Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sea urchins past expiration date

So at the lab I'm still working on a project that involves injecting a different species of sea urchin eggs than we normally use. A species called arbacia punctulata is collected from the Atlantic Ocean by the Duke marine lab, and then FedExed to us in California by overnight delivery.

We were expecting a shipment this past Wednesday, but it didn't arrive. We called all over campus and finally discovered that the cooler of thirty sea urchins had never been delivered to Caltech at all, but went to some health clinic instead, where a not-very-attentive employee signed for it.

FedEx said they'd collect the cooler from the health center and deliver it to us on Thursday, but for some reason that didn't happen. The cooler finally showed up on Friday, and by then... brace yourself... the urchins were all dead. They get shipped in little Tupperware containers full of seawater, but that's only good for a while before their oxygen is depleted. So sad to get a bunch of dead urchins when I was supposed to have been the one to kill them!

(Sea urchins don't have brains, nor even a few brain cells, so I'm not going to guilt myself out about killing them even if they do continue to wave their spines around for some minutes after being cut open...)

We'll file a claim for the urchins. They were $120 plus the pricey overnight shipping. What I want to know now is, did the guy who signed for the package at the health center actually open the cooler and check the contents? And if so, what did his face look like when he discovered a bunch of live sea urchins inside?

Maybe one day I'll ship one of you a bunch of sea urchins, just to make your day a little more surreal. I'll then deny all knowledge of it and you'll wonder forever who the sender was and what message was being communicated. :)


JimAroo said...

Yikes ! What a threat! The mob has nothing on you.... I would rather wake up with the dead horse head than get the dreaded sea urchin delivery. Spare me!

And by the way, regarding your guilt about urchinicide, don't forget....St. Francis of Assisi was not a vegetarian. Imagine this conversation at the San Damiano Friary: "Brother Francis, will you have another chop from sister lamb?"

If Agatha Christie were still alive, I can see the title of her new Hercule Poirot mystery:
"Murder on the Federal Express"

Gary Keith Chesterton said...

Yeah, you're all talk, Gray.

Rachel Gray said...

GKC, you say that because you think I don't know your address.

JimAroo, you are right to fear the shipment of dead urchins, for they probably smell worse than a horse's head. :)

If all those statues of birds and animals trustingly gathering around St. Francis are true, he must've had an easy time catching dinner!