Thursday, April 14, 2011

My Life As a Shark Feeder

With the weather warming up in my revisited home of Minneapolis these days, there's little I don't want to do. Every single day feels full. Especially with my new job at BLACK: a boutique design firm downtown. I really enjoy the office, my new co-workers, and especially feeding the sharks.

That's right. I went from freelance writing - doing everything on a computer during the day besides my bike rides or runs for 2+ years - to sticking my fingers into raw sea creatures in order to make sure our four precious sharks get their proper vitamins mixed in with their health food.

Here's a typical day, besides my other job duties:
I defrost four small bags of raw squid and shrimp in hot water for 30 minutes before feeding. While the water is heating up for the shark food, I also put water into two separate glasses. There are three containers altogether for the three separate tanks in our office. One of the glasses will be used to defrost 2-3 frozen cubes of blood worm while the other defrosts some krill. The latter is fed throughout the entire day to the always hungry Clown Fish which resides next to the men's bathroom. He's got a friend in there too. A strange red fish that hops around on the ground with feet. He looks like a mermaid. I should find out what kind that is.

As I've come to take on a marine biologist role in my Jack-of-all-Trades (Executive Assistant/Office Manager/Copywriter/Powerpoint presentation creator/Fish Feeder), I feel a bit like a dolphin trainer. As they've come to know me, realizing that I am the the one responsible for their happiness each day at around 2pm, they are starting to recognize me and get excited as I prop up my step ladder to the 30+ft long tank and peer in through the iron gate on top. As I peer inside, I speak to them in Spanish or Italian usually, and greet the bonnethead shark, Marty, and the three black tip sharks, Claire, Shark, and Sulaimania.

Even though Franz (our aquarist) says that it is bad luck to name a shark, I just had to. Everyone likes a name. Marty: he's got a head sort of like a hammerhead shark, with his big eyes on the top edges of it. Except instead of it being flat on the snout (what the heck do you call a shark snout? maybe a nose?) it is perfectly round, like a fan, or a bonnet, I guess. With much more personality than the others as the eldest of the group, this silvery smooth Marty is by far the best at finding the food. He's a veteran in the tank and rarely gets worked up when the feisty ones finally smell it. Besides that, he's smart. If I stand next to the glass during the day and he sees me, I get a mouth hung open (it looks like Babe the pig, no lie) and tummy-against-glass, figure-eight-swimming as a salutation. Somehow a shark manages to be adorable. Don't ask.

The other three have slight differences that most cannot tell apart. They are very similar to one another, but it has become quite easy for me after watching the change in their shape and skin colorings.

To start with, sweet little Sulaimania is the newest and the most elegant of the black tips. She's the smallest by far and has a pale gray skin which makes her easy to pick out. She used to get picked on a lot for being the young'un, but has since become brave and fights for her place in the pecking order.

Then there is Claire, who had a bit of a spell with a skin sickness for a short time. She's coming back to a normal weight and her skin is healing quickly, but she's lost the reins in what used to be minimal difference in size with the third shark, named Shark.

Shark is in perfect health. Like the perfect physical specimen of, well, a gorgeous shark like Jaws. If not for the fact that he's only 1.5 ft long or so, he could be a movie star. For some reason, a standardized testing statement comes to mind: Prince is to pop music as Shark is to the underwater world. But I'm talking about Shark himself. He and Prince just fit together.

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