Pyrrhic victory: A Flagler family's day at Sea World

Some people were happy that we won the toys. One person was not.
Some people were happy that we won the toys. One person was not.
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--Pyrrhic victory. noun. A victory or goal achieved at too great a cost.

When it comes to spending money, I prefer not to. In particular, I have an aversion to buying useless, huge things.

I broke that rule in one of the most egregious ways possible Nov. 12, when I accidentally bought two stuffed animals that barely fit in my minivan.

We were at Sea World with the kids (My parents bought season passes for us. What? You think I bought the passes?). It’s one of the last times we’ll probably ever go, so when Jackson, 7, and Grant, 5, tugged at my shirt and my wife batted her eyes at me, I gave in and paid $10 for a bucket of red, plastic rings.

The goal was to toss these rings at any or all of about 200 glass bottles. You get a little stuffed toy turtle just for trying, so at least it’s not a total rip-off, I thought.

We all started tossing. On my fifth try, I got a ringer. Celebrations ensued. Hilarity. Hollers. And then I saw what I would be forced to claim as my prize: It was a stuffed orca whale that was about as big as I am.

“Oh,” I said. “Yahoo.”

Huge? Useless? Fuhgeddaboudit.

What made matters worse was when Grant got a ringer about 10 tosses later. The stuffed dolphin was about twice was fat as the orca.

As I walked these monsters to guest services, where they would hopefully get lost in the lost and found next to the other regrettably won life-size walruses and stuffed manatees, I noticed that all the kids who saw me wore expressions of awe and jealousy on their faces. The parents shook their heads in pity; others simply laughed at me.

“That guy is pretty cool,” one dad said with a grin.

On the way home, I learned more things about these creatures. First, they greatly increase the number of blind spots for a driver. And second, they are lazy and stubborn, forcing your children to enter and exit the van through the back hatch at pit stops.

Back home, I went in to tuck the boys into bed, and it was just as I feared: The sea mammals had made themselves at home. Give Jackson a snorkel, and he could be mistaken for a diver swimming with the dolphins in a top-bunk documentary.

Same story with Grant.

“I don’t ever want to do that ring toss again,” Grant said, “because I don’t want to have to get another one of these,” he said, pointing with this thumb over his shoulder at the orca whale that was sharing the bottom bunk with him. “It wastes up too much of the bed.”

That’s my boy. Unfortunately, we all learned the lesson a bit too late.

Next time, I’ll be smarter, and I’ll distract everyone with something that, while still completely useless, is at least small, like one of those pennies you can flatten for 50 cents. Something you can lose more easily.




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