I learned something new this morning: There is a one-week waiting period if you want to buy a 12-cent goldfish.
WCK has always looooooved looking at fish. I decided that when the time was right, we'd go out and get our very own goldfish. I'd let WCK name him, and we'd feed him together every morning, just like Mr. Rogers does, and it would be great fun. I kept goldfish all through college, and the majority of them lived long (for goldfish) happy lives, and I never heard any complaints coming from the tank. Anyone from college remember my goldfish Dave? He was the greatest goldfish EVER. There were at least three people at his memorial service in the dorm bathroom. I was completely heartbroken when we had to flush him.
Last night I went online and found that PetSmart sells something called a "Goldfish Starter Kit." For $19.99, you get everything you need -- a tank, a filter, food, gravel, water-conditioning stuff, even a little fake plant. This is PERFECT, I thought. This morning, WCK and I drove 20 minutes to the nearest PetSmart. There is was, right when we walked through the door: A box clearly labeled "GOLDFISH STARTER KIT" with a photo of -- yes -- a big goldfish on the front. I cheerfully put the kit in our cart, and then we walked around for a while looking at the kitties and birds and mice and lizards and dogs being groomed (I've always loved treating PetSmart like a free baby/toddler zoo).
We finally reached the fish area, and I told Fish Saleslady that we wanted to buy a goldfish. She looked at my cart in horror, as though I were hauling around a dead deer carcass.
"You're going to put him in THAT?" she said scornfully.
I looked down at the cart. The box still said "GOLDFISH STARTER KIT", not "GOLDFISH TORTURE KIT." The goldfish on the box looked happy; then again, maybe it was just a peaceful look that came with the sweet release of death.
"Um," I said, "yeah?"
"No," she said, as though I must be some kind of goldfish moron. "That tank won't work for a goldfish. A single goldfish requires ten gallons of water to live."
"Um," I said, "do you sell any goldfish tanks that are actually meant for goldfish?"
She directed me to another goldfish kit -- one that came with an enormous tank and cost $50.
"You can put one goldfish in here," she said. "But just one."
I stood there for a moment, trying to come to grips with the fact that a 12-cent goldfish required a $50 home, wondering where on earth I was going to put this tank, when Fish Saleslady delivered a new piece of news.
"You need to turn the filter on and let it run for a week, so even if you buy this tank, I can't let you take the fish home today. You'll need to come back in seven days."
A waiting period. For a fish. A 12-cent fish.
"Are there any other fish that can go in the cheaper tank?" I asked. You know. The tank clearly labeled for goldfish. Which you sell. In your store.
Fish Saleslady sighed.
"A guppy," she said, as though only the most uncool fish owners buy guppies. "But you still can't take him home today."
Fish Saleslady walked away to tend to her much more important Fish Duties, and WCK and I took one last look at the kitties and left, fishless and tankless. I hadn't really built up the "Buying a Fish" thing, just in case the deal fell through, so WCK was fine with it. I spent the drive home considering Plan B: Get the fish at Wal-Mart, where I'm sure nobody cares much about animal safety, or any other kind of safety, for that matter. Plan C is to secretly order the cheap tank online and then revisit PetSmart, sporting sunglasses, a beard, and a fake English accent.
"Why yes," I'll say, "I have an ENORMOUS tank at home! And it's been running for well over a week! Nothing but the best for my 12-cent fish! Jolly good!"
Fish Saleslady won't suspect a THING.