This past weekend, Gary and I visited the aquarium. As we bought our tickets, the woman at the counter was quite clear which touch tanks were safe to reach into and which tanks were off limits. Just in case we spaced out during the register lecture, there were signs printed in super-large print above many of the tanks: PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH.
I won’t mention any names. I won’t point any fingers. But suffice to say that a certain gentleman I know quite well stood right beside the billboard-sized warning to keep his paws out of the tank, spotted a nurse shark at the surface of the water, and simply could not resist temptation: plunk! In went his hand to pat the nurse shark on its back. Then he hopped around like a hyper-active child after a meal of pure sugar, bragging, “I touched a shark! You should try it! Go ahead, rub its back. It feels like leather.”
I pointed out the larger-than-life sign prohibiting the stroking of sharks like we were in a killer petting zoo. I pointed out that perhaps petting a shark is something a rational, life-valuing being should not have to be warned against doing.
“You’re going to regret not touching the shark,” he informed me. Then, “I can’t wait to tell the kids I touched a shark.”
Alas, I did not cave and reach in and pester the shark any more than it had already been molested. I pictured the poor thing rolling its little eyes every time someone sneaked their hand in to poke it on its back or head or tail. Oh, I also pictured its row of shark teeth, which helps at least some of us keep our hands to ourselves.
I couldn’t help but notice the nurse sharks were a lot like cats, since they mostly lounged about in one spot doing as close to nothing as possible and perfecting the art of minimal activity. I stood by the tank and baby-talked the sharks like I do the cats, which according to Gary, was far worse abuse than reaching in and touching them. Hmmmph.