Brittany Manley calls herself a modern-day pirate.
About as soon as every week, she navigates Florida’s Weeki Wachee River. Heading downriver along with her boyfriend in tow, the duo picks up trash, but additionally treasures: waterlogged iPhones, gold rings, a $100 pair of Costa Del Mar sun shades and “actually fascinating” fishing lures.
On Jan. 13, Manley returned to the supply of the river at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. However quite than enjoying pirate, she was in search of to work as a real-life mermaid for the state of Florida.
Regardless of being a resident of Weeki Wachee — which, based on the U.S. Census Bureau, boasted a inhabitants of 13 (people, not mermaids) in 2016 — Manley has by no means actually thought of turning into a mermaid prior to now. In truth, she virtually didn’t present as much as Saturday’s first spherical of tryouts.
She and about 60 different mermaid hopefuls vied for the possibility to turn into a few of Florida’s latest state staff. They have been tasked with a 300-yard timed swim and a 10-minute water-treading train.
Becoming a member of them at one level, a lazy manatee.
“My dad and mom are by no means going to let me dwell this down now,” Manley stated after the audition, laughing. “I’m sitting there debating laborious about not doing this. I’ve simply by no means seen myself as a powerful sufficient swimmer.”
How the Utility Course of Works for Would-Be Mermaids
Initially, greater than 250 ladies and men responded to the state park’s name for mermaids.
As a result of they have been making use of to a authorities job by means of the state of Florida, they needed to fill out a five-page utility, disclosing the whole lot from whether or not they had a legal report to their work historical past. Not like most state candidates, would-be mermaids additionally needed to submit a headshot alongside their resumes.
Weeki Wachee’s mermaids maintain a wealthy snippet of Florida’s historical past.
Again in 1947, earlier than the town of Weeki Wachee was even integrated, former U.S. Navy man Newton Perry established the spring as a sizzling roadside attraction alongside U.S. 19. Mermaids flanked the roadside, waving passerbyers in — like a siren tune, so the story goes.
In 1959, ABC bought the spring and constructed it as much as a lot of what guests see right this moment. Ultimately, the attraction grew to become the property of the town of Weeki Wachee. Then, in 2008, the town handed over possession to the state of Florida, and the attraction was established as a state park.
Now, Florida hires mermaids on an as-needed foundation; the final audition passed off in April 2016. Beginning wage for a mermaid is $10 an hour.
It simply so occurred this 12 months’s was scheduled for Jan. 13. If the occasion had taken place in the future earlier, the air would have been a heat 73 levels, laced with humidity — typical for a winter day in Florida.
However, in true Florida style, the temperature dropped in a single day.
At 9:15 a.m. Jan. 13, the Climate Channel app proclaimed, “FEELS LIKE 48º.” The flags on the park’s entrance introduced the persistent 12 mph winds.
Regardless of the inflow of purposes — essentially the most the park has ever obtained — solely a few quarter of the candidates confirmed, braving the climate and submitting themselves to the spring’s chilly waters.
“Bear in mind, the water is hotter than the air!” park staff chirped encouragingly all through the two-hour audition.
This Is What Occurs Throughout a Mermaid Job Interview
Applicant Caitlin Wiens already had a “tail” up on the competitors.
She’s an expert mermaid on the Sip ’n Dip Lounge in Nice Falls, Montana. She swims four- to five-hour shifts in a pool, performing tips and routines in opposition to the window behind the tiki bar.
However she grew up watching the Weeki Wachee mermaids; her grandma lives in Spring Hill, Florida, solely about 10 minutes down the street.
The 26-year-old flew in from Helena earlier within the week for the auditions.
She had simply accomplished the 300-yard timed swim, which at one level, grew to become a messy clot of swimmers making an attempt to spherical a single blue buoy.
Wiens emerged from the water and wrapped herself in a towel. Her moist pigtail-style buns began to dry, although her lips took on a barely purple hue.
For her, the climate was nothing. “It’s a full 97 levels hotter right here than it’s again house,” Wiens stated, with a giant smile on her face.
The audition was harder than she anticipated due to the spring’s 5 mph present and the pure setting. However she stated the octopus tattoo on her ankle symbolizes the truth that she, just like the eight-legged aquatic animal, is keen to maneuver round and mix in with a brand new setting.
Wiens stated if she will safe a spot as a Weeki Wachee mermaid, she’ll think about it a promotion of kinds. “It’d be such an amazing break from the chilly,” she stated.
One other hopeful, Deanna Clark, lives in Spring Hill and works behind the deli counter at Publix, however she frequents the Weeki Wachee River in her free time.
She bought her personal mermaid tail on-line a number of years in the past — only for enjoyable. She’s spent many summer season days swimming with it within the river, inflicting youngsters to freak out with pleasure. “Are you a mermaid?!” they’d ask.
In truth, she took a dip within the river a number of days earlier than the auditions, simply to gauge her swimming efficiency.
“I like swimming,” Clark stated. “I grew up right here within the water, so [the job] looks like one thing that’d be a great match.”
For this primary spherical of auditions, Clark left her tail at house, per audition protocol. However she did her finest to decorate the half, sporting a shimmery fish-scaled bikini prime, together with the glue-on mermaid nails she purchased the evening earlier than at Sizzling Matter.
“I couldn’t afford the precise [matching] tail — it was a pair thousand — so I simply obtained the highest,” she stated.
The Subsequent Steps of a Mermaid Job Interview
Two hours into the auditions, the final group of contributors emerged from the spring after the ultimate water-treading train. Those that made it — roughly 40, together with Wiens and Clark — have been handed a letter of congratulations from a park worker.
Chilly, moist and in need of breath, they couldn’t assist however grin.
Some clustered into small teams to recap the day and discuss which of their physique components have been most numb. Or how they wished to get again into the water — it was hotter in there, with out the wind. Or they chatter about what’s subsequent.
Cue the second part of mermaid auditions, which can take the type of a extra conventional job interview: a 15- to 20-minute question-and-answer session.
In the event that they go the second spherical, they’ll transfer on to the third and remaining part, the “water audition,” on a date that may seemingly be introduced later this week. That’s when mermaid hopefuls can have an opportunity to swim behind the underwater auditorium’s glass. Veteran mermaids will change locations with them, trying on from the theater’s seats.
However right this moment, these in attendance most instantly concentrate on discovering heat.
Aside from Manley, the self-proclaimed pirate who wasn’t certain about her swimming abilities.
She walked over to me with huge smile. She didn’t even take a second to seize her towel; she didn’t even care that the water from her hair was dripping on her letter of congratulations.
“I proved myself very fallacious,” Manley stated. “I made it inside the final 10 seconds of that 300-yard, however I did it.”
She glanced at our digital camera and stated she wished to thank her boyfriend and Mermaid Victoria, her good friend who already works at Weeki Wachee, each of whom inspired her to check out.
“The chance… it’s limitless,” she stated of turning into a mermaid. “You don’t know for certain there aren’t actual mermaids, and whenever you’re youthful, that’s what you dream about.”
Inside about 10 minutes of the occasion’s finish, the world has cleared. Those that have auditioned scatter to their automobiles, seemingly cranking the warmth. They go away behind solely footprints within the sand, the wind nonetheless whipping by means of the bushes.
Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior author at The Penny Hoarder. As a local Floridian, she’s a complete wimp when water temperatures dip under 85 levels.
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