Monday, 10 March 2008

Science madness

The museum hosted the wonderful event known as 'Wow!How?' this weekend which meant that I had to come in for Saturday and woman the departmental stall that does the bug handling. Normally it's a really busy event with thousands of people swarming around and we get run ragged handing out millipedes, cockroaches and stick insects for people to squirm over. This year was a bit quieter though I think that this was because we had a few more stalls so people where spread out but the grotty weather may also have kept people away until the afternoon. It all hit the fan at about 2pm which made it that much more tiring as we had been stood around all day by that point so the enthusiasm was starting to wane and we'd been up and running since about 9.
We only had one little girl do a major freak out which her mum was mortified by. Many tears and hiding behind people to get away from the horrible slimy bug. She'd let the stick insect get onto her hand before deciding it wasn't a good idea and then flailed around until the poor thing finally gave up trying to hold on and went for the drop. It hit the floor with a convincing splat and I really thought the kid was going to stamp on it for good measure but mum fielded her well and I rushed round to collect up the remains in case that upset the little girl even more but it turned out that the stick insect was still with us and practically unharmed apart from a bad headache and a slightly bemused expression on its face. Mum and I had to then spend a few minutes calming down small child to the point where it was happy once again although I don't think she will ever be a fan of stick insects I have to say. She seemed a bit happier with the millipede but then they are so cute that I think that even the most hard bitten of insect haters would find it difficult to freak out over them.
The other source of regular entertainment came from the boss who was walking around with a tarantula on his shoulder. He does all the 'poisonous' insect handling so carries around the scorpion and tarantula. The tarantula spends all day happily sat on his shoulder and its amazing how many people are that unobservant that they don't notice it there. Every 30 mins or so someone would turn round and find themselves face to face with the spider and do a complete freak out. This entertained all the handlers no end- you could almost set your watch by this event. The only down side to it is when you get people (usually teenage girls I am ashamed to say) that enjoy making a fuss and insist on screaming and shouting repeatedly. You can always tell the people who genuinely don't like the spiders- they just avoid it and more often than not just walk away without much fuss, thus removing themselves and eliminating the problem. It's the drama queens that are the let down. They are only scared because they think they should be and get a bit of a thrill from being the center of attention. I always try and frown at people like this, not only because I disapprove but also because it upsets the insects. Screaming never helped anyone and its a good way to piss said scary critter off, be it an elephant, tiger or tarantula.
Anyway, the event went well on the whole and I got to play with the mantis for the majority of the time which kept me happy. The more I do these events then the better I get with the insects and I am now much more confident with them. I am slowly working my way up to being a scorpion handler and eventually hope to be able to hold tarantulas. I'm not a spider lover so can understand other peoples fear but I really think that its just a case of familiarity and mindset so I'll keep at it until I've got it nailed. Expect a massive post if I get that far!

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