Cafe Society

Mysteries of Sheehan's Desk: Day 8

Yesterday, I talked about my infamous Richard Nixon mask -- which hung in a place of honor at my desk for years before being packed away in a box to await our move to more expansive editorial digs. Today, the story behind memento that hung right next to Tricky Dick: my shark mask.

From Finding Nemo, December 2005:

The bar, the gift shop, the restaurant -- everywhere you can get to while waiting in increasing fury for that little buzzer thing to go off -- is done up in a continuous coral-reef theme: the ocean floor as envisioned by a crazed hippie marine biologist. Day-Glo anemone wiggle from every nook, neon shells and fans are stuck in every cranny and mobiles of brightly colored fish depend from wires hanging from the vaulted ceiling. The centerpiece of it all -- the only thing that elevates the decor above the set of a third-grade production of Finding Nemo -- is the 200,000-gallon fish tank that now squats horribly where the Ocean Journey otter habitat once sat. The tank is filled with fish endlessly swimming back and forth, gawping at their piscine brethren being devoured on the other side of the glass, all to the screeching delight of squirming fat children with shrimp in their fists and cocktail sauce in their hair.

There are sharks -- little black-tips (very good eating) and bigger, dead-eyed sand sharks -- because sharks are the only things people really want to see in an aquarium. Unless, of course, they're coming to see Santa in a mask and scuba tank swimming around with said sharks, which apparently had happened just that morning during the seasonal "Breakfast With Santa" -- because nothing says Christmas in the Rockies like a fat guy in a fake beard and rebreather dumped into a tropical fish tank. I wondered if staffers had taken bets on how long it would be before one of those sand sharks bit Santa's leg off. Hours later, I could swear the place still stank of wet beard and despair.

After waiting an hour, I counted 45 people still ahead of us and realized that this represented my purgatory, the lobby of lost souls in which I could linger for an eternity if I so chose. Instead, I returned my pager, bought myself a great white shark mask and a box of sea monkeys in the gift shop, and we left.

No, I didn't like the Aquarium Restaurant in the Downtown Aquarium -- but I did like this mask.