The seahorse exhibit has some distant cousins visiting for the summer: three alligator pipefish. (Yes, the link from the Shedd Aquarium was more informative and had better pictures than the Wikipedia article. Their amazingly full collection of sea life is one of Chicago’s few saving graces.) Not surprisingly, these fish look like a cross between a seahorse and legless alligator. They have prehensile tails and eat the same stuff seahorses do. Welcome, alligator pipefish!

Now that it’s summer, the aquarium is jam-packed with strollers, hyperactive kids, screaming, crying, etc. I went out to the pier to get some air and an elderly lady approached me.

She: “Can I ask you a question!”

Me: “Sure!”

She: “I was interested your volunteer program. There are so many nice volunteers here and it’s just wonderful!”

Me: “Thanks! It’s a great program. We have a pool of about 700 total, and that includes regular shift volunteers, life sciences, beach naturalists, program leaders, and teen volunteers.”

She: “So do you think you’ll pursue marine biology after this?”

Me: “Well, I’m 30, and I’ve been working in the technical field for the last 10 years, so I’m pretty sure I’ll stick with that.”

She: “I thought you were a teen volunteer!”

Some slightly uncomfortable laughter and many looks of shock on both our parts were exchanged. I thought the youngins are supposed to flatter the old ladies, not the other way around. Then, like the mature adult that I am, I went inside and had a teen volunteer paint a seahorse on me:

I am the toughest mermaid under the sea!!!