Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Atlanta Aquarium Horror

I promised you some Atlanta stories but I’ve found it difficult to compose my thoughts, what with the trauma I endured at the Atlanta Aquarium.

I had not been to an aquarium since I was a kid so I was not prepared for exactly how peaceful and beautiful it would be. The Atlanta Aquarium has a beluga whale in residence and I probably could have watched it for hours diving, twisting, and spinning underwater.

Jellyfish too. I love me some jellyfish, provided they are safely in a tank.

But there was an aspect of the aquarium experience for which I was unprepared – the tactile experience.

I have two rules that I seldom break: I don’t talk to strangers and I don’t want strangers to touch me. It’s not a Howie Mandel sort of thing, I’m just not a touchy kind of person. I should have afforded the aquatic life in Atlanta the same privilege.

I’d blame peer pressure because all the cool kids were touching the starfish and the anemones and even sharks and rays but I could have said ‘no.’ I didn’t even think. I was all for bellying up to the touching bar.

And then I met the shrimp.

Shrimp are, to put it charitably, alien sea-bugs. I don’t even know why I wanted to pet one.

The shrimp tank was elevated so I that one must stand on a little step then lean over to reach inside. I have T-Rex arms so I had to not only lean over but reach my arm up to the elbow in the water. The cold water.

The shrimp petting rules were as follows: touch them only with two fingers and you have to sneak up behind them with those fingers because they’ll dart away from you if they see you with those “eye on a stick” things.

So I tried to pet a couple of relatively small ones but they just laughed and darted away when they saw my ham-hands approaching. At least I think they were laughing.

Then it happened. I tried to swoop in on a big brown shrimp. And it worked. He never even saw me coming. But then it went terribly, terribly wrong.

When petted its back it apparently didn’t know the rules, at least the rules as I had imagined. Instead of darting forward or backward or to one side or another it went in a direction I had not even considered: straight up and at my hand.

My response was not the Steven Seagal aikido screaming eagle shrimp-dodge.

My response was more “sea-bug, Sea-Bug, SEA-BUG!” and pulling my arm out of the water with amazing speed.

That would have been fine if my arm had not collected half a gallon of water with it as it surfaced like some sort of humpback whale. Did I mention it was cold water?

Splash, all over my shirt. Mother trucker.

The shrimp wrangler guy started laughing. I gave him my “this wasn’t all that funny Mr. Shrimp Wrangler” look which instantly made him cover his mouth with his hand and laugh harder but more quietly. When he caught his breath he said, in the least sincere or comforting way I have ever encountered, “Oh don’t worry about it. People do that all the time.” Yeah. I’m sure.


So I went from simple aquarium attendee to loser of the world’s worst wet t-shirt contest.

Luckily I was mostly dry by the time we had walked over to CNN to ride the world’s largest escalator and take the studio tour. Although we got to see Dr Sanjay Gupta prepare for some sort of piece, I was still bitter about that shrimp. I think I was suffering the effects of PTSD. Post Traumatic Shrimp Disorder.

I vowed to have my revenge.

Later in the evening, revenge I had. Revenge on a stick!

All photos are mine except the brown shrimp which is from http://www.dnr.sc.gov/marine/mrri/SEAMAP/species/paztec.htm


Unknown said...

Great post, aquariums are great to visit. Petting the rays is one of my favorite things to do.

hahahahha(I'm laughing with you - not at you)

Those pictures of the jellyfish were pretty creepy.

- Evan

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the laugh this morning. I've been thinking about making the trip to the Boston Aquarium with the entire crew. Perhaps I'll rethink that.....

Eric said...

Thanks guys!

And by all means visit your local aquarium if you are fortunate enough to have one.

Just no-touchey!

Vixen said...

Absolutely, totally hilarious.. And yes, I'm kind of laughing AT you ;)

You rock!

Steve said...

This is a great post! Don't give up on the underwater world... not all critters are so evil.

Thanks for the good chuckle.