Monday, February 11, 2008

We're Gonna Need a Bigger Boat

Ode to Roy Scheider who passed away Feb 10, 2008.  While he may have been twice nominated for an Oscar; he will forever be know to us as the shark defeating Captain Brody from JAWS. And the utterer of those immortal words "We're gonna need a bigger boat".

They say the best way to overcome a fear is to face it head on.  THEY are full of shit.  Coming face to face with your greatest fear and not having anything to protect you but a thin sheet of plastic is not going to cure your fear.  It might however get the US Navy wondering what the hell that noise was.

I have been deathly afraid of sharks ever since Steven Spealberg was nice enough to ruin my summer '75 water fun with his little movie - Jaws.  When I was a kid, I spent every summer going to the lake.  I was such a water baby that getting me out of the water at the end of the summer required a tow-truck, bribery and the shore patrol.  In fact, I think my Dad still owes me for the summer '79 bribe.... hummmmm.   

Background on the story.  My (then) boyfriend and I were spending Memorial day in Hawaii and wouldn't it be nice to do some of the adventure outings that Hawaii has to offer?  Swim with the dolphins.  Check.  See North Shore.  Check.  Eat Shaved Ice.  Check.  Dive with sharks.............  What?!?!!?

Thus we ended up at a place called Shark Dives (or something to that nature - I am still traumatized by  the whole event and have blocked certain details).  We are on a boat that doesn't have a head (bathroom to the land-lovers) and a motor that looks like my cat on catnip could outrun it.  There are three other couples.  My boyfriend.  Buckets of chum.  And me with half a bottle of xanax.  Did I mention no bathroom/head?  Not a good thing when you are about to have the living sheeeeeeeet scared out of you by the way.  Anyway, boat motors up to the cage, people go in the cage, cage goes in the water.  Just like that, you have meals on wheels for sharks.  A nice snack pack for the sharks that the boat captain and his mate are now chumming the waters in order to entice into some sort of feeding frenzy.  

Note on the type of sharks.  Before you think I am as nuts as CP and his dive buddy J, these were NOT Great Whites.  They were Galapagos Sharks and according to the nut-job herding the shark version of Soylent Green, are not known for eating people.  Damn good thing since my happy rear was going into a 5x5 cage with only a mask and a snorkel.

We get the five second lecture about putting our hands and feet outside the cage before we are handed a "dive set".  I can't even begin to tell you how much I was NOT looking forward to putting my body INSIDE the cage, let alone my hands/feet outside the cage.  Captain Ahab breaks the group in two and tells my boyfriend and I that we will be in group two.  Which gives me 15 minutes of complete panic time.  When facing your fears it is best to be in group ONE!  Why?  Because being in group two gives you fifteen minutes to allow an over-active imagination to run through all sorts of shark-attack-life-ending-scenarios that would give Rob Zombie a run for his money.  Shark Week is for light-weights when it comes to the crap I can think up in 15 minutes while watching 4 people play catch-me-if-you-can for a group of blood frenzied sharks.

My turn.  Boyfriend and I get into the cage with lucky couple number three.  Cage gets lowered into the water.  I start screaming....and kicking.....and screaming....and kicking.  (Anyone seeing a pattern here?)  Remember when the movie Alien ('79) was released?  "In space no one can here you scream."  Well in the North Shore waters of Hawaii, they can hear you all the way down at the Pearl Harbor Naval Base!  For 15 minutes straight, I kicked and screamed like a two year old not wanting to take a nap.  I managed to bruise and beat myself, my boyfriend, the other couple and (according to the captain) a few unlucky sharks who had sonar problems because of my terror induced sound waves.  It wasn't pretty and my fear of sharks was NOT cured.  My bottle of xanax however, was empty.

Skip to a year and a half later.  I am in diving off the Gulf Coast.  I have been reassured by EVERYONE that sharks are not seen this time of year.  (By now my fear of sharks has been beaten by my love of SCUBA diving.)  Anyway, we are in the water for our third dive when my dive buddy gives me the signal for "shark".  And just like the calm, cool, collected rational diver I had become.... I looked straight at it, flinged my fingers in an upwards motion  and scream "SSSSSSSHHHHHOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!"  To which this man-eating-menace of the sea turned on his tail and swam away.

Moral of this tale:  Sharks aren't bad.  Shark Movies are Bad.  And having a fear based on a movie and fiction is worse.  Sharks are beautiful creatures who (when seen in their element) are far more afraid of you than you are of them.  I have now "swam with sharks"on several dives and find them very harmless when respected.  They are more afraid of "us" than we should be of "them" ~rightly so given they way we treat the things we fear.  Am I cured of my "fear" of sharks?  Well..... not really.  Let's just say I have a health respect for their beauty and tranquility ...and prefer to observe them from several yards away.  

To read more about how we are impacting these creatures and see some awesome photos of sharks in action visit the sites listed below.
http://diverjeff.blogspot.com/
http://chrisparsons.net/blog/

Rest in Peace Captain Brody ~
"Show me the way to go home, I'm tired and I wanna go to bed, I had a little drink about an hour ago and it's gone right to my head, where ever I may rome by land, by sea, by home you'll never hear me singing this song show me the way to go home......"  
(Quoted from the movie Jaws.)

6 comments:

clh_95 said...

I hope that I get to be so lucky to dive w/sharks one day. I'm glad that you've overcome your fear. You are such a clever story teller. Really enjoy all your blogs. Just wish some newspaper (like The Onion) would pick up your column!!

Cora said...

I am glad you got over your shark problem. This is one of your funnier blogs. Sorry I have not posted before.

Anonymous said...

dadum, dadum, dadum, dadum, dadum........

(Sorry, couldn't figure out how to get the Jaws theme to translate into words.)

Good post.

Anonymous said...

you must be a movie nut or something.
Soylent Green
Rob Zombie
Alien
I have to say I would have never put the three in with a commentary on shark fears.

Ren & Stimpy said...

A friend told me that you are wickedly funny to read. She was right. I bet you can be hell on wheels when you want to be

Anonymous said...

Hilarious! You go girl!