Sunday, April 3, 2016

I Pity The Fool (Which Usually Happens To Be Me)

I wanna share with you what my life is like as a marine mammal trainer on April Fools Day.

And it was.

This is a day I dread.  Most of us zookeepers are sarcastic, goofy, looking-for-any-reason-to-prank-someone kind of people.  I myself am one of those people, although as a side note (and fair warning to anyone who knows me), I respond to practical jokes, not initiate them. 

Anyhoo, it's basically guaranteed that you're going to get pranked if you work in a zoo or aquarium on April 1st.  If you work with marine mammals, here is a short list of the types of things you can expect to happen to you:

1. Get pushed in the water (without animals in it, d'uh).

Karma is thy name

2. Get bloody fish water poured all over you

Ha. ha. ha.

3. Get ice water poured all over you


4. 2 and 3 combined

Do this and die.

5. Some work-related prank, like telling you your shift was changed when it wasn't, or not having any trainers go out for a presentation and letting the narrator talk endlessly, etc. 

I'd be okay with this workplace prank.  

6. Messing with food


The last one is the one I am the most afraid of, because I love my food and it is very much tied to my happiness.  If you prank food, you basically crush my soul.

So on April 1st, I had a late shift.  I came in just before noon.  I was real tired, too.  The whole baby-getting-up-at-5am thing is hard when you're up all night watching How To Train Your Dragon 2 and eating spaghetti.  So I was dragging.  I was crabby because I knew April Fools was going to get me.  

In I walk.  Another trainer and I had scheduled a practice blood-stick with one of our younger dolphins right when we got into work, so we did that (and the dolphin did AMAZINGGGGG), celebrated, and then headed into our office.  That's where I saw a note that said, "CHOCO COVERED BROWNIES IN THE FRIDGE."

"GREAT!!!" I thought. "I'll have to save those for later on my break."*

I checked my email, caught up on some stuff, then headed out to help out with some sessions.  Then back into the office I went to meet up with some other trainers to go to a presentation on this awesome conservation initiative National Aquarium is doing (more on that in a later blog!).  While we were waiting, a trainer (well call her Meanie Pants) walks in and puts a giant box of Dunkin Donuts on the table.


I opened the box.  I opened it with hope in my heart and a smile on my face.  It took me a few seconds for the visual information to move from my optic nerves to my brain to register the horror that lay within:


If it could happen to me, it could happen to you.

Okay, veggies are fine.  But they are not donuts.  They do not inspire me like a good chocolate-glazed cake donut does.  In fact, without thinking, I ran to my office door and pounded it in a gorilla-like rage.  I was so mad, and Meanie Pants was LOLing.  

Somehow though, I had to get over these big feelings.  Once my heart rate returned to a safe range, I joined up with the aforementioned group of trainers (including Meanie Pants, might I add) to walk over to our super shi-shi office building across the street where the conservation presentation was.  We walked over there in our steel-toed boots and realized only after we got in the elevator that we had no clue what floor we were supposed to go to.  So we did the only logical thing one can do in this situation:

1. Wait for a while in the closed elevator while it goes no where
2. Push buttons and hope for the best

Neither of these options worked, sadly.  Luckily, an aquarium employee saw our sad, idled elevator and ushered us to our final location.  We got properly inspired in our meeting, then walked back to the aquarium to continue with our day of sessions, presentations, and lots and lots and lots of bucket cleaning.  I also got stabbed by dead mullet a few times.  Really, a riveting day.


We DID play a little prank on someone, and my involvement was basically YES I WILL GO ALONG WITH THAT, so I can't be held too accountable.  But we do these enrichment demonstrations, where we talk about different ways with enrich the dolphins.  Sometimes, we come up with crazy things.  On this April Fools Day, one of our enrichment leads (we'll call her Jazzercise) set up this awesome obstacle course for the trainers to do in front of the underwater viewing windows in our main dolphin habitat.  She spent a long time designing the course/relay.

While she toiled away at this genius enrichment idea, the girl scheduled to narrate the enrichment session told us her evil plan.  Jazzercise is actually a jazzercise instructor (isn't that awesome???).  So while on microphone, Narrator was going to introduce Jazzercise as the instructor she is, and then basically peer-pressure her into leading the rest of us in a workout in front of a packed audience.  We were all really excited.

Very excite.

Jazzercise told us the rules of her obstacle course, broke us up into groups, and then marched us out to the dolphin habitat.  We played along brilliantly until Narrator started saying something like this:

"So actually we are not going to do an obstacle course, because this trainer here is a Jazzercise instructor and will lead us in a group work out!"

And then we chanted her name really loudly as she shot us all death stares.  But when Taylor Swift started playing on her phone that someone brought out, she led us through a little taste of Jazzercise while we all laughed and marveled at her prowess while the rest of us looked like complete idiots in steel-toed boots.  And the dolphins stared at us, so goal accomplished! basically what I look like in any exercise class.

Jazzercise (who, I must mention, was also part of the Veggie Donut plot, so don't feel to badly for her) took everything in stride, even though she said she was embarrassed.  And we still did her obstacle course, which was super super fun except the over-under relay part (which I'm not ready to talk about yet).

The rest of the day continued with out incident of the prankster variety, and two bags of donuts magically appeared later in the day.  By that point, I had already self-medicated my sorrow with two pounds worth of crumb cake and also four celery sticks from the donut case (you know, to be healthy).  And at the end of the night during the last training presentation, I got to snuggle with two adorable dolphins who just wanted to get loved on and play with frisbees.  Not a bad way to end a day, that's for sure.

I drove home, walked into the house and got screamed at by my cockatiel, sat on the couch and ate pickles and fell asleep.  Really, how can you beat a day like that?

* In a cruel twist of fate, they were NOT actually brownies, but chocolate-covered strawberries.  But the person accidentally labeled them wrong (on April 1st...hmmm).  


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  2. I just wanted to say that I absolutely love your blog. I am an aspiring marine mammal trainer. I am 25 and already have a bachelor's degree in theater, it was something that I realized wasn't for me but ended up being unable to back out of at the time. I am going back to school to get a second degree in biology. I recently got to go behind the scenes at my local zoo with a sea lion and I felt like an excited little freshy again lol. I know that it isn't going to be easy, but I think my drive to work with animals (and even my theater experience) will help me. Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for doin' what you do and writing about it for the rest of us. :)