Thursday, September 20, 2012

Manatees are Mythical Creatures

OK, moving in a TOTALLY new direction, here.

I'm down in Florida now, Cape Canaveral, to be precise. My grandparents have always wintered in the area and my parents bought a condo last year. My car is going to stay down here while I'm traveling, so my mother and I took two days to drive down here from Ohio, adding in at least a half day of shopping. That was the ONLY time I've had pangs of regret about not working this fall, and it was only because I was lusting a little over all the cute fall work clothes on sale.

But anyway, we're here, and I'm going to chill out in these parts for a little, finalizing my packing and planning, visiting with the few Floridians I know, and doing some gloriously non-triathlon-related activities like surfing and get certified in scuba diving. I'm sure there will be stories. And soon I'll leave for Iceland which will be a meteorological shock, to say the least.

But now that I've been down here a little, I need to vent. I have determined that “manatees” are nothing more than mythical creatures. They do not exist. And the world is just playing a big huge trick on me by pretending otherwise.

Hear me out, now. I love “manatees”. To the extent a grown adult woman can have a favorite animal, mine is the manatee. I watched some Jacques Cousteau documentaries on manatees as research for a “report” I had to write in the fifth grade, and sort of fell in love. They’re (purportedly) big 'ole lazy animals that hang out underwater all water all day, just Minding Their Own Business and nom-nom-nom’ing on seaweed. I can sort of relate.

So I've always wanted to see a manatee, and it has just never happened. In all of my trips down to Florida growing up, there have been numerous times that we heard from others that the manatees were in the area, swimming right by the shore. We'd be at a restaurant, and a waiter would say, "go to such and such park, just heard there were 8 manatees hanging out right there." We'd hustle over, run out of the car....and no manatees. Just a fisherman, saying, "they were just here. Sorry." This happened so many times.

Took a picture with a plastic manatee that holds menus because I figured that's as close as I'm ever getting.

I've even gone to zoos a couple times, in various areas, just to see the manatees. And every time, it's been "oh, they're in the back tank, out of view, resting." Or..."sorry, they've been temporarily relocated to Tampa while we fix this tank." Frustrating!

This spring, I did a half Ironman in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and was thrilled when researching the course to hear that last year, there'd been manatees spotted in the bay in which the swim took place. We even got an email before the race from the race director, saying something like, "if you see a massive grey animal floating under the water, don't freak out, it's just a manatee and they won't hurt you." I anticipated that swim more than I ever have before....excited to race, but perhaps MORE excited to finally see a manatee.

And of course, no dice. No manatees. And I swam in that harbor 3 times over the weekend.

The straw that breaks the camel's back. My parents' new a half mile from a park named "Manatee Park." There's a big dock, overlooking a river, with signs indicating that manatee spottings are frequent, and here's a little info. Every single time I've come down there, I've gone to that park and sat for at least 20 minutes, looking for a dumb manatee. No luck. I tried again today, during my short and very slow jog. Not a splash, the whole time.

Manatee Park. A big fat joke.

So, is it possible this is just a huge joke and I'm the only one not being let in on it? Are manatees mythical creatures? Has anyone ever ACTUALLY seen one?


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