My one reader might be wondering why the title of this blog is called Penguin Ponderings. Ordinarily I would let one single solitary reader wait until I was ready to spill the beans, but she has friends who blog, and those said friends might actually stumble over to my blog once I figure out what I’m doing and put tags in it to attract like-minded, creative souls who don’t really care that I don’t edit what I put out here. I let the thoughts spew out like they do when I’m not at a keyboard. I seem to work better that way.
Anyway, back on topic. I have had many nicknames in my time. Some I have liked. Others I have loved. And still others have made me cringe. I have a current one at work that I’m undecided on. A big part of me thinks it’s incredibly racist, but since I’m the one not saying it, it might not be too bad. And a little part of me thinks it’s just funny how other cultures can make the same jokes I would if I were in their shoes. In fact, I probably have made the same jokes they have. I’m going to leave you guessing for now. This one might require a blog post all its own.
If you had read my first post, “The Door is Open, Come on In”, you’ll know I have a very unusual name for someone who grew up in Canada. As such, the pronunciation of it really troubled people. I had one particular set of “cool kids” (bullies) who decided that it must be pronounced “Gay-Right?” That became my nickname for a little back when I was 11 or 12. I would always play goalie in floor hockey at school, and growing up in Edmonton during the 80s we had a goalie on the Edmonton Oilers named Andy Moog. Kids started to call me Andy Goog (Just like saying Goo with a G at the end). Later they dropped the Andy and it became Goog. That was my nickname for a long time.
Adulthood came and the guys on my football (soccer for those in North America who insist on calling it such a silly name) just called me Super Ger. That was a nickname I could really live with. Naturally I picked up other ones along the way, the second most common being “The Park Ranger” for an event I will probably never share on this website. But they all paled in comparison to one I gave myself, the one that dozens of fellow bloggers from the other two blog sites I used to write know me as – the Penguin (or various adaptations: Literary Penguin, Mr Penguin, El Penguini). Which leads me to the tale of why…
… Wales circa 1991. A family returns to the land of their heritage for the first time in a decade. Most of the family. Mum had to stay at home as she could only get a week of holiday time off from her job. Poor her. She missed a good holiday. After many days of doing the usual holiday thing (and visiting family it must be said) a visit to one of the many wildlife parks that dot the UK was in order. Now, I love this. My parents used to joke that they could take me to a zoo and leave me in front of the lions and tigers, go away for a month and I’d still be there, happy and content. Probably why the first vacation I took when I got to the Middle East to work was a safari in southern Africa. But again, I am rambling.
At this particular park (no longer open unfortunately), they let the penguins out each day for an hour. These birds would wander the park, all under the watchful eye of staff who would record their movements and interactions. Penguins have always fascinated me. I wasn’t much for bird watching (although after being in Africa I do have a new appreciation for birds), but penguins were different. They looked like little waiters, or emcees at an awards ceremony. How can you not like them? One decides to stand in front of me, a few feet away, and it just stares at me. Now, I can’t feel my soul melting away, but this inquisitive little bird definitely had me looking around wondering what the Hell was going on. I took a step to my right, and it followed. I stepped back left, and it followed. I stepped back and it stepped forward. Wondering just how much of a mirror/shadow this little penguin was prepared to be, I walked off, following behind the rest of my family. I looked behind me, and my shadow was following me as well.
We all stopped to look at the sea lions, and as I stood there, the penguin waddled up beside me and stood inches from me. I wasn’t even wearing black and white, and while I wouldn’t call myself tall, I’m definitely taller than even an Emperor penguin. Just saying before any wise cracks come in. By this time my family had noticed my little buddy and the zoo staff that followed the penguin around kept their distance, the whole time scribbling things down. And as it stood beside me, looking up at me, rolling its head back and forth, chirping slightly. I took my chance. As it stood there, I lowered my hand and tickled the top of its head, the penguin continuing to roll its head around like it was the happiest animal in the world. As we walked on, it walked beside me.
Another group of penguins approached, the largest of them coming closest. Me, buoyed by my undeniable animal magnetism and ability to bring species together, and being male, assumed that if one penguin was friendly, they all would be. We all know assumption is the mother of all cock-ups and this was one such case. As I went to pet the new penguin, his jaws snapped down across the fleshy part of my hand. I pulled it back quickly, more shocked than hurt. The penguin beside me hissed and squawked, chasing the other penguin away. My penguin girlfriend protecting me.
The zoo staff walked up and made sure I was okay. I was. I was told if it had snipped at my fingertips it would have felt a whole lot more. When I gloated my penguin girlfriend rescued they stifled a laugh, and said I was being protected by a male penguin. Whatever, I had a penguin bodyguard and not many people will ever get to say that. Even if I was pushing 20 years old at the time.
And thus begun my extreme fascination with penguins. Admit it; you think they’re cool. And possibly think they’re even cooler now.