This one time (not at band camp) my daughter asked me to stay in the bathroom while she got her bath. When I asked her why, she said that she was afraid a Great White Shark was going to come up out of the drain and she just wanted someone there with her.
That got me thinking back to when I was a kid and the irrational fear I had about sharks. It was at the swimming pool. There were two diving boards: a low dive, which is what most pools have nowadays, and a high dive, which fewer and fewer pools seem to have. This high dive was about 12-15 feet high. Every time I stood on the edge of the diving board, I could clearly imagine the following scene: Just as I step off the diving board and commit myself to the freefall, a shark will emerge from the water directly beneath me and I will plummet straight into its mouth and eaten alive.
It didn’t matter that I KNEW that if there was a man eating shark in the pool, it would have been common knowledge and the pool would have been closed. It didn’t matter that I KNEW there was no way a shark could survive in a chlorine swimming pool. That’s the image that was in my head. I still jumped. But once I hit the water, I swam like the dickens to get to that ladder and out of the pool.
Then, strangely enough, that scene in my head kind of ended up really happening. When I was 10, my sister (who was in college) went on a trip with a big group of people to the Bahamas and she took me along. They had chartered a boat (named Sundancer). One day, everyone decided to go for a swim. Now, this was NOT a swimming pool. This is the actual ocean and there were actual sharks that lived in this ocean. Earlier in the trip, I had seen them. Needless to say, I didn’t want to go into the drink. I had my goggles on, but I didn’t want to go in. My sister was in the water telling me it was fine and that I could come on in, but I just stood on the deck of the boat in my goggles shaking my head no. So one of the guys grabbed me underneath the arms and threw me in. I screamed and held tightly onto my goggles, because I didn’t want them to fall of when hit the water and burn my eyes because of the salt. When I went under, I could see clearly because of the goggles. And I saw a shark. OK, so maybe it wasn’t a shark. Could’ve been a barracuda, might have been a dolphin, or it could have been a just a fish that was close, but at that moment, it was a goddamn shark. I swam back to the boat, scurried up the ladder and ran to my little cabin below deck. From then on, I wouldn’t go in the water.
To this day, whenever I go to a beach, I won’t wade out any farther than waist deep.
THAT was put to the test during sping break 2006 when we were given a trip to Hilton Head. One day, the dad of the other family we went with and I took all six kids for a walk down the beach. It was a fairly long walk…about 45 minutes down and about an hour or so back (cuz we were tired and walked slowly). On the way back, it seemed that the tide had come in and now there was…let’s just say…a river mouth where there wasn’t one before. We had to cross it in order to get back, no doubt about it. But this was really deep. The other dad went first with one of his kids and the water was up to mid-chest level on him, and he’s taller than me. But, I’m a dad and I’ve got my kids with me who need to get across. I don’t have the luxury of being uncomfortable in this situation so…I did what I had to do and took each kid across in turn, the water up to my chin, and all the while being nervous as hell because I’d read that places like that are a popular spot for things like sharks and what not. Definitely don’t want to do that again.
And yes, I sat on the bathroom floor with my book while she got her bath.