Thursday, August 23, 2007

A Cautionary Toy

My formative years were fraught with disappointment, stupidity, guilt, brutality and Sea Monkeys.
I'm not kidding. I can't even look at this ad without feeling like I'm dredging up a mucky mnemonic boot brimming with bitterness and remorse.

I put a lot of work into getting ripped off on the monkey scam. A lot of planets had to align just so to allow me to order the monkeys - as children we rarely stayed in one place for the requisite 6-8 weeks required for postal delivery; having a fixed mailing address meant that things at home were relatively stable- which was unusual, to say the least.
To my dad's credit, he was around during this episode.
He gave me a dollar and tried to warn me about the Sea Monkeys, but I wouldn't listen.

"Are you sure that this is what you want to buy? You only have one dollar to spend. That's a lot of money. "

He knew the Sea Monkeys were a scam. It was one of the very few things he and mom agreed on. She echoed dad's words.

"Are you sure? You'll have to take care of them.They might not be what you think."

"Of course I'm sure I want the Sea Monkeys! I'm five fucking years old! I'll believe anything if I think it'll provide even a passing diversion from the despair that your divorce is causing me."

Well, I didn't exactly say that. More likely I just pouted. But I did get permission to send away for the Monkeys.


I think most of us know the truth behind Sea Monkeys by now. They are Artemia Salina , i.e., brine shrimp. They don't look anything like the cavorting pink cuties in the advert.
This is what they look like. For scale, imagine the object below is roughly the same size as a deodorant stick:

If I had any common sense I'd have known that the fanciful critters in the comic ad were bullshit, but hey, I was five.

The Sea Monkeys were not as advertised, but they were worth the dollar for the lessons I learned from them:

1) Always read the fine print.
2) Be careful what you wish for.
3) A fool and his money are soon parted.

All standard rite of passage stuff, not exactly good times, but valuable life lessons nonetheless. Surely there can't be any long-term emotional damage resulting from the Sea Monkeys, could there? Everybody goes through a Sea Monkey moment- get over it, eh?

Ah, should that it be so easy. See, those little shrimp did hatch. Inside 24 hours I had a goldfish bowl brimming with tiny aquatic roaches. They weren't much to look at and they didn't do squat by way of tricks.
My mother's aquarium was much more fun to watch. There was a little pink castle in the aquarium , just like the one in the advertisement above. Coincidently, my mom loved angelfish, one of which also appears in the comic clipping.

My mom had already nixed my idea to raise my monkeys in her aquarium. She didn't tell me why- she just said "it wouldn't be good for them." I didn't know what she meant but I obeyed her. The monkeys stayed in the fishbowl. As pets go, they were a crashing bore.

It wasn't long before I had a plan. I thought my monkeys might benefit from some company. Perhaps a new playmate might inspire them to get bigger and more interesting...I stood on a chair and used mom's little green net to scoop an angelfish out of the aquarium and drop it --ploop!--into my tiny Sea Monkey world. Such friends they'd be!

I waited breathlessly for the monkeys to cheerfully greet their bowl-mate. They didn't do that.

I didn't expect what happened next, but it did cure my boredom.

If you drop an angelfish into a bowl of Sea Monkeys , the fish will eat until all the monkeys are gone or the fish dies, whichever occurs first. In this case, it was both. The poor angelfish, which was as bloated as it's puffer cousin, wasn't swimming correctly. It wasn't swimming at all.

Oh shit. I'd better put it back in the aquarium and hope mom doesn't notice.

She noticed.

"Did you put those little fuckers in my tank?", she asked.


"Then why is my fish leaking Sea Monkeys?"

I had become a killer.


NEXT: Yogurt and cultured genocide.


angel said...

oh no allan... the poor fish! but i am impressed you didn't put them in the tank- like your mom said not to...!
i remember seeing those ads in comic books when i was a kid and i woulda given a kidney back then to get myself some sea monkeys...

Todd and in Charge said...

Nice piece -- I could never get my to stay alive long enough to resemble brine shrimp -- they were moving, then dead, little egg-like thingies.

AC@44 said...

I was never allowed to buy them... Dad's words "No, waste of money"
Good story, kind of glad that I wasn't allowed to get them

the rube said...

great story

i always wanted them until a friend bought them and showed me what he got.

shit, my parents wouldn't let me get the x-ray glasses.

Anonymous said...
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Allan said...

A- Sometimes I can behave properly.Not often.

TaiC- Well, there was a money-back guarantee...

AC- My dad made me learn the hard way.

R-Remember Itching Powder? That was fiberglass dust- which will seriously harm you if inhaled...crazy...I miss exploding cigarettes- I almost killed my dad w/ one (he was driving). Safety Last!

more cowbell said...

Oh no! That had to be hard on you! My parents never let us order any mail order "crap".

A few years ago my landlord was taking care of her 6yr old daughter's turtles. She had the heater turned up too high, and it killed them -- the landlords' kids and my kids were all traumatized. Mari explained that when she saw them swimming around faster and faster, she thought they were happy to be warm, and when she came back later, they were dead.

I was pretty traumatized by it myself ...

Craig D said...

You know, I think every Mother has said, "Why is my fish leaking Sea Monkeys?" at one time or another...

yellowdog granny said...

I always thought my daddy was the most unreasonable daddy in the world when he wouldn't let me send off for I see how wise he was...

Allan said...

MC- The ad said 'bowl-full of happiness'. I got a bowlful of carnage. Don't tell my buddy Leo about the turtles...

CD- Rarely is it asked aloud, but it is asked nonetheless.

JS-My dad was smart. He used it to educate me about scams and cons and how to spot them. It's one of the best things he ever did for me.

more cowbell said...

Allan: reading some of your other comments, my dad did not let us order mail-order stuff (goes back to his miser ways with $$, I'm sure) but he used the same method with other things -- cigarettes being one of them. I have a draft started about that one, which I keep meaning to finish...

Allan said...

Puking on my first date kept me from getting the nicotine habit.