Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Way It Is: When in doubt, look to the book — for dummies.

Daily Forum Column for 4-21-11

He'd prepared for weeks and the biology lab set up in our spare bedroom proved it.
My other half was living out his dream of starting a saltwater aquarium. Since his two largest tanks were already occupied by fish big enough to eat my hand, he didn't have much of a choice but to start small.
It all began two weeks ago with a run to Petco in St. Joseph and a whole lot of Internet research, but we successfully had 10 gallons of circulating saltwater.
Each morning, bright and early I might add, he raced to the spare bedroom like a kid at Christmas. He checked the pH, ammonia, salinity and the nitrate and nitrite levels (don't ask me what the difference is, I'm no chemist) and dipped every kind of test stick you can dip into the water.
As a precaution, I hopped on and ordered the latest version of "Saltwater Aquariums — For Dummies."
After two weeks of successful water watching, we decided it was time to buy some fish.
Now, with his newfound research material and years of dreaming and planning, he was a little more prepared than I.
"Oh, I want the one who looks like Nemo, the zebra striped one and the one with polka dots," I stated, face firmly planted against the glass.
"That's a clown fish and damsels," he stated confidently. "And, we can't get that many fish at once, they'll die."
Where in the heck had he learned that? Apparently the book for dummies grants you the privilege of making others look like well, dummies.
As my enthusiasm began to diminish, I was granted permission to choose two fish between the three kinds of damsels.
"Zebra stripe and polka dot!" I squealed.
Now I was the kid at Christmas.
We raced home, without even making a stop for gas. We were, after all, packing two very precious, and apparently very delicate pieces of cargo.
We, including the two four-legged fur balls, gathered around the empty tank in deep anticipation.
As he drew the bag of fish from the Petco sack, all hope was nearly lost.
There was Ms. Polka Dot lying on her side at the bottom of the bag.
"What the? It's already dead!" he griped.
"She's still breathing, maybe she'll pull through," I said optimistically.
We followed the strict guidelines for "bringing a new fish home," in the book for dummies, and 30 minutes later he let them loose.
They each sank like bricks.
Leaving him to sulk and maybe say his peace, I retreated to the kitchen.
Nearly halfway through fixing our dinner, I decided I should check on the poor guy.
There he sat, in the middle of the spare bedroom floor, cheering to a zebra striped fish.
"Look, this one's pulling through," he said excitedly. "But this one, not so much."
I wondered with the ideal water conditions he'd spent two weeks maintaining, what could be the problem. So once again, I resorted to the book.
Stirring our dinner and flipping through the pages, I finally found a chapter on stress.
As I read the chapter aloud, we began to cancel all fish funeral arrangements.
Turns out, moving to a new home is just as stressful on sea creatures as it is on humans.
Then, suddenly, it was as if someone had flipped on a light bulb.
"They're alive!" he shouted. "Swim little buddies, swim!"
Within minutes we were proudly eating our dinner, perched happily in the middle of our spare room floor, fish watching.
Disaster averted.

1 comment:

Jim Sissel said...

Very good, It created several emotions.