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Polar Bears in Panama?

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Written by Matt   
Wednesday, 08 October 2008 18:16
"So get this, ampoule " Adam says while we were sitting at the Baltimore Aquarium waiting for the dolphin show to start. "A girl I used to date told me that when she was in kindergarten, some rich kid in her class had a birthday party at the national zoo. When the boy got up in front of his family and friends to take part in an honorary dolphin routine, the trainer accidentally hit the wrong button, releasing the gate to the polar bear tank. Then the polar bear swam up, swiped the kid off the stage, mauled him in the water, and ate him alive before everyone in the audience. Imagine that!" "You can rent out the national zoo for birthday parties?" I asked, "I didn't know that was a thing you could do. I mean, I've heard of renting out a restaurant or maybe some section of a sports stadium, but the entire national zoo? Damn."

"Well yeah I guess they were really rich or whatever," Adam said, "but the story wasn't about renting out the zoo. It was about a little kid going from the best day of his life to the worst in a matter of like two seconds."

I admitted to Adam I hadn't really been listening to his story, focused instead on the premise of acquiring my own pet dolphin. He retold it with my full attention and I remember thinking clearly afterwards that it was the most amazing story I'd ever heard. To think. Adam dated this girl. I reflected to myself over and over again. She must have come with serious emotional baggage. Seeing something like that at an early age can scar you for life.

Once getting over the horror of it all, I realized this was a story too good not to reclaim as my own. "So this girl I used to date," I'd start with, "and she attended this birthday party for a rich kid at the national zoo." I was telling a group of friends at a bar and there was really no harm in saying that I knew the girl, mainly because saying that I didn't know her would lend an unneeded sense of fiction, a stranger or random element to the mix.

On this particular retelling, I screwed up and accidentally said that the animal released was a sea otter (not a polar bear) which lost the story some of its luster. But it was the second and third and fourth time that the story drew real gasps. "Oh my god that's horrible," girls would say, "Did your ex-girlfriend actually see the kid being eaten underwater?" For a moment, I stopped to wonder what any of my ex-girlfriends had to do with the punch line, which was precisely when I caught myself in the dilemma inherent to relaying sensational stories like these.

Once you commit to adopting the story as your own, you automatically become responsible for it and all its baggage. Not unlike embracing a young Sudanese orphan as your own, for no clear reason but loyalty, I had begun to defend the story, almost to the point of taking offense that someone would question its fidelity.

"So why didn't anyone do anything to save the kid?" my friend Matt asked.

"You see they did actually," I answered. "The aqua team jumped in, shot the polar bear dead, cut open its stomach, but it was too late. The child didn't even resemble a child anymore."

"Bullshit," said another friend backing Matt up. "Then why is there no evidence of this in news records or on the internet, huh? Let's look it up right now, shall we?"

"Well, you see what happened was, the government wanted to keep it under wraps seeing as though it'd kill business and give the national zoo a bad rap. So they suffocated the media and the press and removed any mention that ever arose and to this day you can't find anything about it. Anywhere."

An aqua team? Suffocating media? What the hell was I talking about?

It wasn't more than six months later that, at a college dorm party, I overheard a bushy-headed frat kid wearing yellow pants who I'd never seen before telling a rendition of what I'd come to think of as my story. "So I knew this kid back in middle school..." he started, and immediately I wanted to charge him for fabricating the entire account. It was my story and he had no business laying claim to it.

I let him proceed though, as he actually added some new details to the narrative that I figured could be used in the future. "The entire tank turned velvet red" he said, and "the entire class had to take off school for four months because everyone was so depressed" which was when it struck me. My proximity to the origin of the polar bear story may have been no closer from his, perhaps even further.

I had taken Adam's story first at face value, not questioned or challenged any truth of the matter. It struck me, almost like a bad electric current, that Adam may have just as easily heard the story from someone else, who in turn may have overheard it at a different dorm party, or worse, made the entire thing up. It was one of those unsettling boy-meets-world moments I'll never forget, but probably no more upsetting than for the parents of that poor little boy.

And that's why you don't take Panama real estate advice from just anyone!

Comments (1)Add Comment
Panama real estate advice
written by RK , October 11, 2008
Matt, what does your ex-girlfriend think of your real estate advice?
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Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 October 2008 19:49