So we decided to go to the New Jersey Aquarium in Camden the other day, since we didn’t have anything else to do. What the heck, it’ll be an adventure. It’s even named the Adventure Aquarium, so how could we not? The answer, and the resulting experience, are the source and subject of today’s Neologism.
We headed up 95 North to the Walt Whitman Bridge, then switched over to 676. My Aunt told us that there were signs everywhere for the aquarium, we couldn’t miss it. As we crossed to the other side of the bridge, we saw a sign over an exit ramp reading “Camden Waterfront”.
“I think we need to get off here,” Margaret said.
“But there’s nothing saying ‘Aquarium,'” I replied. “Joan was very specific about that. I think we should stay on the highway for now, until we see signs pointing us to the aquarium.” We drove on.
Five to ten miles later, as the signs began announcing the immiment approach of Atlantic City, I capitulated, and we pulled off the freeway into some anonymous New Jersey suburb (Blacksburg? Blackfoot? Black Lung?) and called my Uncle for directions. We jumped back onto the freeway in the opposite direction. As luck would have it, the Camden Waterfront exit was in fact the one we should have taken; it’s just that every single one of the signs indicating it as the exit for the aquarium are on the southbound side of the freeway. We had plenty of indicators on the way back.
Upon exiting, we soon found a series of signs pointing us towards the aquarium. These signs led us further and further into Camden’s industrial waterfront area….where they suddenly disappeared. We wandered for about twenty minutes, with the city’s loin growing ever-tenderer around us, until I called another time-out and pulled into the closest parking lot to check my GPS. At that very moment, my sister called me to let me know that her flight from Albuquerque had been cancelled. Also at that very moment, a security patrol for the Harbormaster pulled up to findout why I was loitering in the Harbormaster’s lot, peering at a GPS and talking into a cell phone. I hung up on my sister, pocketed my GPS and asked the nice man with a gun if he knew where the aquarium was. “Yeah, it’s right over there,” he said, and pointed to a building some three hundred feet to our right. Oops. “Thanks very much,” I told him gratefully, “You’ve been more help than two relatives and a GPS.” We pulled out and found some parking closer to our target.
The Adventure Aquarium originally started as a showcase for the fish of New Jersey, but quickly discovered that no one was willing to pay $17.50 to see displays of bottom-feeders mutated by polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and organic solvents. So they added a bunch of colorful non-native species (including hippopotamuses [hippopotami?]) to liven the place up. As of late, the powers-that-be decided to include colorful non-native species who live in a pineapple under the sea, in the form of the Spongebob Squarepants 4-D Adventure; a movie-like, quasi-edumacational attraction. This naturally attracted scores, shoals, and squalls of children. Couples with children. Summer-school groups of children. Children Having Children there with their chidren. Wave upon fulminating wave of thundering, drooling, squealing, screeching, pop-eyed sticky-handed klaxon-throated children. We couldn’t escape them; everywhere you turned you were run over by strollers, plowed into by ballistic toddlers and had your eardrums crenellated by the piercing shrieks of children exclaiming over the sharks, the hippos, the ice cream stands.
Margaret and I both thought the place was well-put-together, visually captivating and more than a little educational. Kudos to them. They even offered attendees a chance (for an additional fee) to help feed the sharks. I could not help but think that the aquarium could combine two of their problems–too many children, how to pay for shark food–into a single, Jonathan-Swift/A Modest Proposal-style solution. One that any voluntarily childless couple like ourselves would be delighted to spend some of their lavish extra disposable income to subsidize.
Which brings me at last to the neologism:
If adventure means, “an exciting or very unusual experience” (from the Latin future participle of advenīre, to arrive; or “what must happen”), then what we underwent at the Camden Aquarium was by any measure an abventure; an experience from which one must move away with all possible haste.