In a darkened area of the Newport Aquarium is a large free-standing tank on which each of the glass walls is posted a bright yellow sign forbidding the use of flash cameras in this area.
In the dark tank are a number of colorful fish, starfish, and a fifty-five pound baby octopus which, when we saw it last Saturday, was curled up and sleeping in an upper corner of the tank.
The friendly young aquarium volunteer stationed at the octopus tank was more than happy to tell us all about the interesting little (relatively speaking) critter in the tank.
She told us that the baby octopus sleeps during the day, but at night he's up and is full of mischief. He would knock around the tank equipment, mess with the star fish, and try to escape. So they started giving him legos to play with at night. He loves his legos and now plays with them all night long instead of getting into octopus mischief.
When he grows up he'll have a tentacle length of about 14 feet.
Theresa asked the volunteer where they'd keep the octopus when he grew up. Did they have a special big tank for him?
The volunteer told us that they probably wouldn't keep him that long. She said they used to have a grown-up octopus at the aquarium but it died, so they probably wouldn't get to keep this one.
I asked he how the octopus died.
She pointed to the "no flash" sign and said that people ignored the sign and flashed their cameras anyway and so the octopus was flashed to death. Octopi are terrified of the sudden flash of a camera and the sporadic flashing all day long, day after day, was enough to scare the octopus to death. It was part of her job to make sure that nobody flashed this baby octopus.
Which is too bad and makes one wonder what's wrong with some people. I mean, the tank being in a dark place and clearly posted with "no flash" signs must make it obvious that camera flashes are harmful to the octopus. Yet people will do it anyway.
As the volunteer, Theresa, and I watched the peacefully sleeping octopus we saw a bright flash reflected in the tank glass. The baby octopus's eye blinked open.
We turned around and directly behind us was a well-dressed guy about my age with two probable grandchildren in tow and a big honking camera hanging from his neck.
"NO FLASHES!" I cried, "You'll hurt the baby octopus!"
The guy looked at me blankly then walked off.
"I can't believe that guy!" I cried.
The little octopus keeper looked crestfallen. She glanced up at the sign. "Maybe we need bigger signs?" she said.
Nah, I thought , don't bother.
People like that who don't care wouldn't obey a sign if you smacked 'em with it, which I sorely wanted to do.
To be continued...