Sunday, January 23, 2022



I worked at the Birch Aquarium Bookshop for 12 years until I finally retired in 2015. In that time I saw the shop evolve into a gift shop, full of toys, games, artwork, delicate glass items, and hundreds of impulse  boy toys for the kiddies. And yes, they kept books around. But parents with mewling toddlers were the rule of the day, the Aquarium needed their purchases to support their grand efforts to educate the public about Ocean preservation. Among the kiddie toys featured in bins at the cashier stations were these items, rubber spheres composed of suction cups, which of course stuck to smooth flat surfaces. We called these things "sticky balls" (insert snicker here) and accepted that when school groups came through the store from the aquarium, toddlers, and teens would grab the balls and throw them at the counter glass. There was a large painting of fish hanging behind the counter which was protected by a large pane of glass. Of course, a flurry of sticky balls would be tossed at it  and we would look behind us after a rush and to see the painting  covered with the multicolored spheres to protective glass; it looked as if it had broken out in Technicolor gin blossoms. Both the sound of them hitting and adhering to the surface of  the glass they connected with and the stubborn, resistance they gave when pried off, replete with each suction cup giving a popping rat-a-tat-tat with each cup that was suddenly reintroduced to air, a lip-smacking gasp for air, seemed to give the sales floor staff an low-grade variety of post traumatic stress. I know I tended to instinctually cringe and grit my teeth when I  realized the sticky balls were about to fly as a whole yet another  time before the   workday was done.They were among the many banes of my long-term Aquarium employment, and had gratefully forgotten about them. That is, forgotten about them until the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic. The nightmares haven't stopped since.

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