While not exactly fish aficionados, we have managed, over the years, to visit just about every aquarium in every tourist spot (and not) that we set our feet on. Last weekend was no exception.
Sears Tower: Check
Deep Dish Chicago Style Pizza : Check
Navy Pier and Fireworks : Check
Millenial Park: Check
Maybe I have something to settle with aquariums and fish from a previous birth, which would account for this fishy gravitation to them. On the off-chance that it would induce a trance to explain the whole fascination, I rather unwillingly assented to the visit, insisted upon by M and S ("Who wants boring art, at least the fish are alive and moving!")
There's a limit to elbowing the crowd just to get a sideways peek at huge carp (Asian Carp, blared the blurb, " invasive species taking over the pristine lake waters of the Michigan, sound the alarm siren if you inadvertently catch one, do not throw back the largish minnow you fished out, it could be one of the dreaded invaders from Asia!" - I paraphrase, but do not exaggerate).
One tiny side benefit: there was no crowd jostling to see the inconspicuous but remarkable Mexican blind cave fish, that my husband and I had an argument about not long back.
With all the crowds milling around, all of whom had undoubtedly driven hours from the exurbs and corn fields just to see this marvellous custodian of aquatic life, we just lost the heart to try and get our peeks. We stood back, M and S squabbling over their Dippin' Dots ice cream flavors, paying cursory attention to the diver in the Caribbean reef tank explaining feeding time to visitors with eager faces pressed to the glass. Despite the air of electric excitement around the tank, all I could think of was... yawn... a good nap.
We walked down to the Oceanarium for the 4:30 pm Dolphin presentation at least one hour in advance. Passing the tanks of pale belugas, S mused aloud, 'Why don't they have blue whales in tanks, why always belugas and dolphins?"
"Try fitting a blue whale in a small tank. You'll see why it wouldn't work."
We crammed into the far end of a top row. I leaned against the fake rock at the end of the row and promptly nodded off for the next 45 minutes, waking in time for the start of the dolphin show as the microphone uttered a starting screech.
The audience started off with enthusiastic applause that soon became lukewarm and less frequent as the presenter droned on with tired trivia and dolphin tales and the trainers struggled with their charges. The dolphins were either newbies to the animal circus field or too hungry for their treats to perform more than cursorily, so the real entertainment for me was the cute wide-eyed 2 year old in pink who played peekaboo behind her mother's arms next to me.
After a final dose of fluorescent jellyfish, coral reefs and sharks, we walked out of the imposing Palladian style entrance. I heaved a sigh of relief.
All these aquarium trips make me feel curiously itchy, like the river otter that was constantly rolling over in its pool scratching itself, delighting curious spectators who were convinced it was hamming for their benefit. I wonder what the fish and other aquatic animals must make of all the human faces they see looking at them. Are we similar fishbowls for other advanced alien species? (Beloved theme of a gazillion sci-fi writers, I know, but still a humbling thought.)
No matter. From now on, the motto on any vacation trips is "No more aquariums, by Poseidon!"