NEW YORK - Thousands of people come through the Staten Island Ferry Terminal in St. George every day. While they wait they have a 2,000-gallon aquarium filled with big fish to keep them entertained. On this day, I went swimming with these fishes to clean out the tank.
I changed into a wetsuit. Casey Carter, an aquarist, showed me what to do. Getting into the tank was awkward but at least no one was watching (or recording the entire thing). Casey and I agreed on a strategy: he would work from one side I would do the other. He gave me two brushes to scrub the gunk off the coral.
Casey scrubs the tank and refills it with fresh clean water every week. The whole process takes a little over an hour. It is much more uncomfortable for Casey than the fish. If you're claustrophobic, this job is not for you. In some spots there was only a 6-inch gap for us to move. One fish jumped out of water and hit me in the face. Was that a bite or a kiss? I still don't know.
Casey says the reward for him is finding all the bright colors on the coral once he is done scraping off a week's worth of algae and fish waste.
Between the lack of oxygen, the waste, the algae, the tight spaces, and the fish jumping out of the water and biting you on the face, this job is the toughest -- and dirtiest -- I've been on yet.
And then the grade: Casey gave me a B. He said I freaked out a lot, but that is normal for the first time.