Remember that South Park episode where Mr Broflovski gets plastic surgery to become more dolphin like? That was hilarious and gross. Anyway.
My mom's birthday was last Sunday. My brother, Mike and I took her on a surprise trip to Sea World.
My mom is much more of a Disneyland person than a Sea World person, so I think she was surprised that we took her all the way down to Sea World when she would probably have enjoyed Disneyland a bit more. She was just pleased to be spending the day with all of us... little did she know the real surprise was yet to come.
I had purchased everything in advance online - it had been years since I had been to Sea World, so I was surprised by how much technology had been put into place there. We bought tickets that allowed us to return to the park for free for the rest of the year and instead of getting physical passes, we were fingerprinted. I thought that was kind of cool... and totally scary.
Here's me - princess paranoia - I scan a 360 degree radius before using my ATM card and hover with my entire body to cover my hand while I enter my PIN, I don't use unfamiliar or weird looking ATM machines and I pay a hefty annual fee for an identity theft protection program... I don't take fingerprinting lightly. What could Sea World possibly do with my fingerprints, you ask? Oh, I don't know - sell them on the black market, frame me for whale theft, use them to get banned dolphin protestors past Japanese customs? All possible. Plus they don't give you any disclaimer as far as how they are using your fingerprint... or how they store it. It was all very... fishy... to a paranoid person like myself.
In any case, we had an appointment to keep and I had no time to interrogate the Sea World higher-ups about this ridiculous fingerprinting system, so I just bit my tongue and did it.
We walk into the park and the first thing I notice is a sign that says "All You Can Eat". Of course, that's what I would notice first. I run over to the sign and read the details of this $30 program they're offering that lets you eat all you want all day at the listed restaurants in the park (there were about 7 different restaurants to choose from.) After little debate, we decided to all go for
it... and then get lunch.
That turned out to be a great purchase. The food has to be one of the greatest improvements Sea World has made over the last few years. Sure, it's not 5 star gourmet restaurant quality, but it was good. It was better than food I've eaten at most weddings I've been to - probably even including my own. The portions were huge, it was all fresh, hot and tasty with what appeared to be minimal processing. Very impressed with Sea World food at these restaurants...
I think we ate 4 times.... hahah... we were stuffed.
Anyway, onto the reason we went to Sea World in the first place.
My mom's life dream has been to swim with the dolphins. She talked about it all the time and recently one of her friends had mentioned that he thought we should fly her to Miami or Mexico so she could do just that. My mom's not a huge fan of Miami OR Mexico so I started looking for what could be available here on our California coast - there had to be something. Turns out that Sea World has a Dolphin Interaction Program where you can pay an additional fee over the cost of admission and get in the water with their trained performing dolphins. Perfect. No long plane rides, no scary half-tame dolphins (like I've seen videos of on Spike TV where "tame" dolphins attack the swimmers with them in the water - including one case of attempted dolphin on human rape... YES a dolphin was trying to get it on with a human... not fun. Not even funny. The video was scary.)
Ok, so, back to the park. We've been in for about an hour and a half. My mom at this point is kind of annoyed with us for not going in to see the Pet Stars Show which started about a 1/2 hour ago. She's not sure why we're so lazy and not wanting to get into the shows asap. We walk over to the Dolphin Interaction Program hut where we have a 12:00 appointment set up. My mom is looking kind of bored and just looking at the pictures on the wall as I walk up to the desk and say we have a 12:00 appointment for Elizabeth.
She looks up. "What!?"
Then it hits her all at once, she starts crying, jumping around in circles and kind of hyperventilating as I fill out the forms for her and try to get her to sign the releases in all the right places. She was more excited than any of the little kids whose parents paid for them to participate in the program.
She put on her wetsuit and hopped in the water - she got to kiss a dolphin, hug a dolphin, make the dolphin do tricks, and pose for pictures with the dolphin for about 20 minutes. She was like a little kid - she couldn't stop smiling and every time the dolphin came near her she couldn't wait to reach out and touch it. Once she was out of the water, she was crying and happy again. She couldn't stop talking about it for the rest of the day - her dream had come true.
We then went and caught the rest of the Sea World shows (Mike hadn't seen the dolphin show so he totally fell for the trainer disguised as a guest bit... it was hilarious) and enjoyed a relaxing day in the park until we headed home in the early evening.
I'm happy to have been part of making my mom's dream come true. I think she'll hold on to that moment for a long time to come. She shared her time with the dolphin with 4 little kids who were also doing the program. She told them before they got in the pool: "You must be excited - you're very lucky kids. I waited 56 years for this day." Watching everything, I don't think their excitement got anywhere near the excitement that the 56 years worth of waiting and dreaming gets you when your dream finally comes true.