There are a couple other things I’m behind on writing about, but this one just couldn’t wait. I fulfilled a lifelong dream yesterday. Those who know me really well know that, despite not being a huge animal person, I have a soft spot for penguins. Maybe it came from reading Mr. Popper’s Penguins as a child (And before you ask, no I did NOT see the Jim Carey film, and I’m offended at the mere suggestion…), or perhaps somewhere else, but I’ve always loved them regardless. They are the most absurd and loveable animals on the planet, with ducks (who appeal to me for some of the same reasons) coming in at a close second. In any case, despite my fascination with these birds, I’ve never seen one in real life, save from about 50 feet away, at the zoo, when I was very young.
Well, for those that didn’t know, I had a birthday yesterday. My family decided to surprise me by scheduling a penguin encounter at the Living Planet Aquarium in Sandy. I was basically giddy from the time I found out on Saturday until today. Yeah, I said it, giddy. I don’t even get giddy buying a new gun. The only time I remember ever being giddy, or close to it, was when I bought my Taylor guitar in 2010. (As an aside, that is still the most beautiful guitar I’ve ever laid eyes or ears on…) Frankly I wasn’t sure how I’d react to real live penguins in the room. The closest thing I could picture was Agnes, from the movie Despicable Me, reacting to a unicorn, screaming “It’s so FLUFFY!” and squeezing it for all she’s worth. I kind of hoped that at 28 years old I wouldn’t make such a scene, but you never know, right?
Long story short, the folks at the aquarium took our money, they toured us around behind the scenes to see how the facility is run, and then ushered us into a cold room where we sat down on benches opposite the door to the penguin tank. Then they opened the door and the penguins came filing in, hopping over the threshold and exploring our small encounter room. One of them, named Ghost Rider, spent most of the 20 minute encounter either standing or lying on the floor right next to me. I felt like a little kid on Christmas morning, except the excitement of getting one present after another didn’t diminish with each new arrival.
Every new movement or sound from the penguins triggered laughter from all quarters. For me it was the best kind of laughter, where you’re so happy you just throw your head back and the laugh comes loud and pure, with no effort at all and without regard for what you probably look or sound like to others. I could hardly contain myself watching the penguin taking a nap not a foot away from me, as the others tottered and strutted around the room, wings outstretched and cocking their heads to get a better view of us. Ever seen a penguin trip over a tennis ball while you watch from four feet away? Words don’t do that experience justice at all; I laughed harder during this penguin encounter than I have in a long time. Anyone who hasn’t done this, do it. It's worth every penny.