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A Bigger Time Waster Than Facebook?

July 20, 2010

Have you ever met anyone who told you that they have too much time on their hands? 

Of course not.

Everyone you meet today is constantly complaining about how busy they are.  There just aren’t enough hours in the day to do all the important things that need to be done. 

And that’s why I am so confused by an article I read yesterday.  It described a bunch of people who have way too much time on their hands.

In the Houston Museum of Natural Science they have a specimen of something called a “corpse flower.”  It is called a corpse flower because when it blooms, the flower smells like a rotting corpse.

I don’t know about you, but that’s just about all I need to know about the corpse flower. 

Apparently, nature has equipped it with this characteristic in order to attract flies which crawl all over it and pollinate it.  Whatever happened to nice smells and colors to attract bees to do the same job?

The corpse flower only grows in Indonesia, but they have this one in Houston and people are coming out of the woodwork to see (and smell) it when it opens.

And that’s the problem. 

Lois, as the plant has been named, is refusing to open and the suspense is getting unbearable.  The plant is seven years old and has never bloomed before.  The flower only lasts for a few days and it may never bloom again.

I’m having a real hard time getting excited about it, but the plant’s caretaker is quoted as saying “This is huge.  This is one of the biggest attractions we’ve ever had here.”

Excuse me?  Last time I looked natural science encompassed things like space and black holes and Higgs Bosons and earthquakes.  Those things are huge.  Smelly plants are something else.

The museum has had to stay open 24×7 to accommodate the crowds who want to come see Lois.  And the flower hasn’t even opened yet.  They even have a webcam and Twitter feed.   Lois has 1,779 followers!

I used to think that it was weird that Wal Mart was open 24 hours.  I used to ask myself “Who goes to Wal Mart at three in the morning?”  Scratch that.  It’s now, “Who goes to see a smelly flower that hasn’t opened yet at three in the morning?”

Worse, who stares at a webcam feed of a smelly flower?  I gather (but cannot understand why) that a large part of the attraction is the smell.  How can you “enjoy” the experience by watching it on a webcam?  Now I know why my internet speed is so bad.  The pipes are clogged up with Lois watchers.  The article named some people who have been watching the webcam feed “for over a week.”  They are reported to be “disappointed by the lack of stench,” but they are proudly wearing “Team Lois” buttons and have purchased Corpse Flower t-shirts.  The mother is quoted as saying “We figure this is a rare opportunity and we need to come see it.”  Need?  Oh, and by the way, I checked.  The buttons are a cool $25 for a pack of six.

The museum reports that it is already getting four to five thousand people a day trooping through to see the plant.  The fact that it hasn’t flowered yet is disappointing many guests.  The article didn’t say whether grief counsellors are on hand. 

Actually some other form on counsellor should probably be on hand.  The head of marketing and communications for the museum was quoted as saying that people “keep coming back over and over because they are so excited about smelling it.”

As the blooming day gets closer visitor numbers are expected to rise and they think they will get ten thousand people a day on weekends.

The museum probably has mixed emotions on the flower blooming.  The suspense is pushing up attendance numbers but at the same time, they want the flower to open.  So Lois’s caretaker has put a bag of rotten bananas next to the plant.  Apparently the hormones emitted by rotting bananas can encourage flowers to bloom.  You might want to remember that.

Anyway, I couldn’t resist the temptation and decided to check out the web link.  Duh.  But guess what?  It’s worse than you think.  They explain that when you watch the feed you might see a girl with a guitar moving in and out of the picture.  She is one of the museum volunteers and she has written a song for Lois and she “serenades” the flower.  Here is an excerpt:

When she blooms you’ll smell her from a half mile radius
Oh, Lois. Come on and let your corpse-smell flow-is. 
Runnin out of words that rhyme with Lois.
La la la la la la la la grow for us.

You get the idea.

The scientific name for the Corpse flower is Amorphophallus titanium.   I don’t understand why it has that name.  I know what ‘amorphous’ means and what a ‘phallus’ is and what ‘titanium’ is, but when you put it all together I don’t know why you would call a flower by that name.

But scientific names don’t have to make sense.  After all they called the people lining up to see the flower “Homo sapiens.”

Here is a link to the webcam: you know you want to.

Update:  On July 28,  one week after I posted this, Lois mania is officially over.  The museum has returned to normal hours and a look at the webcam shows a fairly prostrate bloom.

19 Comments leave one →
  1. July 20, 2010 10:30 pm

    I have to say I agree with you. I guess one would have to be really into botany or something to get excited about Lois. To each his own. I resisted the urge to click on the link. Ha! Yes, I wanted to.

  2. July 21, 2010 12:05 am

    We all know people who have to be at every “big event” They go to all the openings of the newest movies, plays, etc. They stand in lines at Christmas time to buy the “Tickle Me Elmos” and Cabbage Patch dolls. If Houston were a little closer to Minnesota by brother-in-law and family would be there. They don’t want to miss experiencing anything that might be the “In Thing”. I’ll have to check but I think that they tried having a corspe flower at the garden in Washington DC but decided that they had too many things that already stink there. And No, I have no desire to check the Lois cam.

  3. July 21, 2010 4:27 am

    The real and profound subtext of your post is our strange and distorted sense of time nowadays. Speaking for a certain class of “busy” people. We complain that we have too little, and yet we waste it.

    But aside from that, what a name! Who would not want to be named after a phallus of titanium, even if it is a bit amorphous? I wonder if they had Bill Clinton in mind. This might be the “distinguishing characteristics”.

  4. July 21, 2010 8:14 am

    Oh my. I really appreciate your sense of humor. It boggles my mind to find so many adults that are still insecure enough to do anything to be cool or “IN”. I guess it comes down to how long they can dominate a conversation that is meaningless.

  5. July 21, 2010 8:37 am

    The entrepreneurial opportunities here are endless.

    I once inadvertently caused a violent explosion in my kitchen. A can of coke that, for whatever reason, I had put in the freezer a couple days earlier had literally blown up, the freezer door had been blasted open, and chunks of frozen coke were all over the place. Apparently, as soda freezes it slowly expands until the can must give.

    So here’s what I’m gonna do:

    I’ll install a little lamp and a webam in my freezer, put in a can of coke, and hook up a live feed to YouTube. Given human nature, this should result in millions of viewers glued to their screens with bated breath 24/7, wondering when the can will blow.

    What do you think?

    • July 21, 2010 9:52 am

      Don’t ask me to think–I’m watching the Lois webcam!

      Actually you’re probably sitting on a goldmine with that idea. You could have a lottery where people try to guess when the Big Bang will happen. Either that, or you could sell the idea to MTV and they could work it into Jersey Shore so the characters would have something besides themselves to talk about.

  6. Dan permalink
    July 21, 2010 10:07 pm

    Everyone’s incredibly busy until they go on vacation, at which point they suddenly have nothing to do that isn’t semi-idiotic and desperate. Just last week, I observed an Aussie couple deliberating over whether or not to enter the Sex Museum in Prague’s tourist center. The tourist area is also littered with a phenomenon known as The Fighting Couple On Vacation, who apparently have been rent asunder by the demands of coming up with things to fill the time. All this explains, I think, why thousands of souls are trooping off to visit Lois.

  7. July 22, 2010 12:41 am

    P. T. Barnum

  8. July 22, 2010 2:32 am

    How did I know you were going to close with a Little Shop reference?

  9. July 23, 2010 12:30 am

    Aw man, I don’t have the plug in you need to see the webcam. Now I’ll never see the shapeless metal dick plant. Drat.

  10. July 23, 2010 4:57 am

    People actually want this thing to open?

  11. July 24, 2010 10:23 am

    hahaha! how funny. i guess it takes all types t make this weird old world of ours go round. it never ceases to amaze me the things that people find interesting. thanks for a great read.

  12. July 25, 2010 3:35 am

    I read yesterday that there is going to be a wedding ceremony at the Houston Museum of Natural Science this weekend (they host about 25 of them a year) and the bride is getting nervous because it’s going to be held near Lois’ room. Ever a trooper, the bride laughingly said that with Lois there, at least she could save on flowers (who would be able to smell them anyway over Lois?)

    As of yesterday, a spokesman for the museum said that Lois wasn’t emitting any “funk” yet.

    The museum acquired Lois as a mere tuber for $25 and has waited for her to grow to 30 lbs. in weight until she matured enough to produce her lovely (gag) blossom.

    • July 25, 2010 9:56 am

      Are you anywhere near Houston? You could go give us an on the spot report!

      • July 25, 2010 11:37 am

        No, unfortunately we’re closer to Austin than Houston. I’m one of those weird folks who wouldn’t mind going to see Lois. Not because it’s the “in thing” to do, but for the pure botanical/ biological interest of it. (My husband got his undergraduate degree in microbiology and he informs me that the scents Lois would give off would most likely compare to those of the compounds cadaverine and putrescine.) Fun, huh? 🙂

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