February 04, 2005

Jumpin Jack Flash Isn't the Only Gas

Working at an aquarium is a beautiful thing. As with anything in life that seems all good, lovely and beautiful there are moments when it all turns to shit. I had one of those days this week and my incessant need to keep my "open book life" true to form dictates that I write about this oh-so-special experience. Lucky readers (sarcastic).

As I walked into the back lot and opened the door to our maintenance area where the almighty time clock lives, I was met with a most disturbing stench. Now, there are odors and there are ODORS. At first I detected an almost chemical presence. I even hesitated and looked around for signs of an evacuation ... but people were milling about and taking care of business as usual, so I figured "well, at least it's a safe stench."

People react strangely to odors. Even the most unpleasant ones make us stop first, and instinctively try to identify the source ~ unless it was self-generated. This smelled to me like raw sewage but unless the bathrooms backed up, it didn't make sense to me. Excrement is contained, after all, in tanks at the aquarium.

I made my way around the building and to the hallway stairs leading up to my office. I couldn't wait to get there so that I could stop trying to hold my breath. When I opened the hallway door, there was no relief. All the way up the stairs and into the office, this disgusting smell was all around me. It was so strong it felt like it was getting inside of me somehow!

Everyone in our small office was ready to lose their breakfast. Surely this had to be unsafe! Still, it had been announced (before I got there) that the smell was caused by the pumping of waste tanks from the sea lions and stingrays. It was just a smell and nothing to get concerned about. They said it would dissipate with time, but they didn't tell us how much time!

A brief geography lesson about my office. We're located directly outside of the Marine Theater which features ... you guessed it ... our sea lion show. Now, frequently, "the boys" as we affectionately refer to them, will go through a bout of flatulence. What a true joy this is. Have you ever smelled a sea lion fart? Let me put it this way. The Eumetopias Jubatus' (Steller Sea Lion) diet consists of a delicious blend of chopped up dead fish, squid and octopus. I need say n'more.
At least these fart-sessions don't last much more than twenty minutes or so.
Often times, we in the office sit holding our noses while trying to discuss educational programs or make reservations for classes over the phone. We've all become quite good at it and we're very proud of this special skill.

We took turns going outdoors for a bite of fresh air, but there wasn't much to be had in any hundred foot radius of the aquarium that day. I shot an email off to my fiance from the office as he is an environmental wizard. No really, that's his job title ... except the wizard part is replaced with Engineer. The man knows his water, air and waste. He assured me that most smells are just that. Smells. He did mention Methane briefly ... but said I'd probably have to get my nose right into the shit-tank to really be overcome by it. Good. Now we could all breathe easier ~ figuratively speaking of course.

On one of my jaunts outdoors, I approached one of our maintenance techs and the following conversation took place:

Fisch: So Bob, what's with this stench?
Bob: Pretty bad, isn't it?
Fisch: Yeah, but just HOW bad? I mean, is this safe?
Bob: Define safe.
Fisch: Do we need to be concerned about Methane gas?
Bob: Define concerned.
Fisch: Well, when can we expect a reprieve?
Bob: As soon as we backwash the tanks in the theater it'll dissipate.
Fisch: And when will that be?
Bob: There's a lot going on in there today soooo probably about an hour after you've gone home.
Fisch: Thank you. Thank you very much.

Working at the aquarium sure does have its marvelous perks. But the next time you think your workday has turned to shit, realize that at least you don't mean it in a literal sense.


Blogger Swifty said...

How ironic that this 'crap' story is one of your best!

9:58 AM  
Blogger brooksba said...


Great story, yet again. I have to admit, I'm happy with bad days now as long as I don't have to smell that smell all day long.

If it was common, I'd probably bring in that stuff morgue employees use to put under their nostrils. I would have to. I'm sorry you had to endure that day. Thanks for sharing the story, it was funny!


3:13 PM  
Blogger Wally said...


I don't know, WH! I really enjoyed this post, but something smells "fishy" about your story! But, for some "cod" reason, yeah; I just can't "pull" my finger on it! ;-) I must admit, though, for someone who works at an aquarium... you sure do have an appropiate last name.

*And, as far as the sea lions goes!? Well, just for the "halibut," I'd be adding a mixture of "beanos" to their brin'y diet!

1:59 AM  

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