Ever looked forward to an adventure, something really cool and fun, then someone has to spoil your carefree feeling and excitement by mentioning the pitfalls, and scary parts, of actually doing it? Yeah, me, too.
I work at the aquarium in Chicago as a volunteer diver (all 86 divers are volunteers except for the dolphin and Beluga whale trainers, who may or may not be divers. They are probably just trainers, which is so cool.). While doing pre-dive preparations yesterday, the Aquarist of the Amazon Rising exhibit, asked me for a favor. He’s never before probably because I’m low man on the proverbial totem pole. Yep, a peon!
“Have you noticed the difference between the turtle shells?”
(I love turtles!)
“Yes.” (which really meant I sort of noticed.)
“Will you grab one of the two bigger ones (approximately 2.5' long, 18"wide) with the curved shell? I need to do a procedure. Doesn’t matter which one. See it halfway under that stump.”
I stuck my head underwater.
“Yes, I see it.”
[I was so excited because I have many years of experience catching turtles at the lake with my kids. We’d mark their shells with red nail polish, put them in a homemade turtle terrarium (read tub), and feed them fishy food and bugs for a few days, if they didn’t crawl out sooner, or failed to survive evening (bloody) raccoon raids. (Imagine explaining to young ones why it is suddenly important to keep the terrarium inside at night, without, of course, any mention of the covert task of massacre clean up, but including a tall tale about turtles needing to be with their mommies, too.)]
“The little ones are friendly. These big guys will bite.”
“Did you have to tell me that?”
“They’re more aggressive. Don’t get your face or hands anywhere near their mouths. (I WON’T) They have very long, sharp claws, too, that can slice skin wide open. You have gloves on. You should be fine. Just be careful. Here’s the net.”
Well, that spoiled the whole freaking turtle catching adventure because now I was nervous, tentative, a little scared, which is not how I wanted to feel when trying to exude bravery and secure the turtle. Plus they aren’t the only creatures in these tanks. There are three giant Arapaimas the size of 300-pound men, 5-foot long, butt-ugly catfish, and Stingrays with barbs scattering underfoot.
I swear that turtle knew I was coming because when I got back in the water, it was long gone. I had to go looking while wading amongst every other animal in my way. Did you know it’s possible to break into a full-on, fearful sweat underwater? I found that sneaky thing wedged into a corner, adjacent to the sand-colored stingray sucking face with the glass. Her head and claws (temporarily) drawn into her shell.
She fought me some as I gingerly carried her up for her procedure. I did it. I was sweaty and scared, but I did it.
On my way home, I thought a lot about the ways other people sometimes, purposely, spoil our excitement about adventures, and things we look forward to doing. I don’t believe he was purposely trying to do so, or ruin anything, even though I do believe he was testing me (Did I mention he’s the same guy who, a few weeks back, purposely sprinkled turtle food above my unknowing head, and I couldn’t figure out why the turtles wouldn’t leave me alone?). I don’t always understand when it happens at other times, with other people. I also wonder why I let them.