Sunday, November 16, 2014

Some Animals Have Picky Eating Habits...and These Guys Are No Exception

There is this hilarious thing floating around the Internetz about toddlers' weird eating habits.  If you haven't seen it, you can check it out here.  But basically, it is photo after photo of grumpy-looking young'uns and a brief, quippy description of their quirky nourishment conundrums.

I don't blame you, kid.


I laughed at it not only because it was funny, but because I feel like I deal with that on a daily basis with the animals under my care.  Any of us in the zoological field can relate to this, I think.   What's kind of bizarre about the fact that many animals are as picky of eaters as human toddlers is that one of the criticisms of zoos and aquariums (especially those of us who train our animals) is that the animals are coerced to do things solely because of food.   That is, the animal does something he/she wouldn't normally want to do because he or she is so hungry, they'll do anything to get fed.

I know a few animals who will do just about anything for snacks.  But they are not as common as the animals who are either more interested in the other stuff of training/animal care (like relationship, toys, tactile, etc), or the ones who are just downright weird in their eating habits.  In some cases, it ain't easy to feed a picky animal. 

Animals are just as varied in their personalities and eating habits as are humans; some of it is innate, and some of it is learned (from their conspecifics or humans caring for them).   Whether picky, normal, or downright bizarre in their chosen fare, animals are nary the same in their dietary choices.

But enough of the serious stuff, let's get to the funnies.  Here are some examples of odd eaters I have had the pleasure of knowing.










































Picky eaters are one of life's little joys when you care for someone else, human or non-human.  I think it's a fun way to peer into the animal's personality or history, or at the very least it's a good way to get to know him or her as you work through it.  Some pickiness is quirky, while others require immediate attention.  But to feed an animal is not as simple as placing a bowl, or dangling a fish right in front of a hungry face.  In many cases, it requires a lot of knowledge and patience to adequately serve our animal friends.

What say you, good readers! Do you have any funny weirdo-animal eating anecdotes?  Share!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Funny Things Guests Say: When The Questions Make No Sense

It's time for another round of Funny Things Guest Say!

Today's theme? Ridiculous Stuff That Forces Me Into Reflexive Laughing Because What Else Can I Do!


Merrrrrrrr


I sincerely hope I have more of these particular types of blogs with this specific theme, because they seriously make me laugh more than just about anything else.  It's the spontaneous insanity/hilarity that deftly surpasses any conscious part of my brain that would allow me to pause, think about a thoughtful response, and reply.  Instead, these comments and questions go directly to that place I'm pretty sure is sitting in my diaphragm* that forces me to just laugh and laugh and laugh.

There are four such examples of this as of late that I am eager to share with all of you.  But first, let me explain how our dolphin shows/habitat work.

Our dolphin habitat is 14 feet deep and is one large, main pool.  Guests can peer into the dolphin habitat through underwater viewing windows on one of two floors whenever they'd like, but they can only be upstairs to view the dolphins at the surface for limited amounts of time, usually around the time of our dolphin shows (we have two or three a day, depending on the season).  We have a small stadium seating area, but guests are also able to stand along a railing around most of the dolphin habitat.  Trainers stand on floating docks or on underwater platforms in the water, so basically guests are looking down at the dolphins and people involved with the show.  


And yes, the trainers are dressed as pirates because it was the best holiday ever.


Because we prefer a more educational presentation-style of shows, we do some audience participation segments.  One of which involves asking guests to list the five characteristics of a mammal.  Hence, the stage is set for two of the most bizarre things I've heard.

One of our very skilled narrators, who is the type of person who can keep her cool in things such as nuclear warfare and/or bees, tried to illustrate the fact that dolphins nurse their young.  She asked the audience, "What do dolphin moms feed their babies?"

"MAMMARY GLANDS!" a man yelled out at the top of his lungs.

"WHAT?" the narrator said, reflexively.  Into the mic.  She recovered her composure a few seconds later.  

Our boss happened to be in the show and shot her a glance that was not, oh you know, the type of look you want from your boss.  But who could blame her?  When I heard the guy yell this out, the first image that popped into my mind was a kindly, matronly dolphin mother in an apron, curlers in her hair (uh, they're mammals so...) serving her young calf a bowl of mammary glands.  Mmm mmm mmm.


Or how about a nice mammary gland plush from www.neatoshop.com?


One of the hardest mammalian characteristics to get our audience members to answer has to do with the fact that dolphins have hair for a brief period in their lives.  Sometimes, they figure it out.  But other times, we really have to prompt them.  Usually it's the last characteristic they guess, and I mean, let's not blame them for not immediately thinking about furry dolphins.  

So one of our go-to prompts is something like, "Okay, here's a hint, what do most of us have on our head?"

"HAIR!" they reply in unison, and the show continues.

One day, we had a particularly zealous crowd (the best!) and they were really getting into this mammal guessing game.  But unsurprisingly, they omitted the Hairy Dolphin Fact.  And so, the next hilarious guest event occurred:

Narrator: Here's a hint! What do most of us have on our head?
Little kid guest:  BRAAAAINNSSSSSS!!!!


There's a zombie who knows what he likes


I laughed so hard I thought I was going to blow a kidney or something.  The image that instantly popped into my brain was the look of human beings if our brains sat gelatinously atop our noggins, jiggling and sparkling in the sun.  Yes, little kid guest, brains on our head.  

The dolphins-have-hair thing messes people up more than you'd think (unless of course, you're a dolphin trainer and then you are probably vigorously nodding your head in agreement).  A few years ago, I had two weird/funny comments about dolphins having hair:

1) Did we shave the dolphins?
2) Since dolphins have just really sparse moustaches, wouldn't we say they're more like a juvenile Mexican boy?**


Exactly my sentiments, Mr. Baggins.


A few months ago, just after a dolphin show ended (but the trainers were still in the water playing with the dolphins), I happened to overhear a bizarre exchanged between a very concerned young guest and his mother.  This little boy was probably about 4 years old and he had been watching me at our A-B spotter station interacting off and on with some of the dolphins.  I just so happened to be standing near to where he was, so I could hear his conversation very well.

"Look at that dolphin swimming by!" the boy said.  His tone was deeply disturbed, as if something horrible had just happened.

"Oh yes," the mother said.

"HIS EYES! HIS EYES!! HE HAS NO EYES!!!!" the boy screamed.


Maybe this Other Mother took them and replaced them with buttons


"What?!" the mother replied.  "Yes he does!"

"NO HIS EYES FELL OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHAT HAPPENED TO HIS EYES???????"

"Oh honey," she said.  "His eyes are just really dark.  But he still has his eyes."

"Oh, okay! That's a relief."


Phew.


But the weirdest, most baffling exchange I've had with a guest occurred about five or so months ago after our dolphin show and play session had ended.  I saw one of our seasonal staff members speaking with a red-haired fellow with large coke-bottle glasses.  He was talking at an alarmingly fast rate in a heavy southern accent, and by the look on the staff member's face I knew she needed some back up. 

When I arrived within clear earshot of our red-headed friend, the first thing I heard was, "...is these bottleneck dolphins?'

"No," the seasonal trainer replied.  "They are actually called bottlenose dolphins!" 

The man paused, as if thoughtfully inputting this information into his mental rolodex.  And at this point, there was no judgment from either of us, because it's not like everyone knows every single animal species name ever.  I mean, if I'm being honest, sometimes I forget that one of my goldfish's name is Pennyback.  I always call him Halfback.  Like even now, I totally wrote Halfback instead of Pennyback.  It's just, something my little brain does.


Homer and I have a lot in common


Anyhoo, the man continued looking at the dolphins but just had this look on his face that made it clear he was cooking up another question.  Sure enough, he turned to face both of us.

"Lemme ask you a question," his accent was pretty difficult to understand, thick thick Southern. "Is them dolphins I see out there, is them actually porpoises cuz I'm on a glass-bottom boat at midnight?"




I think I did that thing where I start blinking about 985 times per second, as if that will somehow help me decipher exactly what that question is supposed to mean.  I briefly entertained the idea that this man was a really high-level spy sent from the CIA to deliver a coded message, which was totally lost on me because I am really, really bad that that kind of thing.   

And that's when the seasonal left me to my own devices.

So here I am, standing in front of this guy who is looking at me for an answer to this inquiry that seems to mean a great deal to him, but makes me feel like I'm either blowing a top-secret government mission or I'm just letting this guy down by not responding to his question.  I dealt with it like I do with all of my Christmas lights that I never really put away correctly at the end of the season and they all wind up in a giant ball, so I just start slowly unraveling small bits of strands at a time.


This time is coming (BUT NOT BEFORE THANKSGIVING DAG NABBIT!)


"Do you live around here?" I asked.

"Yep."

"Okay, well I don't think you'd see porpoises around here.  You probably are seeing bottlenose dolphins, and they'll be just as active at midnight as they are in the middle of the day.  That's pretty cool you have a glass-bottom boat."

And the guy just stares at me, his mouth wide open.  He didn't respond.  He just stared and breathed.  And I stared and breathed right back, wondering how to politely end this uncomfortable conversation when all of a sudden....

"EXCUSE ME!"

A small, female version of my glass-bottom boat friend appears.  

"This is my daughter," he said.

"I HAVE A QUESTION!" she yelled.  She yelled so loud.  And she had the same stare, the same giant glasses with the super thick lenses and the same super thick accent and she was like six.


I had no idea what I was in for.


"Yes?" I asked.

"I DID A REPORT ON DOLPHINS.  I KNOW ALL ABOUT 'EM."

"That's great! Did you study the bottlenose dolphin?"

"I HAVE A QUESTION!"

Man, I was really striking out with this family. 

"Yes?" I asked once again.

"WHEN ARE YOU GONNA PUT THESE DOLPHINS BACK IN THE OCEAN YOU TOOKED THEM FROM THEIR FAMILY THEY ARE SAD BECAUSE YOU TOOKED THEM OUT!"

"Ohhh no," I said sympathetically.  I started to explain that the dolphins she was looking at, who happened to be our three males, were not born in the ocean.  They were born at other aquariums.  And I was about to talk about our mother and daughter pair who were in another habitat when all of a sudden, she cut me off mid-sentence and yelled at the loudest volume a human being could possibly hope to achieve without the help of drugs and/or imminent danger of bodily harm:

"HUMPBACK WHALE!"


The words, the volume, something about the timing? I don't know.  But this sudden expulsion of words completely short-circuited my filter and logical thought process and all I could say was, "What?"

"HUMP."




"BACK."




"WHALE!"  


Boom.



She was on her tip toes to yell this last part, emphasizing its clear importance.  And then she ran away.  Her father stared at me for a few more seconds, and then followed after her.

I stumbled down the stairs, unsure of how to respond but I'm pretty sure I was laughing without any reason why.  I think I actually scanned my surroundings to look for candid camera evidence, to no avail.  I have no clue to this day what the heck that was all about.  In fact, the Secret Message From Government Spies seems to be the only logical explanation.  So Uncle Sam, if you're reading this, I'm sorry I let you down, but WTF were you trying to say?


Please accept this adorable apologetic kitten 


Fielding questions, no matter how odd or confusing, is one of the most favorite parts of the job for me.   I mean, that's how we connect with people and hopefully inspire them to care about our environment and the organisms with which we share it.  But I'm not gonna lie, I also really like the weird questions, the funny responses, and the times were I literally have no idea what to do and go all Awkward Turtle.  If I had a glass of champagne (which, I don't, because I'm a poor dolphin trainer), I'd raise my glass to questions of all kinds, because at least they show people care enough to be curious.   Keep 'em comin', general public!

________
* For anatomical reference, this place is directly next to your dessert stomach, the supernatural organ that appears suddenly to allow you to eat copious amounts of dessert despite being really full from your meal.  It's like, medical fact.

** No, I'm not making this up.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

On Miscommunication: Whale-Watching Edition

Okay, let me be totally honest with all of you. 


I had this awesome trip to Monterey planned for like, months.  I knew it would encompass a Middle Flipper day.  So I planned ahead.  I decided to write a blog in advance of when I usually do, that way I could just wake up on Sunday morning, post it, and go about my merry way.



Well, ha. ha. You know, that's not exactly how it panned out.  Thanks to an impressive collection of procrastination events, the weekly blog has been delayed as much as it possibly can be while still not technically being "Sunday" in ALL time zones of the continental U.S.



Furthermore, I planned on using Russ' laptop when he arrived for the latter part of my vacation in order to finish up a half-written blog.  He brought said computer but forgot its mouse.  This discovery in and of itself was rather hilarious, due to a classic Russ Never Hears What I'm Actually Saying experience that went something like this:



Me:  Hey, did you bring your mouse?

Russ: Yeah! Oh, I just have to get a mouse.

Me: What?

Russ:  I forgot the mouse, I have to buy a new one.

Me: (now laughing uncontrollably) What did you think I said?

But his answer was irrelevant because I was too busy guffawing outloud (I was tired, okay??) at the image of getting a mouse for a mouse, like two computer mouses (mices), oh forget it.

We have these comical exchanges all the time.  In fact, another such a dialogue occurred earlier today when we were looking at elephant seals.  There are signs everywhere that sternly say "DO NOT FEED THE ANIMALS".   About halfway through our visit to this rookery, I notice these weird and FAT little squirrels who are very interested in what Russ and I are doing.  It was clear that not everyone followed the signs.

I should've known better than to have shared this thought with Russ, as he appeared to be telepathically communicating to one of the squirrels who appeared to be trying to steal his iPhone. 

Me: Ha! Something tells me that people aren't following the DO NOT FEED THE ANIMALS signs. 

Russ: *laughs*  Yeah! So Cat, do you think people are feeding these guys?

Me: .... I just said that.

Russ: Oh you did? I was talking to the squirrel.

Anyways, we couldn't find a mouse for sale anywhere (long and boring story) and apparently the touch pad on Russ' laptop doesn't work.  So I am here on the floor of my hotel room with my iPad attempting to pen this entry while tethered to the wall by a painfully short charger because, you know, I didn't think to charge my iPad keyboard.

Also, you may or may not have noticed the lack of images.

GAHH IT KILLS ME.  I have tried for the past two hours to figure out how to put images on Blogger from my ipad. Alas, it doesn't work.  I really need a mouse on a normal computer.  But don't fear, good readers.  Because I know in your minds you possess the ability to conjure up images far superior to any google image search I could accomplish!! So please enjoy this text-heavy gift from me to you.

But I do this to bring you a story.  I hadn't intended on making this week's entry on this particular topic, but I think it's important.

I've been doing a lot of whale-watching.  I mean c'mon, it's Monterey.  If I had the ability to upload some of the photos I've gotten of long-beaked common dolphins, Risso's dolphins, humpback whales, California sea lions, Northern elephant seals, harbor seals and sea otters, I would, just to show you the diversity of life in this region of the country.  It's thanks to a massively deep submarine canyon that's pretty close to shore.  It's packed with nutrient-rich waters and lots of scrumptious things to eat, and thanks to its depth brings in a lot of deep-water species of marine mammals that you'd normally have to go way offshore to see with any regularity.

I chose a whale-watching company that boasts naturalists and marine biologists run their tours, which they claim is unlike the other companies in the immediate area.  This company has been featured on National Geographic.  In fact, remember that really sad Blue Planet segment when the gray whale calf is drowned by orcas?  That footage was taken with some help from this whale-watching company and the marine mammal researcher who owns it.

I'm not a total moron, I knew that going on a whale-watching boat with marine mammal scientists in Northern California meant two things:

1) They probably would not approve of my profession
2) They would probably make some reference to Blackfish

But I was surprised the first time I went out.  There was no mention of anything other than facts about the wildlife and oceanographic elements we were seeing.  It was very, very good.  And they followed the MMPA guidelines; no harassment of marine mammals.

The second time I went out was a different story.  The captain was the same guy, and so the MMPA was still followed (I'd expect that from a company with a researcher as its owner).  But the naturalist was different.  This guy was very personable and knowledgable.  For the vast majority of the trip, he too focused on sharing natural history facts about the animals we saw.  It was great.

But as we headed back in to the marina, which was about an hour's ride, the mood changed.  A big pod of long-beaked common dolphins came racing over to the boat's bow wave and wake to play, and essentially "escorted" us for a good 10 minutes or so.  As people squealed in delight as the little dolphins played around the boat, the naturalist began one of the most ridiculous diatribes I've heard even from an extreme activist

Here are some highlights:

1) When you swim with dolphins, take a good look at the face of the dolphin in front of you.  Most of his or her family and friends have been slaughtered.

2) It is well-known that the Taiji drive slaughters supply "our" (I suppose that meant the U.S.) aquariums with dolphins

3) The Japanese people are ignorant because they feed their kids mercury-laden dolphin meat and don't seem to care

4) Tillikum is now kept in a concrete tank where he is physically and acoustically isolated from the other orcas, so he can't even communicate with them

Once again, let me reiterate that it's not about my opinion on dolphins in human care, nor about this naturalist's.  We both have a right to feel the way we do about this topic.  But good lord, how about getting some basic facts straight before sharing them with audience after audience?

What upset me the most is the references to the Taiji drive-slaughter and that the dolphins people see in U.S. marine parks are from there.  It's not about me defending "my" field...it's about the bigger issue here: How are people going to actually make an impact in Taiji if they are focusing their attention on the wrong thing?

For example, if Joe Blow decides to vote with his almighty dollar, because he saw The Cove and by golly, he's not supporting SeaLandPlacearium because he wants those Taiji hunters to suffer in their pockets!  Guess what, that doesn't affect the slaughters one bit.  Why? Let's set aside the fact that this drive slaughter has been going on for decades primarily as a pest-control situation (you know, because the dolphins eat too much fish), but they are getting paid for the meat AND there is a market for a small group of animals mostly in Asian facilities.   None of them go to the U.S.

And furthermore, because selling the survivors of this killing to other aquariums in Asia is NOT the main reason behind the decision to do this terrible thing, it's more about getting to the root of the issue from a legislative perspective; how are the Japanese people who are outaged about this practice trying to invoke positive change? Give them the support they need, that will make a huge difference.  

Regardless of if you agree that dolphins should continue to be in U.S. marine parks and aquariums, you are not doing a single thing to help ANY drive slaughter ANYWHERE (Taiji, Faroe Islands, Soloman Islands, and countless other places that actively slaughter cetaceans whether directly or as bycatch) by boycotting facilities who have zero part in it.  That's a fact.

Back to my whale-watching frield, we are an impasse with a passionate person who cares deeply for animals and Back to my whale-watching naturalist friend, knows a ton about them, who has an incredible platform (a very popular whale-watching company with Nat Geo support) who completely blows it on the conservation message.  Yes, tell people to boycott marine parks so they feel like they're saving dolphins from having wooden rods shoved into their heads....even though they are not.  

This guy went on further to say that marine parks capitalize on the tortured lives of dolphins.  And I couldn't help but think how hypocritical that statement was...coming from someone who makes a living taking people out on a gas-guzzling boat with engines that constantly belch out sounds at 94 decibles (I checked....there's an app for that!), a level that causes hearing damage after 4 hours in HUMANS (imagine what that does to the sensitive hearing of marine mammals).  I thought about the $50 I paid to get on the boat to see humpback whales feed and dolphins swim next to those loud engines.  Do I think whale-watching is wrong?  No.  Otherwise I wouldn't support it with my dollar.  But that's the point.  It's supported by dollars.  Just like marine parks.

Of course, the animals you see on whale watching tours aren't being asked to do anything for shows, presentations, or interactions.  They are doing what they do on their own time.  But without human influence?  No way.  The 12 humpback whales I saw both times I went out were surrounded by four or five big ships, packed with people who paid their $50 to see them.  Is someone "making them jump?", of course not.  But that isn't to say that the presence of four or five loud boats zooming over and around them doesn't change the whales' behavior.  And let me be honest, there are more whale-watching boats I've been on that do NOT strictly adhere to the MMPA than do.   Case in point, I live in the mecca for marine mammal harassment in the Florida panhandle.  It's easy for a jetski rental company to tell their clients, "Yeah, see the dolphins in the WILD, because they are sad when they're in an aquarium!" and then the jetskiers spend all day chasing down pods of wild dolphins in an area that has virtually no police enforcement of the MMPA laws.

Lastly, what is the "message" we send to people when we encourage them to go whale watching instead of seeing marine mammals in marine parks?  See, I would tell people to do both.  There are pros and cons to each one.  But I can make an argument that is logical: letting people get close to wild whales and dolphins teaches them that it's okay to approach them that closely, because they're wild so it's not like we're "forcing" them to do anything.  We all know how obnoxious that statement is; I know the value of education and yes, while it'd be much better for the whales to have humans stay away and let them live in peace, I know that that's not the world we live in right now.  The point is, both sides of this argument have a lot to answer to, but they also have a lot of great things to contribute in their own ways.

Let me end with a naive question:  Why can't both sides of this issue get along?  Why do we have to sling soundbytes we hear in a "documentary" or read in some seriously slanted article at each other and at the general public in order to persuade them to join "our side"?  A little independent research and thoughtful conversation with people of differing views but lots of knowledge go a long way in accomplishing big picture goals...not completely changing opinions.  

I didn't end up talking to the naturalist about the things he'd said that were just so factually incorrect (he could just like, youtube footage on Tillikum at SeaWorld to know that his impression of where he lives is completely false).  I guess at the time I figured, this guy really has an agenda.  There is no way I'm going to get through to him without this becoming a defensive thing.  Maybe some of you out there think that wasn't the right decision; I'm still not sure.  But we can all of us, no matter what "side" we are on, continue to do our part to stick to the facts, play nice, and give all of our passion where it belongs: to the animals.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

My Bad Day Adventure: On Lessons and Kit Kats

I had one of those Bad Days a few days ago.


But not as bad as this rabbit's day.



You know the kind.  The kind where you are like all happy in sleep and wake up feeling refreshed and BOOM.  There it is, the Bad Day.  Just standing by the side of your bed, smiling eagerly at you because it is ready to PLAY and you don't have a choice but to engage.

The Bad Day is from a family of Harbingers of Crap (herein referred to as HOC).  You may recognize other powerful HOC members as Death, Disease, Serious Dishonesty, and my personal favorite, Food Poisoning (he's like a cousin twice removed or something).


Or red-headed step child.


The thing that all of these HOC members do really well is just come out of effing nowhere and blindside you with their Crap.  Yes, we've all had bad days.  Like the ones where you get in a little trouble at work, or you have a fight with a friend or significant other, or your ninja-like amazon parrot mangles the poor little toe of your sweet, angelic cockatiel (this happens to everyone, right?) when you leave the room for 8.7 seconds.

We've also all been sick with a cold, flu, allergies.  We've been lied to before. Those things are no fun, and I'm not trivializing them, but they are not members of HOC.   HOC Disease sees you walking your dog on a sunny afternoon, sneaks up behind you and shoves you as hard as it can, yelling "HA HA NOW YOU HAVE CANCER" as it runs ahead of you.  It may or may not come back to kick your dog.  

HOC Serious Dishonesty may find you at home, reading your favorite book.  It knocks on your door politely, so you are not alarmed when you get up from your comfortable couch to see who is visiting. As you open the door, Dishonesty reaches out to gingerly grab both of your hands, looks you straight in the eye and says, "Your best friend just told the universe that Secret You Never Wanted Anyone To Know.  Kisses!" and leaves, skipping down your driveway.


THANKS JERK


Now that we are all on the same page, I'd like to go back to the Bad Day.  Bad Day HOC members often initially alert you to your misfortune in the body of someone you recognize.  For example, in my recent case, Bad Day was dressed very convincingly as my husband, Russ.

I was having this really weird dream where a bunch of doctors kept trying to give me the flu shot, even though I really didn't want it, and I was in a deep philosophical debate with my dream doctors about why this was.  It was a good dream though, because I was WINNING, which is my favorite. 


That's right.


But Bad Day woke me up, really nicely.  

"Hey," fake Russ said.  "What time do you work?"

I immediately knew this wasn't my real spouse, because I'd told him already I was off today.  That should've been my first indication.

"I'm off today," I said carefully.

"Oh, okay.  Well, I think your car battery is dying.  I tried to move your car to get mine out to go to work, but your car won't start.  Don't worry, I can still get my truck out.  Do you want to come to work with me and then drive the truck for the day?'

I declined, mostly because when there's a problem like that, I'd like to solve the problem versus just working my way around it, but also because I really wanted to get back to sleep to continue winning my slumbering debate.  Alas, it was not to be.  Russ left me in my bed to ponder the pros and cons of being productive and/or hibernating for the day.


A tantalizing notion, sir Wiggum.


I had this brief moment where I thought Russ was probably totally incorrect about the status of my vehicle.  Yeah, he fixes cars, trucks and boats and is mechanically inclined and has been since he was a zygote.  But I mean, my car is a Prius.  You know, a HYBRID.  It's fancy, it's 12 years old, and it's a little moody.  What would Fix-It-Russ know about a hybrid electric car?  Probably nothing.

So I walk out to my car, keys and phone in hand, thinking I could fix just about anything the Prius throws at me.  I get in, and try to start the car.  The only indications this attempt occurred were two little lit-up symbols that came on the dashboard, and the swearing in my head.  The symbols were normally; they always are there when I first turn on the car.  But the whole power down thing? Not good.

I tried three more times, because you know, that's what any experienced auto mechanic would do.  Each time, the car got weaker and weaker, like a little whimpering kitten who just wants to stay asleep but keeps getting waked up.  Mmerrrrrrr.  mmmerrrr.  merrrrrrr.


OH MY GOD HOW DO I GET ONE


I looked in the trunk of the car, since that's where the auxiliary battery is, to see if the battery connections "were good."  I say that as if I knew what I was looking for.  I tried to look really confident when I did this Battery Check step, in case any of my Very Mechanically Inclined neighbors were watching me in my Halloween pajamas through their windows.

"Yep," I said to myself as I ripped the battery compartment cover off incorrectly.  "I can safely determine that this battery is NOT on fire."

Satisfied with my professional assessment, I closed the trunk and went back into my house.  I made a few calls, one of which being to roadside service.  An automated system saved my life and hooked me up with a towing company.  All I'd need to do is tow my sad car to the mechanic, have the problem fixed, and all would be well.

At this point, I'm pretty sure Bad Day was sitting in my living room, eating candy.  He was invisible at this point, but I could sense an evil presence.  Something just didn't feel right. I bet he watched my every move, chuckled at each cheerful response I gave to the towing company when they called me, tried to convince my dog to poop on the carpet (but that dog listens to no one).  Bad Day relished the fact that I had no idea my bad day was a Bad Day.


Jeez Skeletor, you ripped.


I decided to perform some basic personal hygiene to prepare for the arrival of the tow truck.  I started doing some errands around the house, and thought about what I'd do for the rest of the day.  The doorbell ring pierced my deep thoughts and sent me into a frenzy.  Tow Truck Guy was here.  I tore around the house, grabbing my phone and purse, throwing the dog into the kennel, making sure everything was set for me to leave.   

When I opened the door, a very nice elderly gentleman by the name of Art greeted me.  He gave me one simple instruction: to hand over my car keys.

I went to the table by the front door where my keys were.  Or, normally are.  Oh god.  Where are they.




Art was talking happily about his dog, and the two cockatiels he used to have, and oh he misplaces things all the time.  At this point, I was cheerfully reacting to his anecdotes while I searched through my Mary Poppins purse to find my keys.  But they weren't there.  Now, the friendly chatter from my new friend became increasingly distracting as I traveled into different rooms of my house, hoping to find my keys tossed carelessly onto a pile of clothes or on a night stand.  But Art kept talking, which at this point I know was a direct result of Bad Day infiltrating his body in a demonic-possession like manner, the sole purpose of which to not allow my brain to think clearly.

I retraced my steps.  Over and over and over.  No keys, no where.  My birds were now screaming, because the fun fun game of Look At Mom Run Around A Lot had begun and was extremely entertaining.  My dog cried from his crate, because His Life Is Over when he's in there and humans are still in the house.  TWEET TWEET HELLOOOOOO WHINE WHINE WHINE THIS ONE TIME I THOUGHT I LOST MY GLASSES BUT THEY WERE ON MY HEAD


I googled "Oh for the love of god", and this is what I got.  I'm satisfied.


It was getting to be too much, and I was ready to claw my own eyes out.

Then, Bad Day forced my friend Art to say, "Did you lock your keys in the car?"

My heart sank.  Could I have seriously done that?  No, I reasoned with myself.  Because this wasn't a Bad Day.  That kind of thing would only happen on a Bad Day.

Art and I did a thorough search through the car windows and could not find the keys.  Now, I knew alien abduction was the likeliest option.  

At this point, I started to feel tremendous Shame.  This poor tow truck guy was just hanging out in my yard while I ran around looking for keys that were probably resting comfortable in some alien orifice on its way back to Planet Actinzar as an artifact that would remain the pinnacle souvenir of deep space exploration for those particular alien lifeforms and I'd never even be credited, which is just really unfair.


Yeah well, they stole my keys.  Maybe we should form a support group, little pixel man.


I kept apologizing to Art, saying I felt bad I was wasting his time and that I was so disorganized.  Luckily, Bad Day had left Art's body so I got nothing but kind and understanding words.  

"Well if they ain't in the house and they ain't in the car, where could they be?" Art said.

Bad Day whispered softly into my ear, almost imperceptibly, "....the trunkkkkkk...."

I HAD been in the trunk.  I put my phone down there.  But I'd grabbed that.  There's no way my keys were locked in the trunk, but maybe they were.  The self doubt that only happens when you're in that horrific limbo between acceptance and denial of your day being a Bad One completely took over my body.  I stood motionless in my driveway as the internal struggle raged within, while Art looked on.  I finally looked at him and said, "I don't know what to do."

He didn't have the ability to unlock my car, so he said he'd go back until I could find me keys, then just call him back again.  I agreed to this, and walked back into my house.

When I called to get a locksmith, the man helping me (from India) kept helpfully telling me to have a better day, which was impossible because I was having a Bad Day and that just got me more upset.  The conversation was cyclical, because I'm sure no one has ever called this particular operator with the problem I had.

Operator: So you locked your keys in your car?

Me: Maybe. I  don't know for sure.

Operator: If you have not locked the keys in the car, what kind of assistance do you require?

Me: I think I locked my keys in the trunk, but I need someone to open the car so I can check.

Operator: Can you see the keys?

Me: ...No, I have no idea where they are, I think I locked them in the trunk.

Operator: Excuse me ma'am, they are in your trunk?

Me: Yes.  Well, I hope they are.  Because if they aren't, they are probably in outer space.

Operator: What is the zip code for this Outer Space?


I'm not sure, but I think this Killer Klown knows.


Eventually we got it worked out and he sent a locksmith to my house.  While I waited for his arrival, I realized something.  I mean, it can't be surprising to any of you reading this that I may or may not have locked my keys in the car before.  Like, more than once.  More than five times.  

I'm pretty familiar with the drill.  The guy comes, wiggles this thingy into the window, flips the lock, and

BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP

The alarm goes off and the car suddenly relocks itself and the headlights flash and the car is like GET THE EFF AWAY FROM ME YOU INTRUDER BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP


Andy gets it.


The alarm is so loud and it is so stressful, and if you don't time everything just right you can get locked out of the car again, and then the locksmith has to do the same thing over again only this time with a wailing car alarm making him want to murder someone.

I imagined a scenario in which the locksmith got to my house.  He unlocked my car, the alarm went off sending my neighboring into a feverish rage while I opened the trunk and still could not find my keys.  What did that mean?  

Oh, Bad Day was right there to paint the picture for me.  I scour the vehicle for my keys, the BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP grating on me, my heart pounding as I search in desperation for the only item that can get my car fixed, and I never find them.  And the car alarm sings its song, loudly and proudly, lights flashing and neighbors staring in judgment at me.  And I simply crumple to in the front yard directly into a massive fire ant mound, all the while my Halloween decorations as they look unsympathetically onto my misfortune and Bad Day laughing heartily at his handiwork.

By the time the locksmith arrived, I was wrought with stress.  I even spelled out the aforementioned scenario, warning the guy that I may just swear a lot and then become an inert heap of blond hair.  


WAHHHHH


"Well," he said.  "Then I really hope your keys are in here somewhere."

He got to work on prying my door open enough to slip the unlocky thingy in.  I braced myself.  He braced himself.  

"Okay, ready for this?" he said as he slowly moved the thingy towards the lock.  

Every part of my body winced, my hand on the door handle so I could pull the door open before the car relocked itself.  

"......ready."

He unlocked the car as I ripped open the door and....




beeeeeeeeep.  beebeebeep  beep.  beep beeeeep.





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The most pitiful sound squeezed itself out of the car.  What tiny remaining power there was in the battery made its way to the front of the car to defend it from me and the locksmith.  It could barely make a sound.  In a way, it was kind of cute. I could've listened to it happily for a while.  There were no lights, no attempt to relock itself.  I sauntered over to the trunk release lever, popped it, and found my keys sprawled out across the random crap I haven't Done Anything With since 2008 in my trunk.  Out of sheer compassion, I put the alarm out of its misery.  

"There, there," I said to the car.  "You tried your best."

In my mind's eye, I could see Bad Day, sitting sourly on my front stoop.  His mechanical knowledge of my car was just as bad as mine, for we both forgot that a dying battery means a dying alarm.  The most embarrassing and potentially worst part of the process was turned into a jolly funny time.   And I realized that Bad Day can often be tempered if you just laugh in his face.


Or you could try that.


Because you know what? When I stood outside waiting for the dude to unlock my car, I fully appreciated how gorgeous the weather was.  It was a perfect fall Florida day, and the leaves are changing color and it's just nice.  I wouldn't have been outside as much as I was had this whole debacle not occurred.  So I stood there and for a brief moment, really enjoyed the opportunity this stressful scenario gave me.  And then the Bad Day got a little better.

In fact, this realization took such hold of my attitude that a few hours later when I found out I'd be selling my left arm to repair the car, I was fine with it.  Because I was sitting on the couch watching Paranorman and eating Kit Kats, which of course is completely incompatible with Bad Day activities. 

I realize that some Bad Days are just like really, really bad.  Bad Day could've totally upped the ante on me, like that time when he made my dog eat a raisin left in my house probably since 1994 and he pooed straight blood in Biblical proportions and of course this was on a Sunday so we had to take him to the emergency vet where we paid lots of money also in Biblical proportions....gasp!  But ultimately, I think it's always your point of view that can make or break Bad Day's power.

So what about you out there, dear readers?  Tell me of your Bad Day sagas!  


*hearty laugh*


p.s. IT'S LIKE I TEMPTED FATE.  I think Bad Day was hiding under my bed or something, because after I wrote this blog and put all the pictures in and made it all polished and ready to go, I saved it.  Then I went back to work on another blog and...

dun dun DUNNNNN

This blog DIDN'T SAVE! Two hours worth of work down the internet drain!! Ohhhh you Bad Day, how you've tried to spoil my night! But behold, I still have Kit Kats left, so I am impervious to your spiteful ways!