Suppose you’re on vacation with your family for a few weeks. Maybe in the Hawaiian Islands or some other tropical place that smells like pineapples and pot 99% of the time. And suppose that one lovely morning, after wrestling on your swimsuit and dousing your body with SPF 34,000 sunscreen, you decide to casually wade into the crystal clear ocean and just relax for a while. As you stand there, waist-deep in the warm, blue water, your mind suddenly clears and you promise yourself that from now on, you’ll live your life better. No longer will you be an anxious, crabby or paranoid person. No, instead, you’ll be like a wave, gently crashing Zen-like onto the shore, able to handle whatever the tide brings your way. Then you smile as a little, yellow fish swims by and realize that, at long last, you’re at peace with the world. Everything is calm. Everything is good.
So, supposing all that, what’s the worst possible thing someone could say to you at that very moment?
Well, a few things probably come to mind. Like, “Hey, Boobs, is this your bikini top I just found?” or “Watch out! Here comes Hurricane Englebert!” or even just, “Excuse me, but did you see my son’s swim diaper float by? He always has trouble keeping it on when he has the stomach flu.” But unfortunately, what I heard wasn’t any of those statements. (Which is a shame, really, because I could easily deal with all of those things.) (Except for the free-range swim diaper, of course. That crap requires a HazMat suit and the service of the United States Coast Guard.)
No, what was said to me, while standing in the Pacific Ocean 15 feet from the shore, basking in my newfound inner peace was this:
“HEY, LADY! LADY! WATCH OUT! THERE’S A SHARK BEHIND YOU! I SAID THERE’S A SHARK BEHIND YOU! GET OUT OF THE WATER! NOOOWWW!!!”
At first I didn’t understand why the large, blonde woman on the beach was screaming at me and waving her arms like a crazy person, so I just squinted at her and yelled back, “What’s that? There’s a “shelf” behind me? Why is there a shelf in the water? Like a book shelf? Or do you mean a sea shelf? Or a sea shell. Is that what you’re saying? Seashell? Well, thanks for telling me, but I’m fine, so…”
“LISTEN, LADY! I’M SAYING THERE’S A SHARK IN THE WATER!”
“What? Ohhhh. You’re saying ‘shark,’ not ‘shell!’ Well, that makes more sense because I really couldn’t figure out why you’d get so worked up about a…HOLY SHIT!! THERE’S A SHARK IN THE WATER! THERE’S A SHARK BEHIND ME! I NEED TO GET OUT OF THE WATER! NOOOOWWW!!!”
“YEAH, THAT’S WHAT I’VE BEEN SAYING, LADY! SHUT UP AND GET OUT OF THE WATER!”
As I desperately tried not to freak out and began ungracefully slogging to the shore through water that now felt like frozen molasses, a jumble of thoughts immediately ran through my head. First, wouldn’t it be great if I knew how to swim? Second, per The Discovery Channel, don’t sharks only attack people if they think they look like prey? Therefore, is my Land’s End skirtini making my ass look like a chubby, baby seal right now? Or just a chubby baby? And third, I hate to say it, but that Spielberg was right. This scene would really be much cooler with some awesome theme music right about now.
Finally reaching the safety of the beach, I ran over to my husband and screamed, “OH, MY GOD! I JUST ESCAPED FROM A SHARK!”
He looked at me, stunned, and said, “That’s amazing!”, then he started frantically digging around in our beach bag. I stood there shivering, eagerly waiting for him to wrap me in a beach towel and give me ice cream like they do on Baywatch, but he then surprised me by excitedly holding up an underwater camera, yelling, “I’ll be right back!” and running off to the water with a happy smile on his face. I kicked at the sand and wished, for the first and probably only time, that I was actually married to David Hasselhoff.
After I wrapped myself in a towel and finally got my breathing back to normal, the town-crier blonde woman came over to me and urgently pointed to something in the water. And there, right where I had just found my tranquility not five minutes ago, was a 3 foot-long black-tipped reef shark, swimming around like he owned the place. “Wow,” I said to her. “That was sure a close call!”
She looked me up and down, thought quietly for a few minutes, then said, “Well, not really, lady. You see, sharks only attack people if they look like prey. And trust me, your legs are too white for that to ever happen.”
I smiled at her nicely, said “thank you,” and then, like a wave, floated over to my umbrella, crashed Zen-like into my beach chair and immediately reached for my bottle of sunscreen.