Last year, a manatee started posting uplifting pictures and giving supportive advice to people all over the world. It became kind of a big deal. The ‘Calming Manatee’ now has over 11,000 followers on Tumblr and receives up to 40 messages per day.
I happen to be good friends with Calming Manatee’s right-flipper woman, Anna (or ‘human typist’ as she is known to Manatee’s followers). Through this connection I was able to secure an interview with Manatee, and after recovering from the shock that I’d been afforded such an amazing opportunity, we began …
Hi Andy! You look nice.
Oh. Thank you. How -
Is that a new shirt?
Uh, no, it’s -
Oh, well, it is nice. How is your wife?
She’s good, thanks.
I’m glad. She’s such a beautiful and smart person. Could you please give her a hug from me?
Sure. I’ll do that. Uh, anyway … for those who haven’t seen your website, can you tell us what it’s all about?
It is an interblag! I have some pictures that say nice things, and sometimes people write things to me and I try to help out. It is a nice way to spend my time and I think people like to see it, so that’s good.
So how did you end up sharing your wisdom over the internet?
Well, my human typist friend was having a bit of a hard time, so her sister introduced us to see if I could make her feel better. We spent some time together, and my typist friend wanted to share some of my pictures, and lots of people liked them, so we decided to have an interblag. So lots of people could see them and enjoy them. It went rather well, I thought.
You and human typist seem to be very good friends. What’s it like working with her?
Oh, gosh! She is pretty lovely to work with and be friends with. I think we are good for each other in a lot of ways. I know having me around helps her keep her head sometimes, and her being my friend means I get to meet lots of lovely humans every day with the interblag! So that is pretty wonderful.
Your site often receives messages from seriously troubled people. Is responding to their messages sometimes difficult for you? Does the responsibility sometimes worry you?
Sometimes it is really hard. There are some problems I just don’t understand or have no advice for. That is always really hard. So often, I just want people to…to not hurt anymore. I wish I could sometimes reach through the compooper and just give people a big hug and a nice dinner and just sit with them until they are okay. But I can’t do that, so I do what I can and hope it helps! As for the responsibility, well, I haven’t thought about it much. Worrying about it doesn’t help though, so I don’t worry about it. I do what I can, and I do my best at it, and hope that helps a little.
You’re known for being very calm, but are you like that all the time? Do you get sad or upset too?
I get a little sad sometimes, for when people are sad and I feel bad that they feel bad. Because they are such wonderful people and they deserve to be happy! But I try to be calm whenever I can, because I can’t help if I am sad!
Were you at all surprised by the popularity of your website?
Yes. It was really surprising! It is an honour that so many people let me into their lives for a little while. I am surprised so many people like what I have to say and so many people have my pictures in their homes, at their work, and sometimes in their hospital wards. It’s…oh gosh, I am tearing up. It’s a real honour, and a privilege. There are no words to say it.
Has being one of the friendliest beings on the internet allowed you to escape the unfortunate phenomenon of hatemail?
No, I haven’t, but that’s okay. A lot of people are in a lot of pain, and if it makes them feel better to be mean to me, then who am I to begrudge them that? I would much rather they be nasty to me than someone who might be hurt by their words. I would much rather they found some other way to express how they feel though. Maybe painting! The most common angry message I get is when people say that I am promoting serial killing, or violence. That is very confusing. It’s happened a few times now. Just in case anyone was unsure, I think being violent towards other people or animals is not a good idea. Perhaps you could take up knitting instead. Or making nice sandwiches. Or painting. Painting is nice. Have you seen Bob Ross? He is so lovely.
Yes, Bob Ross was very nice. I liked his hair. But on a topic that isn’t Bob Ross related, you recently had a “guest week” where various other animals took the spotlight for a little while. Are they all friends of yours?
Yes, they are. I have lots of wonderful friends who like to help out sometimes. Drudgeon, my shark friend, likes to help out a lot. Lots of people seem to like her too, which is great! I love when other people can see each other how I see them. As much as I enjoy doing the interblag, it is nice for us to have a little break sometimes. During this week, we had a holiday! The human typist’s family had a big dinner, with fancy drinks and potatoes that are cooked in caramel. Have you had those?
No I’ve never had caramel potatoes, but they sound good. Anyway, I wanted to ask you about all those photos people take of you. How did you learn to pose so well?
Lots of people seem to enjoy taking my picture. I think it is because I am very confident, and that comes across well. It is all very flattering indeed!
Well, we’re all very happy that you don’t mind sharing all those nice pictures with us.
Manatee, it has been wonderful talking to you but I should let you get back to doing manatee things. Is there one piece of general advice you’d like to finish with today?
One thing? …..”Be kind.” It encompasses most things, I think.