April 29, 2005

Furry, Fugly or Lovely ~ They're All Pretty Amazing

Wait! Before you start thinking this is just another aquarium post, it’s more to the point of how lovely and amazing animal life can be in the country ~ from a city girl’s perspective.

When I first moved to New England from NYC, it was like culture shock. The biggest contrasts for me were the lack of traffic and noise, the smell of flowers in the air rather than vehicle exhaust and refinery fumes (thank you Linden NJ), and the wildlife ~ aside from the fact that I’d spent countless hours at the Central Park and Bronx Zoo, as well as Coney Island’s Aquarium, I’d never seen so many animals before!

Suddenly, I could catch a glimpse of cows in pastures, geese and hawks overhead in flight, deer lapping water from drainage on the roadsides and even owls in trees in late evening. The only animals in the wild I got to see as a young girl were stray cats and dogs, an occasional field rabbit, and some birds (mostly robins and sparrows) at the backyard feeder.

This post was inspired by the most wonderful, animal-packed day I had yesterday.

On my way into work, I always pass a cow and a horse farm. As lame as this may sound, this thrills me to bits. Yesterday, as I looked over at one of the pastures, I cracked up laughing to see a bull climbing on top of one of the smaller cows! “Morning delight” I thought to myself, “pure bliss.” You don’t get to see much cow-mating in the city. I started to feel badly for that big bronze Merrill Lynch bull down at the bottom of Broadway ~ he must get lonely. These bovine honeymooners seemed so awkward in their struggle to get it on. It just made me chuckle.

Later on, I had the great pleasure of a much needed half day off from work. Before leaving the campus, my fiancé and I wandered about, enjoying some of our newest exhibits. Working in the environment, I don’t get to really take the time I’d like to thoroughly enjoy every feature. Days like yesterday make me appreciate the place all the more.

We got to check out the new Hidden Amazon exhibit, complete with bat cave and exotic spiders. One of the spiders on exhibit is the bird spider. This dude can eat whole birds, mice, and other critters. He’s huge. His body alone is as large as a man’s fist; with his hairy legs stretched out, he’s about 10 inches across (picture a dinner plate).

Moving right along … QUICKLY …

Ed and I were then fortunate enough to have a contact program with the aquarium’s star beluga whale. His name is Enuk. He’s 1900+ pounds of delicate beauty. Later today, I may have more photos to add, but for now, the one below will have to suffice.

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Enuk, 24 years old, rolled over gently in the water, allowing us to examine his pectoral fins and fluke, and as he did so, it reminded me just how tiny and weak mankind really is next to such creatures. I think some people tend to forget this, or just never realize it in the first place. With one slight hand-signal from his handler, he suddenly broke into song. They don’t call belugas “Canaries of the Sea” without reason. He’s just a marvelous creature, handsome yet humble.

On our way home from the aquarium, while driving up yet another country road, two deer were crossing in front of us. The smaller one seemed preoccupied with something on the ground, while the larger one shot us that “crap, another car” look. We slowed to a stop but they were off and out of sight in no time.

It sometimes takes my breath away when I see how swiftly and yet how gracefully the deer move through the dense woods. I have walked slowly through such woods and have tripped and fallen over the tiniest of branches and upended roots. They barrel through at 10 miles per hour never faltering in the least. It’s unreal.

As I laid in bed last night I could hear the Canada geese out on the pond (I always thought they were called Canadian geese, but learned differently when I moved here – “Canada” in this case, is actually a species, not just an adjective). It seemed such an appropriate ending to our animal adventures throughout the day.

I feel so fortunate to be surrounded by marine life at work and wildlife at leisure. There’s an innocence about animals that shouldn’t be taken for granted. They survive with no luxuries and co-exist quite nicely. They can also be quite comical in their mating rituals ~ then too, if you think about it, so are people.

April 24, 2005

"You Talkin' Ta Me?"

On my journey through Blogger recently, I read an interesting post written by Ammo Gal regarding the difficulties she has experienced in dealing with women in the working world. Her story struck a familiar chord with me. My own experience doesn’t stem from being a business owner but rather from general dealings with women in public relations settings. Reading AG’s nicely written post, however, did inspire me to write on this topic from my own perspective.

From time to time at my job (Aquarium), I’m asked to help out with crowd control in our large Marine Theater during sea lion shows. Basically, this entails seating people, keeping the reserved seating areas clear for people who truly need them (special needs), directing people to restrooms and stroller-parking areas, keeping people from leaning on the handrails that protect the sea lion pool, and keeping fire exits clear. It’s a simple, yet important function as our theater can seat over a thousand people at a time.

I usually welcome the change from sitting at my desk, but there have been times when this simplest of jobs can be most challenging. Why? I would have to say ~ because of some women. Bear with me.

Firstly, I’ll use the same disclaimer the AG did, and that is to say that I am not suggesting that ALL women are belligerent, combative and obstinate ~ but many have those tendencies. This is no more than a personal observation made over a three-year span of time, and one that I find rather interesting.

I have noticed that when I need to ask someone to abide by our Theater rules, they generally comply, but it’s my like-gender that puts up the biggest fuss and requires some sort of explanation. Men seem to just take it in stride, comply, and move on to enjoy the show. Sure some men will make a passing comment such as “well that seems stupid,” but it’s usually under their breath and it’s stated while in the process of complying. Women generally react as though I have just asked them to tap dance on the water.

Here are just a few examples of such behavioral differences:

Me: Excuse me ma’am, you will need to park your stroller in the designated area.
She: (with a look of total disgust) WHY? Why can’t I just leave it here by me? It’s not hurting anyone.
Me: Because in case of a fire, people need to be able to exit as quickly and obstacle-free as possible.
She: (clicking tongue) I don’t see how my stroller in the aisle here could possibly cause any trouble.
Me: I realize it’s hard to imagine but people in a state of panic could easily trip and fall over it, it’s a safety hazard where it is.
She: (looking at me as though I’m dog meat) I’ll move it in a minute.

Me: Pardon me sir, but we don’t allow food and drinks in the Theater. You’ll have to discard your soda.
He: (already getting up from his seat) OH … sorry! I must have missed the sign.

Me: Ma’am, you might want to ask your children not to dangle their hands over the pool handrail.
She: (without hesitation) OH COME ON! They just want to have a better look at the sea lions. That’s what we came here for!
Me: Well, it’s like this … the sea lions are often fed from this side of the handrail ~ we cannot guarantee that they would not mistakenly hoist themselves out of the water and bite at your child’s hand in a split second. That’s why we have signs posted.
She: This is completely ridiculous. I never heard of such a thing.

Me: Sir, I’ll have to ask that you take a seat elsewhere as these two rows are dedicated to handicapped individuals.
He: (already standing) Oh sure! I just thought since no one was sitting there it would be okay.
Me: No, we do have to keep them available in the event that someone with special needs enters the theater. Sorry!
He: (smiling) No problem, I understand.

(same scenario as above)
Me: Ma’am, I’ll have to ask that you take a seat elsewhere as these two rows are dedicated to handicapped individuals.
She: Well why should I move? No one is using them.
Me: They are designated seats ma’am, it’s a federal law that we provide this seating for people who need it.
She: Oh really? (in a huff) Well I fell down my front step this morning and twisted my ankle, so I need to sit here.
Me: That’s fine. I hope your ankle heals quickly (said with great enthusiasm)

I have neither embellished nor exaggerated any of the above dialogue. Amazing, isn’t it?

Now it took me awhile, but after having many chats about this with both men and women, I have come to a few conclusions as to why there is such a vast difference between giving direction to men and to women.

Many, many men, from the time they are young boys, are accustomed to taking instruction from authority. Some were Boy Scouts, some altar boys (won’t go there), and later on in life, more men than women join the military. Each of these environments is conducive to disciplinary action if instructions aren’t followed, and at least in the military, you learn quite quickly not to ask why. You simply follow orders. From an evolutionary standpoint, for many, many years men were the bread winners while women stayed at home to tend to children. Men have had to follow rules and instruction from bosses for many years before it was even socially acceptable for women to be a part of the workplace.

Women, on the other hand, are historically more accustomed to being in charge of the home while hubby earns the money. She was in charge of mending clothes, planning and fixing meals, keeping the kiddies in line, decorating the house and making all the executive decisions that pertained to such domestic goings on.

Perhaps when her husband came home, he resumed responsibility, but let’s face it, between work shift and bedtime, there weren’t really a whole lot of hours. So basically, she ran the roost while he hunted and gathered. She controlled the house.

Now that modern women (referring to the past 50 years or so) are most often in the workplace instead of tending to the house and children 24 and 7, the roles of the sexes are more evenly shared and divided. But fifty years isn’t a long time at all in the grand scheme of things.

The whole “don’t tell me what to do” business does seem to run more rampant among females than males in public settings (I've observed this in other places as well). Now, at home ~ well, that’s generally decided upon between couples during the first month of courtship.

Perhaps women, instinctively, are still attempting to maintain some semblance of control.
Perhaps while sitting in the Marine Theater at an Aquarium, they are actually trying to hold on to the position in society that was most comfortable to their mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers.

I cannot stress enough that I bring out this post from a personal standpoint. It wasn’t meant to offend or to rile. As my handy little disclaimer stated, these behavior patterns don’t apply to all men or to all women. I don’t know … maybe it’s just an aquarium-sea lion show-marine theater-strollers in the aisle-drinks in the hand-kids running up and down the steep stairs-changing diapers in the bleachers-stealing seats from the handicapped type of thing.

April 20, 2005

The Nastiest Cocktail: Life With Bitter on the Rocks

This is a little story about how people become bitter. I used to think we were born that way but nothing could be further from the truth. Rather, we learn how to harden our hearts, how to distance ourselves, and to distrust others. It’s a means to survive.

Two nights ago, I had an opportunity to watch this process, in its early stages, unfold in my daughter’s life. No mother wants to see her child (or any child for that matter) learn such an unfriendly lesson, but we know it’s a rite of passage for our wee ones – so the best we can do is to stand by their side, offer a shoulder, pat them on the back and encourage them to go back out into the world with their eyes more widely opened.

SJ is 18 years old and works 43 hours per week as a food service waitress in a local diner-style restaurant. This is not a career option, but rather a stepping stone while she works her way into the hoity-toity art school she desperately wants to attend. Her shifts are varied and her social life has been all-but put on hold. I have the greatest admiration for her determination. At 18, her mother had no sense of direction what-so-ever.

A few nights a week she gets stuck working till midnight. The house rule is that when she finally arrives home, she lets me know so that I can finally fall into a completely restful sleep. I woke up that night at 12:30 to a ringing telephone. I’ve learned not to think the worst when this happens because all too often, she doesn’t get relieved and has to stay later. This was indeed the case this time around.

After talking to her briefly I returned to bed, only to toss and turn for another hour and a half. She would be home by 2:30 the latest. Good.

When she finally walked in at 3:15 a.m., I had been pacing the floor in the kitchen and I noticed she was sobbing as she locked the door behind her. “Uh oh,” I thought, “this is going to be a long night.” I approached her and she fell into my arms from exhaustion. We sat on the couch and I listened intently (and furiously) as she told the story of a lesson hard-learned.

A group of five loud and raucous young women walked into the diner at 1 a.m. They were an un-classy looking group, so at first she approached them indifferently, taking their huge food orders and bringing them coffee. She claims they “got nicer” as time passed, and seemed more normal and friendly. SJ told me she waited on this group hand and foot, bringing them more and more food and beverages, changing things around repeatedly, and clearing the mess they were making as they made it. This was, after all, her job.

Sarah Jane’s relief came in right at two, but she stayed on figuring she had worked so hard to please this group that she had earned their tip. Their bill, after all, had come to a whopping $83; at two in the morning, that’s a whole lot of diner food!

Sometime during their stay, a young man joined the group. Again, SJ waited on them, shared some smiles and waitress/customer chit-chat and went about her business.

When it came time to give them their check, they all thanked her and started to gather their things. Suddenly, SJ no sooner turned around and the women were racing out the door – quickly followed by the younger man. SJ glanced at the table and there was no money on it at all.

Instinctively (and foolishly) she ran after them out into the dark parking lot ~ just in time to watch as the women sped away and the man was getting into his car. SJ cleverly memorized his license plate number and yelled to him that she was calling the cops. In a threatening tone, he called out to her “DON’T DO THAT.” She ran back inside and did just that.

To sum it up, the State Police arrived rather quickly, filed a report, then informed SJ that the car the young man had been driving had been reported stolen. They told her they’d probably never find this group, but that it was good of her to report it. She broke down in tears telling the officer that this money would be deducted from her pay. He assured her that with a case number on file with the police, her boss couldn’t do that. Still, she had seen this happen to others, and was devastated by the possibility.

I was all set to issue the mother-to-child lecture on NEVER racing into a dark parking lot over a fucking diner check, but an overwhelming sadness in her face made me sit back and listen more intently before I started my rant. I’m glad I had.

She proceeded to tell me that the thing that upset her the most was the fact that she had been nice to these people – that they had seemed nice to her – that all had gone so well – and that she had worked so hard to please them. That’s when I saw it. That look in her eye that I’m not sure I ever saw in her before, but recognized it in my own self dozens of times throughout my life; the look that said “I’ve been had.”

It killed me to know that someone, anyone, could have hurt my child so much with one single selfish act. I wanted to crawl inside of her and sweep up all the humility and hatred and mixed emotions, but it couldn’t be done. I really knew that she needed to embrace it and get over it – without my help.

We talked for a while longer, SJ intermittently breaking down and hugging me tightly – in her own words “feeling just so foolish and stupid.” With each hug it felt to me as though she was five years old again, running to me with a scraped knee. I hated like hell that this couldn’t be fixed with a bandage and a lollipop.

And so, my daughter has had the first of many lessons on how to get bitter. She isn’t yet, of course, but it will come. In the meantime, I can only hope that all the crappy lessons in store for her are as easy to recuperate from. The next day, she got up and had breakfast, showered and dressed for work and assured me with a smile that “well there’s one good thing - today has to be much better.” I’m so proud of her.

(A security video tape showed her manager exactly what had transpired during that night – the women had indeed left money with the check on the table and the man had lifted it and run out behind them. At least she didn’t have to feel so stupid for being nice to the women (unless the whole thing was a plan). I will guarantee you this much, she will NOT have that money taken from her paycheck)

April 13, 2005

The Body of The Story

Unlike NYC Beauty’s city stories, mine are old ~ gray at the roots by now, and just a little bit wrinkled. Still, they abound, and Jennifer has unknowingly inspired me to tell one today. The thing about a good story is that it ages but never dies.

When I was just eighteen back in 1973 I was working on Wall Street at a posh law firm. I was a receptionist, commuting twice daily to and from Staten Island by way of the famous nickel ferry.

By 7:00 a.m. Monday through Friday I was up, showered and dressed (no pants for this lawfirm, it was a suit or dress with heels at the very least). I’d leave my house and walk a block to the nearest bus stop, board the #103 ~ strap-hanging* it all the way to the ferry terminal. The 40 minute ride would get me there just in time to mill through the rush-hour cattle, pick up the New York Daily News - tossing a dime onto the counter - then rush toward the gates that would open at 7:50 to load up the 8:00 boat.

The terminal was decrepit with greenish tiles covering all the walls – the smell of the creosote that coated the pilings was strong and distinct – almost like a mixture of tar, gasoline and oil. It wasn’t, of course, but it smelled that way.

Everyone would shove their way through the gates as the deckhands slowly opened them. Once on the ferry, many of those lucky enough to get seats would cozy up with their Styrofoam coffee cups and daily newspaper. Some would just close their eyes for a much needed twenty-five minute nap. The “standers” would perform a balancing act of sorts, shifting from one leg to the other with coffee cup in one hand, briefcase tucked under the arm and an opened newspaper page held closely to their eyes.

The familiar quiet of the engines being cut was our signal that the boat was beyond Ellis Island and would soon be docking. Everyone would flood to the front of the boat, preparing to make a bee-line for their waiting bus, taxi, subway or bagel stand. From that point forward, for me, it was a hike up to Wall Street. I realized after cramming into subways and buses one too many times that I could get to work just as quickly by walking ~ and that I could take in the sights and sounds of this city I so loved, all along the way.

One very chilly autumn day, while making my way up Broad Street, I noticed some people moving to the side or hopping over something up ahead on the sidewalk. To form the proper visual, let me explain that Broad Street at 8:40 in the morning was a mass of wall to wall people on either side of the street, and yellow cabs or limousines covered the roadway. Walking along the sidewalk was quite similar to standing in line at a busy movie theater, but with everyone on line in constant and swift forward motion.

As I approached the obstacle, I realized people were stepping over or to the side of a street bum curled up close to the curb. There was no avoiding him unless you mowed down a few people in the process. I opted to step over him, as did several others near me. I noticed his clothing was typically disheveled and he had no shoes on. I was annoyed with his presence and just hoped no part of me touched his filthy and stinking body. As everyone else did, I moved on swiftly so as not to be late for work.

My building was located just around the corner from Broad Street at 40 Wall. I couldn’t wait to get indoors and away from the brisk wind. The elevator bay was filled with people, but somehow, I never minded the wait. Our lobby was beautiful. Lush marble covered the walls and floors and everything about the place always looked freshly polished and shiny.

I suppose what made arriving to work so attractive in those days was my nearly two-hour commute, mostly on foot. By the time I got to work, I was tired already ~ yet just facing the day. I was always glad to finally sit. Lunchtime was the highlight of my workday. It was then that you could walk the busy streets again, become part of the hustle and bustle taking in fresh air, and inevitably run into some old or new friend. I would often walk to the old Trinity Church to sit in the graveyard with a dirty-water dog (hot dogs sold off the vending carts). This day, however, was different.

I headed back down Broad Street to meet up with a friend for lunch. She worked at NYSE (Stock Exchange) and we shared the same lunch hour. While walking toward the restaurant we agreed to meet at, I noticed a sea of police cruisers, an ambulance and a couple of fire trucks up ahead.

Often times, movies or TV shows (like Kojak) were being filmed in this area, so I wasn’t concerned in the least, just troubled that I’d have to weave my way around them on my way to get lunch.

People working in the city will generally talk to perfect strangers about “happenings” in the street. It’s just that kind of atmosphere. As I approached the area, I could see the distinctive yellow crime scene tape around a section of sidewalk. I asked two men standing next to me at the crosswalk if they knew what was going on.

When they told me, I stood in disbelief for half a minute, my mouth hanging open.
“Apparently some homeless guy was found laying there dead about an hour ago,” said one of the men, “from what I gather, he was mistaken as a drunken bum just sleeping it off and left there for hours with people stepping over his body.” It was the man I had stepped over on my way to the office.

I did meet up with my friend, but apologized for my lack of appetite and headed back to the office. I felt quietly ashamed. I had stepped over a dead guy and my only thought at the time was “Eww, these bums gross me out.” How could I BE so insensitive? How could thousands of people have been so unfeeling?

I couldn’t get past my guilt and coldness for the remainder of that day. Who was this homeless guy? What was his story? How is it that his life ended – curled in a ball - dead on the street in such a vital, industrious, wealthy and worldly-important area such at Broad and Wall Street in downtown Manhattan?

I didn’t read my newspaper on the way home, nor did I stop for a hot pretzel (another ritual) at the ferry terminal. I never noticed the thousands of other people around me as I made my way from the boat to my bus. I was just happy to get to the security and comfort of my own home at the end of my day and to this very moment ~ I’ll bet that poor man wished he had been able to do the same.

*strap-hanging: standing in the aisle of a bus, train, subway, etc, clinging to the overhead strap for dear life amidst the rush-hour throngs (great way to tone the biceps)

April 06, 2005

It's All in the Touch

Spring has arrived and once again, people are clamoring to do the tourist thang.

Working at a large tourist attraction (Aquarium) is always so precious during spring, summer and fall. People seemingly come out of the woodworks, as though this is the only time of year they are allowed to venture out of the house. Is this some sort of law that I just don’t know about? Sure, I realize the weather is more conducive to bearing the midriff, the cleavage and the painted toes, but come on folks … aquarium creatures don’t pay any mind to this and even if they did, most people exposing these bits have no business doing so in the first place. If someone looks in your direction and vomits, for the love of Lucifer, go put on a jacket.

In keeping with my topic today, I gracefully segue into people’s fascination with touching animals.

There are two programs at our facility that offer up-close encounters with our larger marine life. One is our Beluga Contact program and the other is our Penguin Contact program. To avoid reading as an advertising for the Aquarium, I won’t go into detail, but will gladly respond (in the comment forum) to any questions posed.

In each of these programs, people get to touch, pet, and in the case of the Beluga – hug the animals. I work in the reservation office and although I’m tethered to a telephone and computer for the bulk of my day, I’m afforded ample time to visit and familiarize myself with the marine creatures. In fact, this is an important function of my job. Our department fields a gazillion questions about these and various other educational programs, so we really need to be well-informed about all that our organization has to offer.

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Here you see me with Enuk in the first picture ~ a-touchin and a-huggin ~ and with Naku in the second picture ~ she's playing a game with me, I splash and she spits. What a blast!
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As mentioned, these programs have a name; either Beluga- or Penguin Contact Program. For whatever reason, people who see or hear an ad about these things completely lose all semblance of reason and hop on the phone so quickly that they forget what they’re supposed to ask about. They rename the programs according to personal preference. This might sound like a minor inconvenience, but when I’m on the receiving end of a voice (male or female) telling me in excited, high pitched tones that they want an appointment to “touch the penguins” I choke back a chuckle every time.

A couple of other gems are as follows:

Me: “Reservations, how many I help you?”
Ditz: “Yes, I’d like to come feel a beluga.”
(I want to say, “Sounds like a personal problem to me.”)

Me: “Good afternoon, may I help you?”
Whack Job: “Hello, I’d like to do the Penguin thingy.”
(I want to say, “Sure, and when would you like this thingy to take place?”)

Me: “Good morning, how may I help you?”
Airhead: “Oh hello, I want my husband to touch a whale.”
(I want to say, “There are therapists for that sort of thing.”)

Me: “Reservations, can I help you?”
Bumbling Imbecile: “Yes, how can I get to … you know … do that whale thing … where you let me see him in the water?”
Me: “You must be referring to our Beluga Contact program.”
BI: “No, no, the whale thing.”
Me: (spitting my M&Ms into a tissue so I don’t choke on them from laughing) “Yes, that would be the Beluga Contact program sir … would you like to reserve a spot in that program?”BI: “I guess if you don’t have whales, a beluga will do.”
Me: “Belugas ARE whales, sir.”
BI: “Oh, then yeah, that’s what I want.”

Me: “Reservations, may I help you?”
Dolt: “Yes, I want to swim with a penguin.”
Me: “If you’re referring to our Penguin Contact program, there’s no swimming involved.”
Dolt: “Oh … well can I walk with them?”
(I’m thinking, “Walk with them? You probably walk LIKE them.)

And my personal, all time favorite:

Me: “Good afternoon, reservations.”
Utter Buffoon: “Yes, I’d like to get up close and personal with a penguin.” (This is NOT made up)
Me: “You must mean our Penguin Contact program.”
UB: “Whatever. I just want to be able to touch one … do I get to touch it?”
(I don’t really want to say anything at this point … I’m just thinking this person might have some issues)

I suggested a while back that we start up a Shark Contact program, but I had no takers from the powers that be; something about liability. I assured them we’d get just as many phone calls for this program as we get for the others. I’d stake my life on it.

We do have a grand time in our office and no, we don’t make fun of every caller; just the ones who are mock-worthy. It helps pass the time.

To sum things up, it’s my guess that people just want to touch things. For most, it doesn’t seem to matter what sort of animal they’ll be touching, they just want to get their hands* on it! I guess we’re just a touchy-feely society.

*Not only do I work at the Aquarium, I am also an avid supporter of such organizations. For that reason, I feel it necessary to note that these programs are carried out with great care and attention to the benefit of the animals. Sterilization of hands is essential prior to handling any of our penguins or whales. Through hormone testing performed following the programs, it is found that the animals react quite positively to human interaction. In fact, the whales in particular thrive on it. (Perhaps they see some humor in all the giggles, oooohs and aaaaahs)

April 04, 2005

City-Style Crabbing

I was greatly inspired (by a couple of posts written by Hick) to share a little story.
Hick was visited recently by a couple of her “city slicker” friends who were charmed by all that country living had to offer. Her writing style is comfy and her stories quite amusing. Thanks for the brainstorm, Hick!

As some of you already know, I moved from NYC to rural New England about 19 years ago and have adapted quite nicely to this calmer, more-mellow and slower lifestyle. I miss certain aspects of city life and will always refer to New York City as “home,” but I welcome the traffic-jams here which involve no more than four cars arriving at the same intersection together.

Upon my arrival in New England, my sister and her friends were my only social life. They all got a kick out of how charmed I was by simple “country” activities and local events. In retrospect, they went out of their way to introduce me to various rituals ~ it was like an initiation of sorts. (“Quick, let’s get a picture of the city girl feeding a roadside cow!”) For a time, I had become their main source of entertainment. I never minded this at all and often got a chuckle out of it as well.

One evening after dinner, a group of us had been sitting around and the guys were trying to come up with a new activity to “teach the kid” the next day. Don’t ask me how they arrived at this, but the fine art of crabbing was penciled in for the following morning. Joy of joys.

Up the next day at what felt like the crack of dawn, we were all bustling around the house gathering the necessities for our journey to a nearby cove. (“Nearby” to them was a 25-minute drive thereby finally demonstrating to me what “up the road a piece” actually meant to them)

Along the way, we stopped and picked up chicken necks. You didn’t read that wrong. They were able to stop into a supermarket, head to the butcher department and pay for a bag of chicken necks. Ew. I was told this would be our bait. No crabs in sight yet and I already learned something – crabs like to snack on chicken necks. I would imagine they don’t get the opportunity to do this very often just based on their natural environment.

We arrived at the cove and headed down the side of the roadway leading to the water’s edge. There we set up camp, so to speak. A blanket was laid out for my sister, so that she could sun herself (she hated crabbing) and each of us grabbed a can of soda or juice from our cooler. One of my sister’s friends was busy getting my equipment ready; a long piece of heavy duty string, a chicken neck and a tube of sun block. Someone had bothered to load a boom box onto the truck, so we had music to crab by. Apparently, this was essential.

Do-right, as I affectionately refer to my sister’s friend, then headed toward me issuing instructions as follows:
“Okay, now pick a nice spot to stand at the water’s edge, be sure the sun isn’t directly in your eyes because you’ll be standing there looking out for a while. Tie the neck tightly onto one end of the string, then toss it out as far as you can and just keep an eye on it. Sooner or later, I guarantee you’ll catch a crab… let me know when you can see him in the water and I’ll come over with the net.”

It sounded fairly simple to me, so I did as I was told and stood there watching and waiting. I watched and I waited for about 20 minutes while the guys were standing a distance away, talking with each other about the tide. I had already decided I wasn’t crazy about this crabbing crap and that it was best left to the bumpkins. The sun was annoying me (I had predicted that would happen), I was hungry and frankly, just plain bored to tears.

Suddenly something caught my eye below the surface of the water. Movement! It was a big crab and he was just sidling along with my chicken neck in his claw. Seeing this reduced me to a giddy six year old girly girl and I started to jump up and down, flailing my arms and yelling, “I got one I got one!”

“See that? Now draw him in very slowly with your string till I get there,” Do-right hollered.
“Okay! What string?” I asked, still jumping and giggling.
“Your string! Pull on it very slowly and don’t take your eye off the crab!” Do-right said again, impatiently this time.
“But I haven’t got a string to pull!” I answered.

By the time Do-right got to me, he was shaking his head at me in total disbelief and laughing wildly. I pointed to the crab that was now slowly moseying further and further away from me, chicken neck tucked tightly in his claw. Everyone was now standing by me, pointing and laughing. I failed to see the humor.

“How did you drop your string?” they all asked.
“I never dropped my string. I did what you said. I tied on the neck then threw it out as far as I could … hey, I’m the only one who caught a crab so far, what’s so funny?” I said.

When they explained through their chuckles that I was supposed to hold on to the other end of the string as I tossed out the neck, I was both embarrassed and disgusted with my blonde, city self. “Well you didn’t SAY that!” I insisted.

The others couldn’t believe the crab helped himself to my chicken neck then paraded himself right up to me to show how clever he’d been. He was moving more quickly now, but Do-right managed to gather him up in the net anyway, and said he’d have quite the story to tell at work the next day.

The remainder of that day was very uneventful compared with this little incident. My “take” was one of the only three any of us caught that day, so the guys put them back into the water since there weren’t enough to make a meal. Secretly, I was pleased with this.

I suppose there was irony in the fact that I did “catch” a crab, since the others were going about it the right way and weren’t very lucky. Do-right still insists that I never technically caught that crab, and I just smile and tell him that I caught it in my very own special way.

Nowadays, I enjoy watching and holding the various crabs we have at the Aquarium. I'll have to ask our husbandry team just how they were caught.