Saturday, September 7, 2013

Summer Reflections - Part II - Shark Week

Since her college days, our daughter Casey has loved PBS’s Shark Week.  She says her obsession with the series began as an effort to ease, or at least balance, her morbid fear of the prickly-toothed beast.  That goal has not been realized, but when Shark Week is broadcast, Casey is on the couch in front of a TV.  It was a triumphant moment when I discovered a birthday card for her last year that depicted a cartoonish shark in just that pose, remote control in hand (or in fin, I should say) gleefully exclaiming, “Yay!  It’s ME week!”  So very Casey. 

For those who do not know, this week (that of August 5) is Shark Week.  Today, as Casey and her boyfriend PJ join Dave and me on the beach in Weekapaug, from the safety of the sand, we chat about the previous night’s show and scan the expanse of ink-blue water in search of dorsal fins or ominous shadows.

“Jaws” came out soon after I graduated from Trinity College.  I’d spent the summers of my freshman and sophomore year working on Martha’s Vineyard, which is also the setting of the movie.  One of the minor characters, a young guy who enjoys a drunken romp on the beach with a shapely blond who gets chomped by a great white early in the story, also went to Trinity.  Two too many parallels for me, and I was shaken.  Shaken to the extent that, to this day, I never swim underwater without some anxiety and the “Jaws” theme drumming in my head, and I never go into the water without first surveying the seas before me.  “That won’t help you, Mom,” says Casey.  Chock full of info from last night’s show, she adds, “They’re fast.  They come right up beneath you.  You’ll never see it coming.”

Great.  Thanks Case.

Dave nibbles pistachio nuts, grins maniacally, and flips the shells into the breeze, trying to land them on his daughter.  Relaxation is not Dave’s forte and if there is not a game of some sort in play, he creates one.  “Pistachio Provocation” is a favorite and he is endlessly entertained by Casey’s good-natured annoyance as shells catch in her hair, skip off her arm, and settle on her stomach.  “You’re a child Dad. ” she says with a snort.  “Beyond irritating.”

That’ll stop him. Not.  For Dave, such an admonition is bait, if you will, akin to the scent of seal to a shark. 

Meanwhile, PJ has been on his phone doing research on shark attacks.  He rattles off statistics that trigger my animal rights sense of injustice.  “In 1996, 43,000 Americans were injured by toilets, and 11,000 by buckets and pails.  Only 13 were injured by sharks.    You are far more likely to be killed by a toaster than a shark,” PJ continues.  “600-700 people die each year in toaster incidents versus 20 people killed by sharks.  And domestic dogs?  50 deaths per year.  But get this, for every human killed by a shark, 2 million sharks are killed by humans.”

I have no love of sharks and wish no one a maiming by those gruesome teeth, but those numbers really piss me off.  “Whenever animals kill humans, they are branded vicious killers and hunted down.  What about the innocents we slaughter every day, all the pigs, calves, chickens and baby lambs?”

There is a pained silence.  Buzzkill.  I’ve turned a little enlightenment into a soapbox moment, but still, I think I have a point.

With sighs, we turn to gaze out to sea where we spot movement, a swimmer, as it turns out. With our eyes, we follow her path as vigorous strokes propel her toward the horizon.  Finally she swings left for a lengthy lap along the shore. With admiring nods, we applaud the woman’s courage and style, but decide her bold embrace of the sea indicates she is probably not spending evenings enthralled by tales of the gaping maw of the megaladon on PBS.


Joanie said...

This was a bit tougher to read than most posts, given the Jaws theme running though my head, prompted by your earliest mention of the same. Loved the Pistachio Provocation game - very easy to picture that going on....and on....and on. Thanks for this one. Always happy to be part of a Sylvestro outing at the beach.

Billy said...

My belief was that if you lay flat in the water, you are seen by the shark as a floating, organic consumable object, whereas if you are straight up and down and treading water, you are not seen that way and have the ability to kick. Not that that theory has been put to the test by me or anybody I know, for all I know I could just be spitting out CHUM!

Lea said...

Ah Billy, only you would have some practical wisdom, instructions in fact, on how to avoid being shark fodder! XXXOOO

Laurie said...

More people killed by toasters? Now I'll hear the "Jaws" theme when I walk into my kitchen.