Not much is happening here. We enjoyed a brief diversion while discussing the cover photography for the July 2002 issue of Dental Economics. The concept, as we interpreted it, involved two blonde twins - female dentists - who are joined at the hip and are walking on the beach near Sarasota, Fla., looking for prehistoric sharks. Remarkably, we almost reached the conclusion that concept would be acceptable if the siblings weren't wearing swimsuits. But then the phone rang, and we lost our train of thought.
The conversation about the Nultys - the Dental Economics cover models next month - was a typical one among editors. We (yes, there was a female editor involved; so it wasn't just a bunch of guys bored with bowling tales) took a left turn with the discussion - and a right turn at another corner - as we delved into a little late-afternoon humor. The twins actually resemble nothing about the image implied above - except, apparently, the "prehistoric shark" bit.
I was having a tough time envisioning people searching for fossils on a resort beach. If you want to find a fossil, I figure you mark off a bare spot of ground that lies many feet away from the water line snaking underground into the house and several acres away from the spouse's flower garden. Then you dig down about 12 feet, using a paintbrush to remove the dirt for the last nine inches or so. I don't want a fossil that badly, so I've never actually tried this.
You can see why I might have a problem with the concept. "Excuse me, would you kindly move your towel and go sunbathe over there for a while? I think that, once I've moved all of this sand out of the way and dig down for 10 feet or so, I'm going to find me a prehistoric shark. If you would like to watch me, you can just move a few feet away."
If this opportunity for recreation is ever presented to me, I'm headed to a beach on another continent.
Before we knew the Nultys were "normal," it crossed our mind that they could be online. So we searched for freakytwins.com. We struck out, much to our surprise. When you consider everything that can be found on the Internet, it makes sense there would be a home page full of photographs of twins with pale skin and only a marginally successful battle against acne. They would share their extrasensory experiences that they've had with their other half, including a vigilant approach to brushing their teeth three times a day.
"Where are you going?"
"To brush my teeth."
"OK. I'm right behind you."
For the rest of us, this is definitely freaky. Spouses don't do this.
"Where are you going?"
"To brush my teeth."
"That's an excellent idea. I was editing this article for RDH today, and it said this time of the day is absolutely the best time for women to brush their teeth. I don't know anything about the rest of that hormonal female stuff. But, as the editor of RDH, I do know you're doing the right thing for your oral health, as well as for all women. Brush for at least five minutes, ten minutes if possible."
I am not going to follow her, of course. I have to take advantage of the opportunity to change the channel from Lifetime or Oxygen to the Clint Eastwood movie on TNT.
The next step was to search online for Sarasota, hometown of the Nultys. Sarasota is on the southern end of the urban sprawl of the Tampa/St. Petersburg area. The town features a boat tour for watching alligators, and a bird sanctuary allows a peek or two of pelicans, gulls, egrets, herons, owls, and hawks.
There's no mention of prehistoric sharks. The closest you get to that topic in an online view of Sarasota is the Web page for the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium. The aquarium offers tourists the Shark Sensory Theatre and offers scientists The Center for Shark Research. The description of the scientists' various projects included "conservation biology of depleted species of sharks and rays, including the sawfish." What does the last part mean?
"I found another dead shark today."
"Sorry, Doc, that's the corpse of a sawfish."
"Well, I was looking for dead sawfish too."
Most of the page for the research center, though, implies the study of sharks still swimming among us. I thought a shark whose photo was on the page might have known of former President Richard Nixon, but I'd be skeptical that the shark shared any tuna fishing stories with Truman or FDR. Hardly prehistoric.
We were at a point where we needed to back away from the Nultys and Sarasota. So we did a more general search for prehistoric sharks. The Discovery Channel and the American Museum of Natural History have articles about searching for "ancient sharks" near the Falkland Islands, which are now off the coast of South America. It's a geology thing. Apparently, the Falklands used to be like what Staten Island is like today. The Hudson River kept Africa and South America apart from each other, and sharks used to catch the ferry over to the Falklands. Then the earth shifted, and the Hudson separated Jersey from Manhattan while the Falklands went south.
Discovery also has a photo gallery of ancient sharks and offered this commentary about orthacanthus: "About 260 million years ago, orthacanthus was the terror of freshwater swamps and bayous in Europe and North America. It's eel-like body reached nearly 10 feet in length and its powerful jaws were lined with double-fanged teeth."
People actually look for skeletons of this thing?
ABC News had an article about shark fossils found in Montana, several archeological digs away from Florida. The article did offer this insight: "Sharks are one type of fish made up mostly of cartilage rather than bone. As a result, shark skeletons are hard to come by."
If it's so frustrating to find one, it's not hard to imagine why Sarasota wouldn't list it as a "must-do" activity. Generally, you want tourists to be successful at what they set out to do on their vacations.
The moral of this story: Looking for a dead shark is probably safer than swimming among live ones. Or, if you insist on swimming in the ocean, it could be: Where's a dead shark when you need one. As you embark on your summer vacations, keep that in mind.