Facebook friends save crusty Gerald
Jeff Mahoney weighs in
What is it about him? Tall (or at least long), dark and handsome (in a crustacean kind of way), yes. But something more.
Maybe it’s the way he gazes through the glass — his dreamy compound eyes seem to pop for you, maybe because they’re mounted on eye stalks (he’s an arthropod, after all). Or maybe it’s his size and the striking brownish-red panoply of his body armour.
Everyone stopped to stare at Gerald at the Waterdown Fortinos. He’s a looker, no question. But apparently not the kind you take home to mother, or rather, to smother … in garlic butter, egg yolk and brandy with a cheesy crust of Gruyère, a la Thermidor.
Sadly (or maybe not) no one was buying him. (But, wait, there’s a happy ending, believe it or not, despite the best, or rather worst, efforts of Team Eat.)
“This crazy giant lobster,” says Becky Brennan of Waterdown. “Who was going to buy one that big? He’s going to taste like old leather.”
Don’t ask her to explain. But something about Gerald pulled at Becky. For a few weeks there, he was a sensation at the Fortinos. He weighs eight pounds, much larger than your average lobster — usually around a pound and a half to three. There was speculation that Gerald might be a hundred years old. He had a tank to himself.
Becky heard about Gerald (Fortinos staff apparently named him that, though I like to think of him as Claud — get it? clawed? let’s move on) in the grocery checkout line. She indistinctly overheard the person in front of her talking to the cashier about Gerald.
“I could tell from their conversation that Gerald must be a lobster,” she tells me. She went to have a look. She was smitten. “I’m a bleeding heart. If I could fix the world with a giant Band-Aid, I would.”
She would’ve bought Gerald herself but he was priced out at $150. They were even talking about Gerald on Facebook. “Someone on Facebook said let’s buy him,” Becky recalls. “I took it seriously.” She pledged $12. Others followed suit. Soon they had over $100; Fortinos agreed to drop the price. Gerald was saved! Or was he?
In the meantime, others on Facebook started making fun of this effort and were making jokes about garlic butter. They started a counter campaign to purchase Gerald for the purposes of consumption.
“I called them Team Eat and us Team Save,” says Becky. “They just think I’m a kook. I guess some people don’t like my quirkiness.” Team Eat actually out-pledged Team Save. They must have been boiling mad or else mad to boil, but Fortinos had already put a sold sign on Gerald, so that was that.
But what to do with him? Becky called all over — oceanography institutes, marine biology facilities, aquariums. Finally, Gerald got a nibble. Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada in Toronto. They agreed to take him. He’s an unusually large lobster.
“Taking in this unique large lobster provides an opportunity to educate and inspire the public to care for the waters of the world and the species within them,” says Lauren Chan, Ripley’s manager of marketing and communications.
He will be introduced to the aquarium’s Canada Waters lobster exhibit, with others of his species once his health has been assessed by Ripley’s husbandry team. Lauren says he’s the biggest lobster the aquarium has.
How did Gerald get to Ripley’s? Becky and some friends drove him in her car, as per the aquarium’s instructions, covered in a wet, salted towel — lobsters, says Becky, can survive for a day out of water.
At Ripley’s Aquarium, Gerald was put in an acclimation tank. He’s adjusting well. Ripley’s gave Becky and other Team Save people 10 free family passes.
“Some people are going to think we’re nuts but I saw this giant lobster and I felt he was slowly dying,” says Beck. “He wasn’t fit for consumption.” She feels that the bigger and older a lobster, the less succulent and savoury.
As if the story isn’t crazy enough, ironically Becky has a few exoskeletons in her closet. Not even in her closet. She’s open about it. She loves lobsters — eating them. But there was just something about Gerald, the one that literally got away. To live another day.
At Waterdown Fortinos, the memory of Gerald still raises a chuckle. When I call and say I’m with The Spec, the woman who answers laughs and psychically says, “You’re calling about a lobster.” I get put on to someone from Fortinos seafood. “I don’t have a statement to make,” says the guy, “other than, I’m just glad he’s found a home. Too much hullabaloo.”
Says Becky, “I know I did the right thing.”
Gerald, a massive lobster, was rescued from a Fortinos in Waterdown.