My dear friend Elizabeth recently celebrated a birthday. Many months earlier, she had mentioned that she had never been to an aquarium; her birthday also happened to fall on a Sunday this year, which is a very convenient day for planning things, since most people don’t have to work. So our church small group planned an outing together to go celebrate her birthday at the Georgia Aquarium. For a first experience, that’s a great aquarium to go to – it’s actually the largest in the world…for now, at least. But for all of our best intentions, this outing almost never happened.
We got there around 3:15 on Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately, however, no one had thought about the fact that it was Labor day weekend. The place was PACKED. Seeing the huge swirling mass of people as I was parking, I almost turned around and retreated before I ever even made it to the aquarium doors. But Elizabeth is a dear friend of mine, and so I soldiered on. When the group of us who were going finally found each other at the ticketing booths, we realized that there was another problem. The Georgia Aquarium sells tickets for specific entry windows. Usually there aren’t enough people there for it to matter; you can just walk up and buy tickets for whatever time slot you happen to arrive within. But by the time we got there, all of the tickets were sold out until 7:00 pm. Almost 4 hours away. To make matters somewhat worse, between season passes and guest passes and some people buying tickets in advance, everyone was actually able to get in at 3:00 except for 2 people, Matt and Aaron. As we stood there at the self-ticketing kiosk, trying to figure out what to do, Aaron started absently tapping the “buy tickets” button over and over again. All of a sudden, the 3:00-4:00 time window showed up as available! But then the next time he tapped it, it had disappeared again. We quickly seized our chance. Aaron and Matt whipped out their credit cards, and kept tapping the screen until the 3:00 window showed up again. It had to be quick, you see, because we didn’t want the system to figure out that we were gaming it and started behaving properly again :). So yeah, hooray for glitchy software! Without it, the stories and pictures below never would have happened.
The aquarium itself was pretty cool – being the largest in the world, I knew it would be. I had been there several years ago and enjoyed it both times; but honestly, I find the cost of admission prohibitively expensive, and normally would rather spend my time and money elsewhere. BUT, this time was different. Michael’s dad works at the aquarium, and it just so happens that he was there at the same time we were. So all of a sudden Michael comes up to us and asks, “do you want a behind-the-scenes tour?” His dad had just randomly decided to take us all “behind the curtain,” as it were; so we tagged along behind him as he showed us all of the inner workings of the aquarium.
It was really one of the most fascinating things I’ve ever seen. We got to see the enormous whale tanks from above, and where they cultivate coral for their exhibits, and the machines that they use to simulate waves, and the rows upon rows of water pumps and sand filtration systems that are constantly running, and the in-house animal hospital that they take the fish to when they need a doc. It was definitely one of those things where I sort of knew that a lot of stuff must happen behind the scenes in order to bring about the polished finished product, but I had no idea of the enormity of the effort until I actually saw it for myself. Despite the crowds, it was a really awesome day. I thoroughly enjoyed it. And to think, it was all thanks to a glitchy ticketing system! 🙂