Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Fish Story.

Yes, it's time for a fish story.

Yesterday while I was doing my bit of daily questing in WoW, I went and picked up the fishing daily called "Rock Lobster."  Before you even ask, yes, it's named after the song by the B-52's.  However, here's the part that sticks out: in the quest instructions it reminds you to watch out for sharks.  And yes, there are some fairly large sharks in Stormwind Harbor.  While doing the quest, it reminded me of one of my favorite fish stories, from my days working at an aquarium.

Ten years ago, I used to get suited out in scuba gear and a wetsuit, (sometimes chain mail too) and dive the aquarium's exhibits to clean them and wave at the passing tourists.  Well, how can you work at a predator based aquarium filled with sharks and not have a colorful story to share?  I've been bit in the hand and backside along with a few other places, but before you get excited, don't worry, it was just an occupational hazard.  Yes, a shark bit me in the butt, laugh if you must, but the baseball-sized bruise was nothing to laugh at, thank you very much.  However the funnier story is the day I had a close encounter with an infant and a zebra shark who thought my head looked pretty tasty.

Back in the day, there was a particular Zebra shark who lived in one of the exhibits by the name of Priscilla who we called "'Scilla" (yes, after Elvis' wife).  Ok, quick little bit of info on the Zebra shark:  it feeds like a vacuum cleaner.  Zebra sharks, in the wild, patrol the ocean floor, much like a Nurse shark.  Their staple diet are things like mollusks, crustaceans and other bottom dwellers along with the occasional fish.   So, how it works is that they literally suck in everything in front of their mouth in a big gasp.  However, their mouths are situated more underneath their bodies, here have a picture:

See?  It's underneath.  No big teeth in front, no, no, that wouldn't do for this finned menace.  The teeth for a Zebra shark are located in the backs of their mouths, but they don't work like yours or mine, it works more like a grinder with a few little teeth up front to get some grip and hold onto things while they suck their food down.  Ok, so now that you are up to speed on the physiology of this fish, let's go to the scene of the crime.

It was a wonderful Wednesday afternoon, and I got assigned to clean the second largest exhibit in the place, one known by the staff as "A7."  So, I get suited up, pull my pack onto the caddy we used to wheel our gear over to the exhibit on, we walk over and my dive buddy and I get into the water.

Cleaning an aquarium exhibit is a lot like cleaning your home fish tank except we were armed with pressure washers, scrub brushes and window cleaning gear.  Where as you cleaning your home aquarium has you reaching into the tank, we swam in the exhibits.  To be honest, you know those little aquarium decorations like the bubbling treasure chest and the little diver dude featured in Finding Nemo?  I felt like a girl version of the little diver dude.  But I digress.

So, there I was, in the exhibit swimming around cleaning fake coral, not a bad way to spend two hours of your work day, is it?  As was the norm, every time we got into the water, we became an immediate attraction for every tourist that passed by the exhibit windows.  Dive after dive I waved at drunk college students, drunk adults and families of all shapes and sizes.

That afternoon I was doing my usual scrubbing when I looked up and saw a man at the window holding his infant daughter, so I figured I would go play with the baby for a minute.  So, I took out my standard regulator (that's the mouthpiece that gives you air, you know) and replaced it with my spare emergency one (also known as an 'octopus').  I swam up to the window and held out my regulator and tapped my purge button.  (The purge button purges water from the regulator so you don't breathe in water, it also happens to make a good bunch of entertaining bubbles for babies watching you dive.)  As I held up the regulator, the baby reached for it on the other side of the glass, as if to say, "pacifier?"  Ok, how novel is that for a kid, a bubbling pacifier?  It was cute and the father was having a laugh riot watching the baby trying to grab hold of it.  It was right in the middle of the cute series of events that 'Scilla just had to get in on the action.

I must say this for 'Scilla, I really liked that fish.  She had some spunk and she also, on a previous dive, bit my ex in the groin really hard.  Point to 'Scilla!  Fish 1, Ex 0.  How that fish got attached to the inside of his leg, I'll never know, but every time I remember turning around in the exhibit only to see him freaking out with a fish attached really close to his privates, it still makes me laugh really hard.

Anyhow, so there I am playing with the baby on the other side of the window and all of a sudden I feel this huge, painful yank at the top of my head.  I immediately stopped what I was doing and reached up to feel what was yanking at me.  I reach up, and feeling around the object, I figure's 'Scilla...and she's got the top of my dive hood in her mouth along with a large chunk of my hair and some scalp.  At that point, the dad holding the baby went pale.  He's watching me with this shark stuck to the top of my head and me trying in vain to get it off.  The dad yells to the mom, and with the mom come about 50 people and they're all watching me yanking on that stupid fish to get it off my head.  After about five minutes of me with my arms up trying to remove the shark from my head, I finally give it all I've got, and in the process I removed the fish, and by extension, a chunk of my hair, my mask and my hood.  I couldn't see anything after I got the fish off my head, so I swam to the surface.  When I got to the surface of the water, I yelled out for my dive tender screaming, "Bonnie!  I've been accosted!"  She looks at me and says, "Scilla?"  I laughed and said, "Yep."  It was then that Bonnie looked at me and said, "Sheri, where's your hood and your mask?"  I replied, "In Scilla's mouth," at which we both erupted into laughter.

Looking down through the water to try to find the fish that decided to make off with some of my dive gear, I spot her swimming on the other side of the exhibit.  I swam over, grabbed the fish, held it under my arm (she was not happy about that) and got my gear back.  I put my hood and mask back on and submerge again, thinking that I was just going to go back to cleaning coral and what do you think I was faced with?  About 100 people with mouths hanging open who had just witnessed 'Scilla stealing my stuff along with a little patch of my hair!  I go back into the window and wave, but all I got were people holding up the "ok" sign with their hands, worried if I was ok or not.  I gave them the "ok" sign in return and they all started clapping and cheering.  I even played it up a bit as 'Scilla swam by again, making moves like a boxer warming up.  Lucky for me, the crowd moved on and I got back to work.

'Scilla is still swimming around in that aquarium, albeit in a bigger exhibit, to this day.  I really do still love that fish.  She's got style, on top of that, there weren't many divers she didn't accost at that aquarium.  She was like Nan's dog Zoe, a big ball of "love me, love me, love me."

I miss 'Scilla sometimes, head biting and hair pulling aside, I'm always grateful to her because without her I wouldn't have a great story to tell.

But I guess everyone has a fish story or two, don't they?

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