Friday, July 11, 2008

Thank You, ZOOM and Jewish Summer Camp

I am tricky. I didn't tell you we were going away, and now we are back.

First we went on an overnight trip to the Aquarium, wherein we looked at a lot of moss in Stanley Park and got ravaged by hundreds of mosquitoes, before retreating to the Aquarium itself where we had a snack and then were shown a lot of fish and the Mermaid Girl made fast friends with a 6-year-old from Alberta. Then...more assorted slimy/prickly sea creatures in boxes. And somewhere in there we got a quick tour through the hidden back workings of the building (my favorite insider tidbit, written on a whiteboard: "Remember to feed the octopus in tank #45 while I'm gone"). And we had a special quiet visit to the new and as-yet-unnamed baby beluga viewing nursery. By then it was midnight and we'd had five hours of nonstop marine education; we all staggered to the dolphin viewing room, where RW and , along with the other 20 or so overnighters, unrolled our sleeping bags on top of the pathetically small and thin foam pads we'd brought (MG got to share a luxurious double air mattress with her new Albertan friend) and sacked out.

I woke up at 5:30, needing to pee. Then I thought I'd look at the dolphins for a while, though I didn't want to get in their space too much. Hah! to that. Turns out all that stuff you hear about how friendly and curious dolphins are is TOTALLY TRUE: one of them got right up in MY face as soon as I perched in one of the viewing tank bays. She (I found out later it was a she) nosed right up against the glass, and she spouted air bubbles out of her spout, and she swam around and did flips and and came back to say hi again, and eventually brought one of her pals over and they did some swimming exactly in tandem, I swear just to show off.

After a while I started to feel like this conversation was kind of one-sided, so I tried to reciporicate by doing my one and only trick, the Bernadette arm-flip thing that I learned from ZOOM! when I was like eight. Wow. My new friend the dolphin was impressed! Or at least she did a very polite imitation of being impressed, bobbing her head up and down enthusiastically and flapping her flippers and even making sounds that were probably Dolphin for "hey, guys, get a load of this one! She is obviously not afraid to make an utter fool of herself! Humans are so cute and charming, even if they are sort of dopey!"

Soon two or three of them were nosing each other out of the way to watch, all being very polite and charmed by the arm-flip thing, which I was by now alternating--for variety--with the David Melech Yisroel hand-jive that I learned at summer camp. Even Spinnaker, the star dolphin who gets trotted out for all the shows and who'd been basically ignoring all the excitement, came by to see what the fuss was about. I told him I knew he was a star and that I was very honored he'd come to say hi.

By now I could mostly tell them apart. My pal, Hannah, had some scoring on her nose, and there was another one who had very short flippers, and Spinnaker was much bigger and also sort of noble and standoffish and didn't hang with the others so much.

After an hour or so a little boy woke up and was also wowed that the dolphins would come over and hang with him, and soon after that the lights came on to wake us all up and get us out of the viewing room so they could clean it before the aquarium opened, but by then I was...well, maybe it is an exaggeration to say I was changed for life, but maybe not. I am still not so much a nature person or even an animal person but I do think I finally understand why people get so excited about dolphins.

And I suppose I might be finally motivated to buy tuna that is certified dolphin-free. All, or at least most, of the dolphins at the aquarium were there because they were rescued from fishing nets where they were trapped. Most of them have some scarring from the nets. And while I was happy to get to know them for that hour, I'm sorry that happened to them. I know that's one reason the Aquarium has special tours and overnights like this, so that people like me can have a personal experience with marine life and start to get it and maybe be responsible in our consumer choices. And I guess it worked.

Also, it just goes to show that you never know what bits of trivia will come in handy in life. I might try to track down Bernadette if she's online, so I can thank her for the arm thing.


Blogger susan said...

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6:40 AM  
Blogger Phantom Scribbler said...

There's no way I could top Susan's comment. But this was, like, the best post ever in the history of the universe. Seriously, I started giggling when you trotted out the Bernadette arm-flip thing, and I haven't stopped yet.

Someday we gotta do the David Melech Yisroel hand jive in front of a couple of marine mammals.

6:53 AM  
Blogger Pamelamama said...

what a great story. I totally remember the zoom arm thing. I can still do it too.

miss you! school finally hired a full time librarian!

12:13 AM  
Blogger Mark Dominus said...

Bernadette was online last time I looked for her, which was a couple of years ago.

Her last name is Yao.

7:47 AM  
Blogger Mark Dominus said...

Here it is:

10:59 AM  
Blogger jo(e) said...

The Bernadette weird arm thing! I haven't thought about that in YEARS ....

3:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yay for Bernadette and the unexpected result of you grooving with the dolphins!

Way back when I used to visit kids on work experience, I loved checking in on the ones at the aquarium. I (and they) totally felt like there was a whole secret behind-the-scenes aquarium that we got to see. It ruled!

7:10 PM  

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