I’m okay, Internet. I’m okay. Better. The Friday Divorce Talk sent me reeling, I don’t know if you could tell or not. I’m not technically out of the woods quite yet. But I think I know which way I need to go now. It’s going to be very scary and hard, but…that’s all I really want to say about it for now. It’s just going to be very scary and hard. If I get like that again, first of all I promise to try to do it offline and if I can’t, I promise to…well, if I can’t, I completely understand if you want to break up with this blog. I really don’t know why people take me back, sometimes.
So. In order to keep my writing muscles warm and to try to keep this blog from turning into a Haunted Hotel of Darkness, can I take a sharp left and tell you my shark highway story? I actually have one about Zoo Atlanta, too, but it involves a lot of farting and I’m really trying to be classier. So let me start with my shark story and see where we’re at on time when I’m finished and then I’ll decide if I have room to tell the Zoo story:
Once upon a time, some girlfriends and I went to a beach on the Gulf of Mexico for a girls’ weekend over Labor Day. I think it was 2012. The entire weekend was amazingly gorgeous. Crystal clear blue skies, calm blue-green water, pearl-white sand. If you ever drive around the South, you’ll see people with “Salt Life” bumper stickers on their cars. This is what they mean: Jimmy Buffet, beach bumming it, margaritaville, Ernest Hemingway’s wet dream.
Historically, I do not venture out into the water further than my kneecaps. I saw all the Jaws movies; I know what lurks there. Intellectually, I know a shark can still eat me even if I’m in kneecap-high water but emotionally I feel much more in control if I can quickly exit the water. I am the same way on airplanes: intellectually I know if something goes haywire, that’s it but emotionally I feel like if I just watch the airline attendants’ faces and will them to keep looking calm I’m in total control. Like, even when I’m swimming in a pool, I’m on the lookout for suspicious activity, watching the lifeguards closely for signs of alarm. You know those 12 foot deep pools where the bottom is pretty murky because it’s so deep? Yeah. Jaws could totally survive in those, no matter how much chlorine they add.
But this weekend…maybe it was the gorgeous weather and the calm, see-through water. Maybe it was the safety in numbers. Maybe it was all the beer we’d consumed. I don’t know. But I went out into the ocean. I went out deep. Like up to my chest. Prime bait for Jaws and all his Jaws-y friends.
We took our beers and we stood, in the water, up to our chests, completely exposed to all the sea life. We chatted and laughed, sipping our Corona Lites, feeling confident and brave. I’m not sure how long we were there – 20 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour. But we were out there, deep in Jaws territory, for a long while. And then one of us saw a shadow in the water.
It was a large shadow. It was moving slowly and lazily in our direction, taking its time. This, after all, was its territory. Its home. Its hunting grounds. It was a good 50-100 feet away from us, to the left. We watched it coming towards us for awhile, wondering aloud what in the world it was…it was too flat to be a dolphin. Was it a sting ray? No, it was too thin to be a sting ray. Was it a whale? What??? Whales don’t come to this part of the ocean. And then one of us realized: oh my god that thing…that thing is a SHARK!
Holy Richard Dreyfuss as Matt Hooper, Internet!!! We started screaming and running for shore like Roy Scheider had just blown his whistle and was running up and down the beach yelling for everyone to GET OUT OF THE WATER GET OUT OF THE WATER NOW!!! One of us noted out loud that we were running toward it; should we be running TOWARD it??? You guys! Don’t run TOWARD it!!! We were seconds from shark collision. We did not care. We would beat that shark up! We needed to be on land PRONTO. Get out of our way shark!!
But then. Then! The shark saw us! Thank you in the name of Quint it turns out real sharks don’t act like movie sharks. As soon as it saw us heading for it, it got scared and darted away. We totally messed up its lazy swim/hunt/prowl/whatever it was doing that afternoon. I’m certain it swam as fast as it could to the shark bar and told all its shark buddies about the humans that almost attacked it.
When we reached the beach so very thankful our bodies and our lives were still intact and there was no blood in the water attracting more of them, a very southern lady named Earline came over to us laughing. She said, “Oh y’all! Y’ALL!! My friends and I been sittin’ back on this beach watchin’ all y’all for the last half hour just laughin’ and laughin’! Y’all didn’t know ’cause you couldn’t see, but you all were standin’ smack dab in the middle of a shark highway. We been watchin’ them things swim past y’all back and forth, back and forth. Some of ’em were almost right on top a y’all!” (peals of laughter from ladies behind her.)
We eventually forgave Earline and her friends and clinked drinks on the beach with them. And Earline was from Texas, so she really couldn’t help it I suppose. But still. Those old ladies were just fine letting sharks eat us out there, in the calm gulf waters, that day. This is why females battle to the death when they get into physical altercations with one another, I am sure of it. (But females are also the most fun for each other – Earline and her friends were at the beach to celebrate a friend’s 50th birthday. Every time someone in their group turned 50, they got a stuffed grey beaver on account of they were now in The Grey Beaver Club. And now my group does this as well but for those of turning 40…I currently possess the grey beaver. Miss M loves her to bits, and has given her the pink knitted beanie cap the hospital put on her little Miss M head when she was born. Miss M does not understand the concept of The Grey Beaver.) (Do you understand the concept behind The Grey Beaver Club? Women of a certain age…grey…BEAVERS. Think about it. Those were the kinds of women Earline and her friends were…salty and baudy and I aspire to be just like them in about 10 more years.)
Anyway. And thus concludes the story of the time I was almost eaten by a shark. Somewhere, there is a shark telling a tale to other sharks of the time a human almost attacked it for shark fin soup and sushi. And this story is the only time you will ever hear of me swimming with sharks. If I am ever swimming with sharks again, it will be because my ship sank or the plane nose dived into the Atlantic. Humans and sharks are not meant to swim together, and we are not friends.
If I had more time and room, I’d tell you the Zoo Atlanta story. It involves stomach issues, drinking wine in front of the gorillas, and trying not to puke into purses. Really, one of the other mammals should be in charge of the planet. We’ve become the kudzu of the animal kingdom.
Oh, Quint. You were the only guy who should’ve survived the jaws of JAWS.