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This monkey business muddies the waters

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© St. Petersburg Times, published January 5, 2001

It isn't that unusual, when you work where I work, to find one of your colleagues staring into a container of murky water.

Usually the containers are left by angry residents of coastal subdivisions who are paying what they consider to be too much money for water they have to chew before swallowing.

The reporter then calls the developer or governmental entity that owns the water system, which either explains that the reporter and residents are crazy and imagining what they see, or that gray and chunky is a perfectly normal color for potable water in Florida, or that consumers should be glad that they aren't being charged extra for the color and solids.

But in East Pasco, just a few miles north of Zephyrhills, the City of Pure Water, it is a little more unusual.

So I had to ask.

"Sea Monkeys," said my co-worker, using the registered trademark of a species of brine shrimp, artemia salina, that has been sold via comic books since the days of X-ray glasses, "throw-your-voice" devices and alleged Rosicrucian secrets that would give you the power to bend others to your will.

The ventriloquism gimmick, it turned out, was just a little disk that, used properly, made you sound as if you had swallowed a kazoo. It did not, I learned before drawing some serious detention in Mrs. Bartley's third-grade class at Kensington Park Elementary School, make it sound as if anyone else had swallowed the kazoo, only as if the user had.

The X-ray glasses and the supernatural powers of the Rosicrucians were equally bogus, which seriously interfered with my fervent desire to become the first and best-equipped of my class to play doctor with Patty Platt.

I also sold a big pile of boxes of cheap Christmas cards once so that I could win a real imitation brass (meaning plastic) trumpet, which, played properly, made it sound as if the player had swallowed three kazoos, each of them slightly off of a different key.

I was also realizing about then that shouting "SHAZAM!" loudly at moments of high stress or running into telephone booths to tear off my clothes and then running out with the conviction that I could fly was leading me only to spend more time in the offices of school counselors (who always had very concerned faces) and in hospital emergency rooms, and still not getting me any closer to Patty Platt.

So I was way too smart for the Sea Monkey ads.

Sure, get a powder through the mail that, added to water, turns into amazing live Sea Monkeys before your very eyes that's going to happen.

I even went so far as to ask Patty Platt one day if she thought such a thing was possible, but she just looked at me and said her mother had told her to stay as far away from me as possible, and then moved her seat closer to the teacher's desk.

So I had to wait nearly 50 years for a co-worker whose wife knew what, other than a strong antibiotic, to give to the man who has everything. She gave him brine shrimp, which he has, so far, not managed to kill.

They do require clean and aerated water and special food and chemicals, and, he said with a look of horror, are not to be eaten when they grow to full size.

So far they are only slightly bigger than the tiny type in the 30-page instruction manual comes with them, and I have to take the word of co-workers for the existence of either.

Our new shrimp herder always seemed to me to be the type of writer who had a book in him.

He says we will be the first to receive autographed copies of Sea Monkeys in the Mist.

* * *

On another matter, a recent column about the difficulty of giving away used dishwashers explained that it takes two volunteers and a van to pick up dishwashers and that they are hard to resell because there is no way in most thrift operations to hook them up and demonstrate that they are in working order.

They usually have to be reloaded into a truck and then driven to a landfill where a fee must be paid to dispose of them.

Used sofa beds, which weigh a ton, are usually similar white elephants, my source said.

My advice is just wait until you move and leave them behind.

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