Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Irony Of A Marine Mammal Trainer

The other day, I got to thinking about what I do in my profession and how some of my personal habits make absolutely no sense.

It doesn't make sense that we're not allowed to wear Star Wars clothes  every day for our uniform at work

As a marine mammal trainer, I am constantly around smelly animals.  As any animal care professional attests, my day usually has at least one incident of being surrounded by poop (usually animal).  I get in the water on a daily basis.  There are so many things that I do that could extend to my out-of-work life, but they don't.  There is in fact, a crowbar separation between what I'll not just tolerate, but thrive doing at work, and what I absolutely cannot deal with at home.

Here are all the ways I don't make sense:

1. I Don't Want To Get Wet In The Shower


This one makes no sense to me. I am wet all day.  I am disgusting all day.  On Wednesday, for example, I had penguin poo on the bottom of my flip flops, which probably means I had penguin poo film of varying thickness on my bare feet.  It also rained ALL day, like torrential downpour.  I was soaked through to my soul.

I scooped up the most lethal-smelling sea lion turd I've ever experienced in my career to date.  This piece of feces could be used as biological warfare.  Not to say I enjoyed inhaling its odor, but I definitely was on my hands and knees trying to scoop it out to give it to the vet.  Did the turd log roll onto my fingers a little bit?  Of course it did.  Did I think it was gross? Yeah.


I washed my hands afterwards, obviously.  But still, it didn't make me feel clean per se.  Finding fish boogers all over my sleeves and belly of my wetsuit definitely makes me want to disinfect myself.

And yet, at the end of this wet, gross day, as I got out of my wetsuit and into my dry going-home clothes, I thought this:


This is because I was wet all day, had dried off, and the thought of peeling out of my clothes AGAIN, and then getting wet AGAIN, and then drying off AGAIN is so irritating.  I have no clue why.  But I hate it.  I could shower at work, but all of the girls on both the mammals and aquarist side share one shower and I rarely feel like a) being the jerk who takes all the hot water or b) weeping that someone used all the hot water.

Don't worry.  I showered, despite my disdain for it.  But it is a daily battle.

2.  I Freak Out In The Mornings When My Hair Is Tangled

It's like a glorious crown

One of the first things I have to do when I wake up is brush the lion's mane that is my hair.  I have roughly 5 times the amount of hair on my head than is normal for a human being.  It is its own entity with feelings and thoughts and autonomous movement.  It twists and shifts in ways unholy and requires a very high pain tolerance and a huge #%* brush to tame it, temporarily.

But each morning, I panic as the brush hits its first snarls.  Ow ow ow.  I've got to get each one of them out.  I can't continue on until it is done.  And then I practice yoga, which means my hair gets messy again, requiring another brushing.  Maybe even a third one.

But when I get to work, all bets are off.  I choose whichever go-to trainer hair style I feel like* and let nature take its course.  No matter how well-coiffed I start my work day out, the salt air, salt water, and physical nature of my job turns my hair from "hair" to "nest of rats" in minutes.  It feels gross, especially when I have saltwater dried on there.   Sometimes - and I realize I'm admitting this on the internet where anyone can see, but I'm just being honest here - I brush flyaways out of my face even when my hands are covered in fish skin and blood.  Because flyaways are SO ANNOYING I don't even care that I've just smeared fish guts on my skull.

But I don't care.  It doesn't bother me one bit.  When I happen to see myself in a mirror at any point in my work day, and see the state of my hair, I don't feel the same impulse to brush it or fix it.  I just accept it, for some reason.

3.  I Am Disgusted By The Dumbest Things

You get that Dove soap away from me.

As mentioned earlier, I have no problem handling toxic dumps from animals.  I've had blood spill on me from a blood sample.  I've had an otter toilet explode on me.  I know what a dolphin's gastric fluids taste like.  My 4 month old daughter drools like a seal all over me and it's NBD.

But oh god, let's talk about wet hair in a shower drain (which I've addressed at length in other blogs). Or a wet, sandy tile floor.  THAT FEELING SKEEVES ME THE *%^& OUT.

Or the smell of Dove soap.  Ugh, I'm actually gagging thinking about it.  Oh god it is the grossest smell in the universe.  I'd rather smell a garbage can full of rotting shrimp and penguin poop than smell Dove soap.  GROSS GROSS GROSS I CAN'T HANDLE IT AND I'LL BE A BABY ABOUT IT AND I CAN'T TALK ABOUT THIS ANYMORE.

4. I Have No Problem Talking On A Microphone But I Don't Want To Call For Takeout

No, no it doesn't.

Have an online ordering service for Chinese food?  Done.  I don't care if you're the worst Chinese food place on the planet, I'll order from you if you have an online service.  Am I the only one who gets super anxious calling to order food?  I mean, how ridiculous is that?  I'm talking to a complete stranger about a topic with which I am very familiar, ensuring that I will be delivered a delicious meal in the convenience of my own home, and I can barely bring myself to dial the number.  I can talk to an animal rights extremist who is offending me left and right.  I can talk to a crowd of hundreds of people.  But not the burrito shop guy.  Nope.

5. I'll Try An Animal Vitamin But I Will Not Eat An Eggplant, No SIR

Feels like a dolphin on the outside, tastes like intestines on the inside

Why would I try a vitamin? For funsies?  No, not really.  Sometimes we'll try a new treatment (e.g. a topical anesthetic) to see how it feels at first before we use it for an animal.  Because if it's super tingly or weird, then we will approximate the usage so the animal doesn't freak out.  

Sometimes, if an animal seems sensitive to the taste of a med, we may try it if it's safe for us.  For example, there is this calcium supplement called Os-Cal.  It smells like chocolate.  It does not taste like chocolate.  It tastes like all the chalk in the universe crammed into your mouth.

But if you slap a piece of roasted eggplant in front of me, I'll refuse to eat it.  I don't care that an Os-Cal tastes worst.  I'd rather eat all of those than try your eggplant.  Gross.  I can't explain it, and I refuse to try.

I suppose we all have these quirks, but these are mine.  And I'm not ashamed of them (well, not too badly at least).  It feels good to admit these things to all of you, but I'm really hoping you'll share some of them with me.

* Such as a braid that is thick enough to bludgeon someone to death, or a pony tail that I choke on regularly when the wind blows it into my face


  1. Dishes!!! I'll scrub all the buckets in the world, but when I get home and see a pile of dirty dishes in the sink, I just can't pull myself to wash them!

  2. I also dread showers. I believe that we would probably both dread them less if we had no hair, or at least a heck of a lot less. And yet, this doesn't make haircuts any higher on my priority list. I hate showering AND haircuts.

    You know those stages of grief (denial, anger, sadness, acceptance, etc.)? I feel like that's what I sometimes go through if I know my shower MUST include me seriously washing my hair.