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