A new economic measure: fat and thin gulls

In the morning light, Seagulls pecked at the cast-off remnants of burgers, breakfast sandwiches and soda cups in the parking spaces of  mall and shopping plazas in Milford Friday. The clack, clack, clack of beak on wax-coated cup sounds  like the tolling of a muffled bell, though it’s unclear if its a tone of warning or celebration for this economy.

Just hours before the gulls began their feast, the crowds standing in the darkness of early morning had fueled up on coffee and fast food preparing for an all day hunt for presents in this official kick off of the holiday shopping season. They rushed in for TVs, tablets, toys and a myriad of other goods to be wrapped up and placed under trees awaiting the hoped for smiles and laughs when the intended rips off the paper. The discarded sandwiches and cups an indication of how deep an impact this day has on the economy, reaching into the donut shops and fast food restaurants. The retailers themselves had to bring in extra clerks and extra security, all providing extra wages in an economy that has been slow on job and income growth.

At the end of the season, the result of the sales will be weighed, chewed and digested by analysts and investors trying to gauge the future of the economy. Will all this buying mean better times are here, or is it all just a last celebration before the tough times return?

Perhaps instead of GDP and sales reports, we could gauge the economic health by how fat the gulls are.

After all, the gulls were feasting Friday because people bought more food than they could eat. Whether the gulls will continue to feast might depend on whether people can afford to throw out food.

Rob Varnon