I figure it was just about the exact moment that I was railing on about my daughter’s explicit (and just a bit ridiculous) instructions for taking care of her pet hamster during her stay at the Ohio State Fair that she was happily adding to her menagerie at a sketchy booth along the midway.
"Hermit crabs! Get your crabs here folks!" called a fine young man from the sales deck of road-weary fair trailer emblazoned with the almost shockingly dubious name "Crabs from Robert."
Sylvia and her friends were instantly smitten. Who wouldn’t be? Hermit crabs are more or less the living equivalent of a pet rock. You buy it, name it, show it off to your friends then set it up on a shelf where the cat won’t notice and walk away.
Sylvia called upon the vast body of knowledge acquired during her many years of tutelage at the John Lorson School of Wise and Prudent Decisions and apparently came up with the following justifications: Hermit crabs eat very little, they poop even less and they seldom require the attention of a licensed veterinarian. Furthermore, the proprietor of this particular emporium had shown supreme dedication to the science and art of crustaceology by having a pair of hermit crabs tattooed on his neck. If you’re looking to get crabs, this is definitely your guy.
Based upon these astute observations, and carried across the finish line by the emotional rush of having the opportunity to name yet another creature after a character in a Broadway production, Sylvia "shelled-out" $25 for the opportunity to watch a tiny animal turn to stone on a bedroom bookshelf. (The crab was only $5, but the cage, food, water bowl, spare shells and "genuine plastic crab cave" were extra.)
Kristin and I learned about "Lafayette" when we went to visit Sylvia at the fair.
"Um, so you guys are going to need to take a hermit crab home with you," she said as we sat outside the Dairy Building eating corn dogs and watching an endless stream of sweaty Ohioans pass by. "I bought it, but I’m not allowed to keep it here. It makes noise all night long by scraping its shell along the wall of its cage, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to get caught."
What’s a parent to do? We carried Lafayette and assembled accessories out of the fairgrounds and into our hearts, adoring him the whole way home from Columbus. Then we took him up to Sylvia’s room and cleared a proper place for him on a high shelf far away from the roving eyes of Moses the cat. Within three days he was little more than a fishy-smelling paper weight.
We broke the news to Sylvia when we picked her up at the close of the fair.
"That’s OK, I’ve been hearing a lot of stories like that," she replied. "Apparently a lot of other girls ended up with crabs from Robert, too, and…"
Oh, the lessons one learns at the fair!
(Be sure to check out John’s weekly podcast "Out There In It" on thevoiceofholmescounty.com and find him on Facebook at JohnLorsonSendHelp.)