Every one of us has hit that point after three or four drinks when it seems like a super idea to pick up our phones and get in touch with… somebody. That’s when we start regrettably swiping our way through dating apps, when we text ‘wyd’ to the first ex in our contacts, and when we start leaving heart-eye emojis on total strangers’ TikToks.
But even those of us who have been bladdered enough to leave actual voicemails for our most recent exes probably haven’t done what one guy did in Charleston over the weekend. That dude got wrecked, grabbed his phone and, over the course of two hours, sent seven questions to the South Carolina Aquarium’s “Ask an Aquarium Educator” number.
Just after 10:30 on Saturday night, he wrote that he was standing at an intersection in the city and wanted to know what he would’ve seen in that spot 10,000 years ago. Then he asked what marine biologists found interesting about the area, and what they disagreed about. Shortly after midnight, he texted again to ask why seahorses “grab anything they can with their prehensile tail,” and why people are advised to eat oysters in months that have an R in their names. (Also, mad props to anyone who can pull the word ‘prehensile’ out of their frontal lobe after midnight.)
“That was definitely a first for us,” Brent Duncan, the Senior Manager of Advertising and Community Engagement at the SC Aquarium, told VICE about the late-night texts. “But we thoroughly enjoyed reading the questions, and thought they were very thoughtful. We were also impressed by the lack of typos, and the wide range of topics they covered. That was pretty amazing.”
A member of the aquarium’s team of on-staff educators responded to each one of the texts, explaining that seahorses use their tails “because they’re not good swimmers,” and that the oyster rule is because of bacteria that might be present in the water during the warmer months, among other things.
Duncan said that, even in the weirdest circumstances, the Aquarium Educators do their best to answer any question that’s sent through that phone number. The aquarium set up the “Ask an Educator” line last May, shortly after some of the state’s coronavirus-related restrictions were lifted and they were allowed to reopen.
“We use it as a way to engage with first-time visitors to the aquarium, as well as aquarium members,” he said. “We thought it would be a good way to keep our COVID protocols in place, but also keep in touch with people. We knew they had questions, and we wanted to be there to answer them.”
The texts came in more often during the early days of the pandemic but, even now, he says that they answer between 10 and 12 questions every day. “It can be anything, really. We have people who send pictures of something they’ve found at the beach—an object, a shell, or even an animal—and they want help identifying it,” he explained. “The educators do respond to every question, even some of the more obscure ones.”
After the educator-on-call responded to all of the questions that as-yet-unidentified person sent, he wrote back just before noon on Sunday. “Thank you for all of your answers,” he wrote. “My wife should be happy I drunk text aquariums and not other women.”
Duncan said that the person has not been in touch since sending that last text, and they don’t know whether he (or she) visited the aquarium before or after they reached out—although the ‘Ask an Educator’ number is posted on signage throughout the aquarium.
He added that staffers will continue to answer any marine life-related questions that come in, even the ones sent after midnight. “That’s what the number is for,” he said. “I’m glad they woke up the next morning and thought it was funny. Hopefully they were able to learn a few things too.”