snail shells and social security

While driving and listening to “The Age of Miracles” by Karen Thompson Walker (thanks, Jess), I suddenly had a vision of what the world might have looked like in prehistoric times, when giant snails roamed the earth.*
I pictured them as wide as two lanes of highway. Matt asked me (because of course I described this to him) if people could ride them, like in “The Neverending Story.” I said yes, but they would not be goofy looking like the one in “The Neverending Story.” They would be serious, real snails.
This led to a discussion about where snail shells come from.
“Are snails born with shells?” I asked him. “Or is it like a hermit crab kind of thing and they have to find one?”
“I think they’re born with them,” he said.
“But when do they start developing their shells? Maybe, if I were a snail, there would just be a bunch of empty shells floating around in my ute (yep, I call it that), waiting for fetal snails to find them.”
Matt pointed to his fingernails, which is a difficult thing to do if you point with both hands (he doesn’t, but still).
“You’re born with fingernails,” he said.
“It’s your typical chicken-and-the-egg question,” I said, ignoring his logic.
I wondered whether hermit crabs were born with soft shells and had to find bigger ones as they grew.
“If they’re not born with them,” Matt said, referring to the snails again, “do they inhabit the shells of dead snails? ”
“Probably so,” I said. “Maybe for snails, shells are like Social Security numbers, and they reassign them after they die.”

*“The Age of Miracles” has nothing to do with giant, prehistoric snails.


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