Originally posted in 2013
As an animal advocate, I prefer to avoid consuming them. Instead, I’m perfectly happy watching cows and sheep graze the rolling hills of Marin. I pretend they’re able to do that until a ripe old age, whereupon they die in a pasture, fat and happy.
The truth is, there’s not much I can do for these particular animals except refuse to dine on them. Still, I find it frustrating to know I’m helpless to change their fate.
But thankfully, that isn’t always the case – being helpless, that is. Sometimes, we can make a difference, no matter how small. Take one-eyed Charlie, for instance. He’s the crab I rescued from a grocery store fish tank a few years ago.
Poor guy had only one working eye, an empty socket for the other. I guess that’s why I chose Charlie out of all those other crabs in the tank. He struggled hardest for freedom and I couldn’t take it anymore. I admit I’m a sap.
Truth be told, Charlie was just one of many crabs I set free (but the only one I named), all the while not realizing my actions perpetuated the continued selling of live crustaceans. Good old supply and demand.
Whenever I witnessed those crabs and lobsters smashed in tiny tanks, I felt awful. They were desperate to get out, crawling over one another toward the top, only to fall back down and start over again.
Then I learned the shellfish weren’t fed because it mucked up the water, making it difficult for customers to see them. So the crustaceans had 2 options: starve or get eaten. Not great choices, if you ask me. That’s when I decided it was time for a jail-break.
So I inquired at the local boat shop about my escape plan. When they stopped laughing, they informed me I couldn’t release lobster in the bay (wrong environment), but crab was plentiful in our waters. Well then, let freedom ring!
I know, I know. It sounds crazy. But I knew Charlie would love the idea.
Anyway, my first call to action was Joan. She happens to live in one of the most beautiful, coveted spots imaginable. Her home in Tiburon sits in an alcove above the bay. To top it off, she has a private beach.
Excellent spot for releasing a crab, wouldn’t you say?
So then I contact my cohort, Sue, and present my plan for the latest release. “I’m in,” she said. Next, I purchase Charlie, put him in a large plastic bag and tie it closed (so as not to have him scurry under my seat while in-route). I then zip over to pick up Sue, who is waiting curbside, cooler in hand. No time to dilly-dally…
We’re almost to Joan’s when Sue sneaks a peak at Charlie. But something is terribly wrong. He isn’t moving and is turning the colors of a rainbow. What?! Maybe he’s suffocating! Can crabs suffocate? Let’s open the bag and give him some air. But still, he doesn’t perk up.
At Joan’s, she meets us at her door and quickly whisks us down the stairs leading to the beach. Sue and I are chuckling with the absurdity of the situation, but poor Charlie isn’t amused. We open the bag and place him on the pebbles next to the gently lapping waves. But he doesn’t move. We’ve killed him!
No, wait, maybe he just needs to be in the water. So I pick him up and place him closer to the waves. We wait, giggling over how ridiculous we must look to Joan’s neighbor, who is now watching from her window. Still, we’re hopeful we can save Charlie.
Suddenly, a wave washes over the little guy. In response, he opens his eye as if to say, Hey, could that be the ocean? So he springs to life, just like you see in the movies when someone is passed out and cold water is thrown in their face.
Charlie wastes no time in scurrying sideways directly into the bay, disappearing out of sight. We bid him a fond farewell.
That evening Sue and her kids left an amusing message on my voicemail, singing their rendition of Born Free. To top it off, she gave me a framed photo of Charlie with the caption, “Born Free, Live Free, Die Free.”
We were pretty proud of ourselves for saving Charlie from that tank. Now, if anything happened to him, at least he had a fighting chance.
Then, just days later, the front page of the Independent Journal carried a headline that read, Crab Season Opens Today. The accompanying photo was taken from a pier in Sausalito, just across the bay from Tiburon. A slew of fisherman lined the pier.
One photo featured a man standing proudly, fishing pole in one hand. In the other he held a crab; a crab that looked an awful lot like one-eyed Charlie. Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying it was Charlie. Seriously, what would be the odds? Still, our timing for his release was a bit unfortunate.
I prefer to pretend Charlie lived many more years with an adoring mate, fathered numerous little crabs and ultimately died of old age under his favorite pier in Tiburon.
For a crab of Charlie’s gumption, that’s a much more dignified death than ending up dipped in butter, wouldn’t you say?