An Overcast Day at Marineland

28 May

I didn’t know where I was going, and it didn’t really matter. If my sense of direction failed, which it probably would, I had a colorful map in my backpocket along with a cell phone tucked in my tiny strap purse. They would guide me to where I needed to be.

I left the group because I become claustrophobic after prolonged time spent in groups. I decided that freedom would do me some good. And so I happily stepped out on my own, promising the group I would meet them at 4 p.m. at the front gate. They collectively looked at me like I grew a third eyeball. I’m sure they snickered as I left, and I’m sure they consider me quite snobbish and odd for having done so.

The day was overcast. Dull gray clouds filled the sky like a quarry of granite. I couldn’t have been happier. Sun beating down on black pavement makes for a miserable, hot day at Marineland. In addition to the absence of heat, the threatening rain kept the throngs of people out of the park. There were no lines, no squeezed seating at the shows, no fighting to make your way through exhibits. Free of sweltering heat and sweaty crowds, I was having an inordinately good time. 

I usually avoid places like Marineland not only because of the sticky crowds and long lines but also because the cost outweys the possibility of a good time. It puts too much pressure on you to have a good time- you’ve already invested so much money just to enter. “Fun fun fun, are you having fun yet???” And if you don’t have a good time, you feel like you wasted your money. Faced with a free ticket and a forecast predicting rain, however, I really couldn’t say no to Marineland.

I knew I wanted to go to Arctic Cove, where the Beluga and Orca Whales were. I pulled out my colorful map, damaged from when I was sprayed by dolphins at the water show. I happened to be one of the few people lucky enough to get completely drenched. Everyone thought it was hilarious and clapped gleefully, secretly thrilled they hadn’t been the one to sit in such an unfortunate spot . I just rung out my shirt and pants for the rest of the show. Even on a map a little less than sopping, the cove wasn’t difficult to find. It was a cartoony splash of icy, snowy looking things on the top left corner of the map with a black dotted line leading to it. Even with an uncannily bad sense of direction, the route to Arctic Cove looked simple, and I was sure I get there in a reasonable amount of time. I decided to hold the map instead of maneuvering it back into my wet pocket. My sneakers sloshed as I walked toward the whales.

I passed a group of Amish young people dressed in matching bright blue outfits. A few held hands. I wondered if this was allowed or if it was some breach in Amish etiquette. One of the boys smoked an old fashioned pipe. I tried not to stare, but he did look adorible, like something from a storybook. I didn’t think the Amish went to places like Marineland. I also passed a girl dressed in black leggings with slouched cowgirl boots, a short white, clingy dress and sling purse. Her long, sandy brown hair was streaked with blond highlites and styled into messy waves. She was beautiful, in a fake kind of way. She stood out so much from the groups of mom and dads with toddlers that it was impossible not to notice her– easily the most fashionable and displaced person in the park. I became somewhat scared when, for the first time, all the moms and dads looked terribly close to my own age. In fact, I’m sure a few were my own age, and many looked only a few years older. What crazy mixed up world did I live in where I had fazed into the same demographic as moms and dads? I shivered.

I passed the Buffalo and Elk exhibits, which weren’t very exciting. I could see them at any zoo, anyways. I stopped at the blackbears and even bought a $2 cake cone filled with corn puff cereal to feed them. I stood at the edge of the metal railing, pressing up against it like a really excited little kid. About twenty black bears roamed in front of me. The railing and land was separated by a moat of water, which looked like a river. The biggest black bear sat in the water on his rump right in front of the railing. He looked up at me lazily, like an oversized puppy begging for food. I threw a corn puff, and it landed expertly in in his cavernous mouth. The next one fell in the water. The bear caught it in his massive paw and then licked it off. He or she, I’m not sure which, lumbered out of the water when the corn puffs stopped flying. I suddenly felt sorry for the bears. Corn puffs are probably the most exciting thing to happen to them.

I realized my sneakers would be sloshing for the rest of the day. There was no hope of them drying out. I was contemplating this depressing realization when I just about ran straight into the Artic Cove sign avertising the larger than life exhibit. A group of French speaking Canadians pointed in the direction of the exhibit and began speaking excitedly, the flourish of the language filling the air like music as they gravitated toward the direction I was now headed. I sort of flowed with them, unwittingly hanging on the fringe of yet another group.

As my journey’s destination came into view, disappointed grew within me, and a sinking sensation filled me stomach (ok, not really, but still…). I expected Artic Cove to be much bigger, much more awe-inspiring than the display in front of me (After all, these were not just any marine creatures- These were the whales, the biggest of them all!). The exhibit was a large, circular pool surrounded by concrete- essentially what all the others had been. Every few minutes one of the Beluga Whales would pop up out of the water and look at me with their little eyes and fixed smiles. I really wanted to touch one, but not for eight dollars, a price that would have bought me precisely two Beluga “pets.” It was when I twisted around to vainly try and scratch a mosquito bite on the back of my leg that I saw a sign that read “Underwater Exhibit” with an arrow pointing in a U, leading around a corner. I had ten minutes before the whale feeding/show began. It was a perfect time to check it out. And so I left my second group of the day, the French Canadians, who had purchased the overpriced experience and were now huddled together, clutching their neon yellow tickets in the petting line.

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