Shell Shocked: Sea shells by the seashore
Another season, another reason for making whoopee. In Sanibel this longtime expression has a different meaning. It means shell collecting. For what greater love does a human being in Sanibel have than to snare a pure and unblemished seashell off the washed up sand?
Where else can you get to slump into the Sanibel position without having to explain that you have stenosis of the spine? But what do people do with the shells they collect? I did a man-on-the-beach interview recently to find out.
AS: Madame, that’s a lovely shell. It looks like an original. What do you call it?
Madame: I believe this is that rare shell called junicornicopia. There are only ten of them in the Gulf of Mexico and today is my lucky day.
AS: What do you plan to do with it? Do you plan to donate it to the Shell Museum in Sanibel?
Madame: That certainly is a thought, but one I don’t share. My husband is a barber and I plan to clean the shell and paint it red, white and blue. And then I will add it to his barber pole in Muncie, Indiana. My husband is a specialist in tropical hair styling and the junicornicopia will help to raise his credibility. Please don’t tell anyone but we’ve also caught an alligator which we’re also bringing back to Muncie. Can you imagine that? Sanibel in Muncie in July.
AS: Don’t you think the Sanibel border guards will have something to say about all this?
Madame: We have an escape plan. A fishing boat will pick us up at the edge of Captiva. That part of Captiva is left unguarded by the border guards. That’s where all the Cuban escapees flood into this area. Of course, we’ve had to press some flesh to do this.
AS: Madame, as a columnist for the Islander I need to report your adventures. But you’ll be long since gone by the time my column runs.
Madame: Well, that’s one more palm I don’t need to press.
AS: Good luck, madame. I hope you’re not caught. Sanibel security guards are known to make use of enhanced interrogation techniques. One of them is to free the alligator and put it in the same cell as you. But now I must go. I see a teenager collecting shells up ahead. Young man, you’re out early this morning. Do you enjoy collecting shells?
Young Man: I just catch them, I don’t collect them.
AS: Then what do you do with the shells?
Young Man: I give them to charity.
AS: How generous of you. Which charity?
Young Man: My girlfriend Charity.
AS: Oh. And what does Charity do with them.
Young Man: She throws them right back on the beach.
AS: If Charity throws them right back, then why do you bother to collect them in the first place?
Young Man: Because Charity likes getting presents from me. Besides, since I’m attending a special school to learn how to measure the density of human saliva at altitudes above 50,000 feet, I don’t have any spare change to buy her presents.
AS: So you collect the shells, put them in a nice package, hand them to her and then she throws them back where they came from?
Young Man: That’s right. And all it costs me is a busted back. After I pick up twenty or so shells I can’t straighten up. I look like the Sanibel hunchback of Notre Dame.
AS: Couldn’t you pick flowers for her instead?
Young Man: Those she couldn’t return. She’d need to keep them and she doesn’t want to keep anything I give her. That’s why seashells work.
AS: Does she ever give you presents?
Young Man: Only those that can be used to collect presents for her, which she then returns anyway. She gave me a lovely net to use for shell collecting. I will cherish this net for the rest of my life.
I’ve run out of space. Perhaps next time I will find people with more traditional reasons for collecting shells. Like using shells to make a tasty shellburger.
-Art Stevens is a long-time columnist for The Islander. His tongue-in-cheek humor is always offered with a smile.