Great White Expectation

There are a lot of things in life that simply arent as exciting as they should be. It is an issue that I have thought a lot about, and it seems pretty clear that life in general is simply not as exciting as I thought it would be. I recently had a friend exclaim just how exciting he thought my life was. As I sat on my couch, more than a little tipsy from the three glasses of all-i-could-afford wine, I relayed this on to my husband.

“maybe im not clear enough on how shitty my life is,” i said to him.

“maybe youre not clear on just how unexciting most people’s lives are,” he informed me.

It made the black hole in my soul a little darker. Really? People’s lives are actually less interesting than mine? My one bedroom, one cat, one husband, 1/2 job life is thrilling?

jesus christ almighty. its no wonder people jump off bridges.

But understanding that I lead a 99th percentile life does shed light on why so many things in life are so disappointing– it doesnt take much to stoke most people’s interest.

A few summers ago an error in judgment left me on a 24 hour train ride through the upper left side of the United States. I thought that the train (which back then was significantly cheaper than an airplane) was something really exciting. Magical, really. My knowledge of how trains functioned was limited to what I had seen in Rock Hudson films, and as it turns out trains (the ones that make cross country treks) are dirty, uncomfortable holding pens for people whose children get ear infections on airplanes. It was the most uncomfortable 24 hours of my life to date.

The train incident was actually the tail end of a whirlwind trip through a part of the country that I do not care to return to. After attending a wedding in Madison, Wisconsin, I convinced two friends to drive to Chicago for the night. Because we could. I remember two things about Chicago: the fountain from Married with Children and the sub-par aquarium.

Aquariums, like trains, are gathering places for people whose children grow up to be the meter maids that stand by your car and watch as the last three minutes tick away. Other similar occupational aspirations include security guard (no gun)– or any occupation with fake power. Not everyone at the Aquarium is a muffin-top with fat kids, but I have to be weary of people who spend the whole day staring into glass tanks filled with various uninteresting fishes with such awe. Do they not have the internet? HDTV?

I was at the Chicago aquarium that day because at the time there was quite a bit of buzz about an exhibit of Great White Sharks. The aquarium had built out the entire basement and it was now a giant aquarium– at least 50 feet high– that surrounded you on three sides. It was a trick that in order to reach the sharks, I had to weave through the entire aquarium– including an interactive jelly fish exhibit. When I think of jelly fish and interactive, I visualize the possibility of a jelly fish revolt. The moaning and wound nursing of all those tank tapping hoodlums. The jellyfish exhibit was little more than a colored bulb and a group of jelly fish who would probably all die of confusion within the hour. Disappointment.

When I arrived in the basement I started to get overwhelmed. It occurred to me that maybe I had not wasted $22 afterall. The tank was phenomenal and whomever designed the ominous rock landscape had talent and a keen eye for ominous detail. The anticipation that built while flicking my gaze back and forth from man made rock to man made rock was eating me up. Eight inches of smeared plexiglass was all that stood between me and a Great White Shark.

The size of my fucking cat.

I couldn’t believe it. The fish that emerged from the rock sculpture looked like a tuna with two rows of teeth. A chubby blond kid with a blue mouth and the distinct look of a future campus police officer started yelling at his mother.

“mama! mama! shark! shark!”

Shark? That wasn’t a shark. It was a symbol of what was wrong with America. Standing there with my ticket stub in my purse I felt my face get hot and I’m pretty sure I was about to cry. I was going to cry at the aquarium because I wanted to see a 22 foot Great White Shark. I wanted him to get angry and start throwing his submarine sized body against the tank so that the aquarium personnel panicked and ran in to show us to the nearest exit while water seeped out of the strained seams of the tank. Instead I got a fish and a rock sculpture.

Years later, I was recounting this story to my husband when he told me something very, very sad.

Apparently that future rent-a-cop doesn’t have HDTV and he really thought that the guppy in the rock sculpture was a GREAT WHITE SHARK.