Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The Fish Nook

For about three years, from the age of about twelve to fifteen, I was really into aquariums and tropical fish. I don’t know why, because I’m even remotely interested in them now. But for a while, I had a couple of aquariums and did all the things that one has to do with keeping tropical fishes.

The nearest tropical fish store was The Fish Nook which was in the next town over from where we lived, about thirty miles away. During my Tropical Fish Phase, a trip to The Fish Nook was like going to Mecca. I’d often spend all my hard-earned money on various fish or other accoutrement for my aquariums.

Once I even spent a whopping eight bucks on a baby discus fish which was about the most expensive fish in the store. See the picture of the discus fish? Isn't it pretty?

Once I got it home and acclimated to its new environment, it was promptly fished out of the tank and eaten by our cat.

The owner of The Fish Nook was this kind, elderly gentleman named Mr. Frankenberger (I’m not making this up) who always seemed to be the only person ever there. He’d often give me tips and advice on which fish to buy, which ones to avoid grouping together and the like. It always felt good to walk into The Fish Nook and be greeted by my friend.

Fast-forward about five years. I was home from college one summer and needed a job. Having worked for Domino’s Pizza for a year while in college, I didn’t want anything remotely involved with the food industry.

I remembered The Fish Nook and the kindly Mr. Frankenberger. When I went there to apply, he remembered me and gave me a part time job. I’d be selling fish at one of my favorite places! How cool of a job was that?

Here, I had envisioned my nice summer job being comprised of happily selling fish to lots of nice customers. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

It turned out to be The Job From Hell. Mr. Frankenberger, it turned out, ran a very tight ship. He was certainly "old school" and maybe that's why The Fish Nook was such a nice pet shop. The kindly gentleman I knew as a kid instantly became a taskmaster and put up with no dilly-dallying whatsoever.

The Fish Nook had expanded since I was a kid and now had about seventy aquariums full of fish on display, all of which had to be cleaned on a rotating basis. That was pretty much what I did all day in the back of the store.

It had also grown to include a full array of birds for sale, all of which had to have their cages kept spotlessly clean at all times. When Mr. Frankenberger wasn’t on the floor, sweetly selling fish and birds, he was in the back chastising me for not stocking the feminine napkins for dogs.

Have you ever noticed those big aquariums in seafood restaurants or the ones that are often in the waiting rooms at doctor’s offices? The Fish Nook had also branched out their services to include maintenance of these aquariums around town. That was also my job.

When I wasn’t cleaning fish poop in the back of the store, I’d be sent out to The Crab Hut to clean their huge aquarium which, I suspect, held half the town’s water supply. There I’d be on a step ladder with buckets and pumps and water vacuums, cleaning away. God, I hated it.

The worst part was when I’d have to clean an aquarium at a doctor’s office. I would then be the entertainment for everyone waiting to see the doctor. They would just sit there and watch me the whole time.

I’d be sucking up the gravel in the bottom and hear some little kid:

“Mommy! That man sucked up another fish! He’s hurting them! Make him stop!”

Upon arriving back at the store all wet and covered with fish gunk, I’d have to deal with this psychotic giant cockatoo. It was an Australian apricot-topped giant cockatoo and was Mr. Frankenberger’s prize possession at $1,200 bucks. God, that was a mean, horrible, nasty bird. Whenever anyone would walk near his cage, he’d just freak. There was no way anyone would want such a vile and angry creature, but Mr. Frankenberger insisted on keeping him for sale.

I was scared to death of that damn bird. He could snap railroad ties in two with his beak. I’d open the door to his cage wearing a protective glove, he’d bite at me, I’d jump back and he’d inevitably escape. Screeching and flapping around the store would ensue. So did the bird. It was a nightmare.

After about six weeks of this, I’d had enough. I found another job as a night auditor at a Holiday Inn and called Mr. Frankenberger on the phone and quit.

I was never so glad to have The Fish Nook out of my life forever.

The Fish Nook closed down a few years ago. I just Googled it and I see where someone wrote:

Anybody remember the Fish Nook? Coolest pet store ever.

That person, obviously, was never employed there.


At 1:01 PM , Blogger sfoofie said...

three thoughts:
1. feminine napkins for dogs? wha?
2. at least he kept the place clean. nothing is worse than a dirty nasty pet store.....
3. ....but it sucks that you had to be the guy to keep the pet store obsessively clean and be covered in fish gunk.

At 1:04 PM , Blogger Br. Jonathan said...

Yes. Feminine napkins for dogs. In various colors too!

At 2:15 PM , Blogger Lorraine said...

Yeah, that would pretty much turn me off of tropical fish for life. What a nasty job!

At 2:17 PM , Blogger sfoofie said...

continued thought: feminine napkins for dogs? in various colors? what?

At 2:48 PM , Blogger Br. Jonathan said...

I swear, we stocked feminine napkins in various colors for "dogs in season". I remember red ones and blue ones, for small, medium and large dogs. The dogs got to see a training video about them when they were in the fifth grade.

At 4:57 PM , Blogger sfoofie said...

wow. that's just. wacko.

At 11:40 PM , Blogger Miss Healthypants said...

Wow, just when I thought I knew most everything about you--I had no idea you used to be a fish fiend! *grin*

P.S. The term "fish gunk" makes me want to vomit.


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