Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I Have Managed To Touch a Shark

(This is the first of my "About Me" stories as explained here.)

Many years ago I had a unique opportunity. The university I was attending put on a free showing of the movie Jaws. The kicker: the screening took place in at the swimming pool. Now, you might think that a reasonable person would be no more fearful of watching Jaws in a swimming pool than on a couch. After all, there is exactly zero possibility of a real shark biting you in four feet of highly chlorinated fresh water several hundred miles from the nearest ocean.

Despite being a (moderately) reasonable person, I found watching Jaws semi-immersed to be a surrealistically creepy experience. My brain knew a shark would not swim up from the “deep” to make a snack of me. My feet, on the other hand, were not convinced. They itched to be set on dry land. They fidgeted. They kicked. They worried. My brain tried to reassure them that they were safe. Tried to convince them that a wide range of females would consider me unworthy of attention should they carry out their plans to flee to terra firma.  And in the end, probably due to said females, my brain won. But just barely. I never relaxed, and a part of me expected to be pulled violently down any second throughout the whole movie.
I have since come to terms with sharks. In fact, it is fair to say that I love sharks. Seeing a shark swimming freely in the ocean is a rare treat, and I am constantly at a loss to convince my non-diving friends that when you are lucky enough to see a shark, all you can think of is how beautiful it is.

Yes, yes. Sometimes a shark takes a bite out of a person. So do dogs. But fortunately for us, humans are rather unappetizing to almost every meat-eater on Earth (in the food world, people are kind of like the spam of creatures—it is possible to get a taste for spam, but most of your global peers will think you’re gross). Sharks rarely bite people. Even if you spend a considerable amount of time in the water, here are some things that are more likely to occur than a shark attack:
·         You are more likely to be killed by a falling aircraft than a shark.
·         You are far more likely to drown than be attacked by a shark (in fact, you are more likely to drown in the bathtub than be attacked by a shark).
·         You are more likely to be killed playing football than by a shark attack.
·         You are more likely to be killed by a falling coconut, a vending machine you accidentally pulled over on yourself, or lightning.
·         And my favorite: you are more likely to choke to death on a GUMMY SHARK than be attacked by a real shark.
If you drive to a beach and swim for hours in shark infested waters, the most dangerous thing you have done all day … is drive to the beach.

So yes, I seek out sharks. The first time I ever swam with sharks was in the Bahamas. It was only my second scuba dive. It was a “Shark Dive” where the divers sat on the sandy bottom while the dive master opened a container of chopped fish. Soon there were more sharks than I could count, swirling and gliding past me. Several times a shark swam past, and I could see its eye watching me, tracking me. Eventually, one swam right over my head, and I couldn’t resist. I raised my hand and touched its belly. It didn’t react at all, just glided past into the blue, my fingers tickling its entire length.
Since that time I have had a handful of opportunities to swim with sharks. I treasure each one, and never once have I felt even a fraction of the fear I felt watching Jaws in a swimming pool. Stupid Hollywood. 

What = Me

My life, like that of most people, seems to be a conglomeration of a handful of really good stories mashed together with dull, average, everyday life. For reasons that may be obvious, I, like most people, like to focus on the good stories and forget the other stuff. So when I started this blog, I thought of what I considered a "greatest hits" of my stories, condensed them down into cryptic one-sentence descriptions, and included the resulting list in my "About Me" section (seen to the right). Several people have asked me to write the whole stories out, and since the total number of people who read this blog is not significantly more than "several" I have decided to comply.

Unfortunately, I cannot figure out how to add links to the "About Me" section of the side bar. So I have added a page called "About Me." The link for it is at the top right. As I write the stories, I will link them on that list.

First up "I Have Managed To Touch a Shark"