To be an aquarium animal
by Andrew Malinak
[Originally published in Please Tap on the Glass at USMS Blogs on 30 May 2013.]
Let me start by saying, coworkers if you’re reading this, I do not hate my job. It’s just, well, I feel I have a higher calling in life. It isn’t you personally, but the industry as a whole; construction companies really discourage swimming in the workplace. That’s why I mailed out the below letter a few months back.
This letter, attached to my aquarium animal resume, was snail-mailed to seventeen aquaria in the US, Canada, and farther abroad hoping for a position as an aquarium animal. I didn’t expect much. I didn’t specify “Must Be Main Attraction”, or “Mammal Positions Only”. I was ready to start at the bottom of the food chain, literally, and work my way up.
So far, it has not worked out. It’s been dismissed as a joke, or a clever joke, or an annoying joke, or some other kind of joke. The few (four) responses I received were all to the tune of “check our website for openings.” Mr. C.W., General Manager at the Vancouver Aquarium, called the effort “entertaining and innovative,” while Mr. CJ.C., the Seattle Aquarium’s Director of Life Sciences, acknowledged it is “certainly one of the most unique letters [he’s] ever received.” What more does an aspiring sea pen (S. bollonsi, perhaps) need to do to get hired by you people other than write an entertaining, innovative, and unique letter!? I’ve personally stared at your actual sea pens for hours, Seattle Aquarium, and never once seen them produce a work of nearly the same quality. They’re lazier than I am at my real job!!!
Am I getting too intense? Can you not handle my passion for swimming and for being sea life? That must be it, because it clearly isn’t my qualifications that disappoint you. Confession, Seattle: in my free time, I stalk at your aquatic employees; I know their backstories, their scientific names, where they eat lunch. For example Ada, your sea otter. You want “found hypothermic on an airport runway”? I can do that. I’m hypothermic on nearby Alki Beach three or four times a week, just waiting to be rescued by you. Rescued from this dry, meaningless life they call geotechnical engineering.
So, aquarists worldwide, have some compassion. I just want an opportunity to be a sea star. Or any other echinoderm for that matter. Give me a chance. You will not regret it.
Here’s the letter:
You probably do not receive many requests like this, I understand that most or your new additions are the product of a rigorous scouting program. However, since I fall outside of the usual candidate pools, I feel my exemplary qualifications may be overlooked and would like to inquire as to any opportunities you may have at [Specific] Aquarium.
My interest in becoming an aquarium animal first came to light as a youth. As many young humans do, watching the sea lions at the Bronx Zoo filled me with the usual why-not-mes and dad-can-Is. It was easy to let others’ disapproval of the idea take hold, as I didn’t even begin serious aquatic-mammal training until the age of nine. After nearly two decades of work, I now possess more aquatic experience than many of your typical employees: five times that of an elderly Giant Pacific Octopus, twice as much as a male Southern Sea Otter, and an amount equivalent to a middle-aged Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin. With my anticipated life-span, I could foreseeably become one of your most enduring exhibits.
Aside from my proven experience as an aquatic animal, I have many innate qualities that would make me an excellent addition to your organization. I am diurnal and euryhaline, and will swim without complaint in waters between forty-five and eighty degrees Fahrenheit. I travel well without special equipment or handlers, from a crowded public bus to first-class international flights, and do not require special customs clearances. I’m able to draw a crowd to watch my performances, whether circumnavigating Manhattan or demonstrating an Endless Pool at the Seattle Home Show. What’s more, I enjoy sardines and can even make my own Vitafish! Try to get a bat ray to do that.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I believe in the mission of aquariums and would excel at furthering public interest in aquatic life. In most exhibits I’ve seen in my lifetime, those on display rarely look interested in communicating with those of us on the dry-side of the glass; and never have I seen any ambition from the wet-side to inform or educate. Even the friendly seals and dolphins, stars of the show, often fail to show initiative or produce results without express directions by whistle or hand signal. Perhaps my most valuable contribution to your aquarium as an aquatic animal would be to clearly communicate both the rigors and beauty of life in the water with minimal managerial input and maximum client results. As a bonus, I can vocalize in both English and French.
Please let me know if you have any openings, especially in the phyla Chordata or Mollusca (I’m still uncertain of my abilities to be convincing as a Poriferan or Cnidarian). I welcome the opportunity to fill any niche—Eltonian or Grinnellian, or Hutchinsonian—as you see fit.
On a final note, you will not have to worry about “the Ryan Lochte problem” with me. Hygiene is something I take very seriously—I frequently bathe with soap or sterilize in a high-chlorine solution.
Andrew Malinak BE EnvEng, BS EnvSci
Full resume available upon request.