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Day at the museum

If you want to see a flying whale, go to the Natural History Museum in London.

Well, the whale isn’t technically flying. That’s because it’s dead. Even live whales don’t fly, unless there’s something David Attenborough hasn’t told me.

Right when you enter the museum, you see that enormous skeleton suspended from the ceiling: a whole blue whale, or what’s left of it.

Gazing at this miracle of creation, you forget your dull, everyday concerns.

It doesn’t matter where you’re going to have lunch, or what day of the week it is, or what the person next to you is saying, even if he or she is your spouse.

Your mind turns to loftier, more important questions. For example, “How did we come to be? What will we leave behind?”

Also, “If this thing fell right now, how big of a dent would it put in the floor?”

The whale skeleton isn’t the only thing in the museum that can make an impression. There’s an entire room on one of the upper stories that’s devoted to rocks.

Imagine all those priceless treasures sailing through the air, leaving priceless gaping holes in the priceless pretty windows. But I shouldn’t encourage this sort of thinking.

Those rocks in their display cases deserve to be appreciated. So I give them some focused appreciation for a minute. Maybe two.

They don’t react. It’s like they don’t even care. I head for a more entertaining section of the museum.

One of the lower floors is filled with terrifying sea monsters and cute little children. Or maybe it’s the other way around.

I don’t mind the fossilized ichthyosaur (in scientific lingo, “fish monster”) or plesiosaur (“even bigger fish monster”). They’re rather majestic when they’re stretched out to their full lengths.

It’s when a kid whaps me with one of those squishy spider toys that I nearly jump through a priceless wall.

The kid should be happy there’s no mosasaurus in this exhibit, or I’d feed him to it. For all you scientists out there, a mosasaurus is the freaking massive fish monster in “Jurassic World.”

Fish fossils aren’t the only things on the ground floor. I also spot a room devoted to bugs. Ambling through it, I learn several interesting facts.

Beetles’ shells are made of chitin. Butterflies taste with their feet. And there are probably 58 species of termite living in my house.

And that’s a low estimate. But I shouldn’t worry. Most of these domestic invaders are harmless, even if there are 3,000 of them snuggling up in the walls.

Between them and the ichthyosaurs, I’ll definitely sleep well tonight.

All too soon, it’s time to leave. My sister is sending increasingly unsubtle signals that if I don’t get going, she’ll turn into a fossil.

We turn away from the museum and walk into the sunset.

Of all times, it’s a shame we have to leave now. I heard the whole place comes alive after nightfall, unless there’s something Ben Stiller hasn’t told me.

I wonder what happens to the whale.


Alexandra Paskhaver is a software engineer and writer. Both jobs require knowing where to stick semicolons, but she’s never quite; figured; it; out. For more information, check out her website at


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