluctantly, I gave up, because I was at work and I was spending too much time doing animal recovery work and not my job.
I continued to do my job, and suddenly, the breakthrough I'd been looking for was revealed. I found a plank of wood, a small two by six, that I thought I could place on the steps of the pool and create the makeshift ramp.
I returned to the pool and set up the ramp. It looked like it would work, if the duckies would just use it... I tried to herd them in the direction of the ramp, all the while distressing the elder ducks-- Mom, Dad, Uncle Hank, Aunt Peggy, I don't know. It still wouldn't work.
So I let go again. I got back to work, continued on with my assigned tasks. I'd work my way back around the apartment complex and check in on their progress.
When I got back around, in about a twenty minutes, I noted that nothing had changed. Duckies still in pool, elders still beside themselves and at a loss for what to do, except wait, squawk, flap, repeat. The gate on that side was locked, and I wasn't sure I had a key, but it turned out that I did. So I went back in and tried to herd the duckies into the corner one last time.
I got them to move over into the corner where I'd set up the ramp, and then I "sat" on them, countering their movements with mine, to keep them there. Soon a stalemate was established, and I stood still, waiting for the epiphany.
Sure enough, one of the duckies discovered the ramp, swam up to its edge, and then walked easily out of the pool.
Mom saw the duckling and turned to lead the way, expecting all the rest of them to fall in line. Unfortunately, the remainder duckies were all going crazy, as if to say, "Hey! How'd you do that? How'd you get outta here? Wait for me!"
I was awash with a sense of accomplishment, and a peaceful sense of knowing that the rest would find their way.
My work here was done.