I volunteer as a diver at the Shedd Aquarium.
I dive and give presentations in the Caribbean Reef Exhibit. I'm in a wetsuit, diving in the exhibit, and I have a crazy microphone/earphone contraption like a fighter pilot, so I can chat while I feed the fishies and take questions -- a floor programs employee walks around with a microphone, so audience members can ask questions directly. It's the coolest gig I'll ever do in my life.
In a 5 hour shift, you probably spend about 30 minutes underwater (but what a half hour!). When you're not diving, you're cleaning stuff and weighing food and chopping food. Anyone behind the scenes might have food, and the fish know it:
Apparently I should mention that this photo is not of carrots floating in water, as Dad thought.
Dad - "What picture of fish?"
Me - "The only photo!"
Dad - "You mean the carrots?"
These fellas are all mushed up against the side of their tank because they're hoping I'll have food for them.
I don't even know how many times I came to Shedd Aquarium growing up, or how many times Dad took me on the overnighters and we'd camp out below the alligator snapping turtle because I liked watching its tummy fill up with air when it'd breath. I remember seeing divers in the Caribbean Reef, and if I could go back in time and tell that kid that one day, he'd be the diver... boy, what a gig. It's the coolest gig I've ever done in my life. I've worked for NASA (SETI, no less!), I was a professional juggler for the San Francisco Opera, I've played ultimate frisbee in the finals of Nationals, I've done all sorts of lucky things, but by far being a Caribbean Reef Diver at Shedd is the coolest gig I've ever done. If I tell 100 people what I do at Shedd (and I have...), all one hundred, every single one, says "WOW!" It's something I'll never forget. Being a Shedd diver will remain one of the highlights of my entire life.
April 13th, 2008 will be my last dive.
Top 3 best questions folks have asked me during Q&A (after the presentation, while still in the water feeding whatever still needs to be fed, folks can ask questions):
#1 - Little girl, maybe 4 years old: "ummm... ummm.... where do you sleep?"
#2 - Tiny boy, maybe 3 years old: "Do you like my shirt?"*
#3 - Man, maybe 40 years old: "Yeah, um, how do you keep your hair dry in there?"
* - It turns out after the dive I saw that kid, and he had a green shirt with a ghost on it and one of those red no-smoking (\) things over it, and it said GHOSTBUSTERS. I really liked his shirt.
Cuda, alev hashalom. You were my favorite special feeding.
Nickel, I've never met someone so passionate about lettuce.
One cannot have enough
of this delicious stuff!