First Posted 11/30/05Note: This incident took place at the old aquarium before the place was closed for renovations.
I volunteer at an aquarium. Been doing that for a long time. One Saturday, a panicked security guard comes running into the library where we were eating lunch.
Security Guard: "A visitor's lost his digital camera! He dropped it into the Alligator Pit while he was taking a picture!"
We all look at each other. Then one of my friends, let's call him Biologist 1, specialty: temperate salt water, says he'll go check it out. We resume our lunch. A few minutes later, he walks back into the library.
Biologist 1: "Uh, so the guy was taking a picture of the alligators while he was holding his kid at the same time and I guess the kid started squirming and he dropped the camera."
Biologist 2 (specialty: tropical salt water, in particular coral reefs): "So did you fish it out with the net?"
Biologist 1: "Uh, no. The alligator swam over as soon as he saw it and ate it."
He looks around uncomfortably. It is worth mentioning at this point that the Herpetologist on staff (specialty reptiles/amphibians) wasn't working on Saturdays. All of the other biologists working that day specialize in fish. No one in their right mind wants to have to get into the alligator pit with two alligators that are bigger than them just to retrieve a stupid camera.
Biologist 1: "I'll go talk to the guy again." He leaves.
We start talking about what an idiot that guy was to have dropped the camera. Isn't that why cameras have straps? Biologist 1 returns after a few more minutes. We wait.
Biologist 1: "So the guy's wife is insisting we go in there and pry the camera out of the gator's mouth. I explain there's no way we can do that and if she wants we'll send it to her when it comes out the other end. Then she starts screaming about how her brother's wedding pictures are on the camera and we HAVE to pry the gator's mouth open."
Biologist 2: "Did you tell her she's shit out of luck?"
Biologist 1: "I didn't have to. While we were having this conversation, the alligator decided he was tired of the camera and spat it out. I retrieved it with the net."
Biologist 2: "So are they happy now?"
Biologist 1: "No, the woman was so upset that the camera was ruined that she grabbed her kid and left the aquarium." He pulls a digital camera wrapped in plastic out of his pocket. One end is completely crushed and there are four perfect alligator tooth marks that go all the way through the camera.
Me: "Wait, isn't there a way to retrieve the chip and memory or something and get the pictures that way?"
Biologist 1: "I doubt it. The whole thing is soaking wet and has alligator slime and spit all over it."
Biologist 2: "They should have kept the camera as a special souvenir. Would have made a great story for their families and friends."
In the end, I think Biologist 1 kept the camera, but I'll have to ask him about that.
Note: This is the reason I always use the camera strap when taking pictures. Always, always, always, no matter how fast I'm trying to shoot I make sure to loop that little strap around my wrist. Also, years later I asked Biologist 1 if he still had the camera. He told me he ended up giving it to the Herpetologist.