My intention when I started this blog wasn’t merely to recap all of my catastrophic and near-catastrophic run-ins with nature. My actual point was to give myself an outlet where I could write honestly about life and the experiences which shape us and make us who we are. Nuts to that though, I almost died on Friday and guess whose fault it was? That’s right. Nature. Allow me to explain.
A little over a year ago, I wrote about my complex relationship with the sea. The long and the short of it is that I used to love the ocean and then I got really weird and awkward as a teenager and decided that I hated the ocean. Once I put the teenage thing behind me, (never managed to shake that weird and awkward thing though, what a bummer) I warmed back up to the sea and we’ve been pals ever since.
As we discussed in my blog about my harrowing run-in with a horseshoe crab, my family and I were down the shore last week. All week long, I frolicked in the sea. I went in a least twice a day, sometimes going out so far that my feet were nowhere, and I mean nowhere, near the bottom. I learned this by thrusting myself in an upward manner and then submerging myself rapidly. Often times it took quite a while before my feet touched. So yeah, I was out there. Not so far out as to draw the ire of the lifeguards because I am no rebel. I’m a line-toer if there ever was one.
Anyway, at dinner on Thursday I noticed I had a splinter in my finger. Never one to just leave well enough alone, I began picking at it incessantly. Maybe it was my natural stubbornness coming out, maybe it was the OCD, but I just couldn’t let the situation stand – or wait until I got back to our shore house and could access tweezers. I kept picking and picking and then lo and behold I got the splinter out. Unfortunately, I also managed to pick off a small chunk of skin with it, leaving me with a very minor war wound. Somehow I managed to resist the urge to tear my clothing to shreds and instead waited until we returned to the shore house before I bandaged it.
Flash forward to the next day. It’s our last full day at the shore. The sun is coming and going and there’s a decent breeze. The conditions aren't ideal for swimming in the sea and I also had the finger situation to consider. I wasn’t overly concerned about the salt water irritating the still-opened wound. What I was really worried about was bacteria. No offense to my legions of New Jersey readers, but the state has a reputation as not necessarily being the cleanest place on Earth. I had visions of some horrible, nightmarish amoeba swimming into my body through the wound and rotting me from the inside out.
Once that thought entered my brain, the decision was easy. Even though it was due to be my last dance with the sea, I elected to stay on dry land. And that choice, without a shadow of a doubt, saved my life.
As I sat on the beach, my usual beach-based activities (reading and zoning out), were interrupted by my mother. “Oh my god!” she exclaimed. “I can’t believe it!” She was looking at the beach to the left of the one we’d put down stakes in. I followed her gaze and saw a large group of lookey-loos standing at the water’s edge. I was intrigued, but not enough to do anything about it. I zoned out again.
My mom, the confirmed source of my own stubbornness, persisted in trying to gather the attention of our whole group, myself included. So she bought out the big guns. The words no one on a beach can ever hope to ignore. “He caught a shark!”
I looked back over to the other beach and saw a fisherman standing near the breakers, struggling with an unseen beast. It was hidden in the water. “Poor thing,” she said. “I hope they don’t hurt it.” Keep in mind, it was just days earlier a different female in my life used the words “Poor thing” to describe a fearsome aquatic menace. I watched as the fisherman struggled to set what I’d been led to believe was a shark free. He tried to drag it back to its watery home, but the breakers kept forcing it back to land. So he summoned his courage, much as I did when facing the horseshow crab, picked the thing up to about shin-level (not high enough for me to get a good look at it, sadly) and carried it back into the water. Then he high-tailed it back to land because he was no fool.
The excitement was over and everyone went back to their beach activities, except for me. I looked at the tiny bandage on my finger and thought “OCD and stubbornness have saved me from nature!” The takeaway for people who know me is that I will be doubling down on both the stubbornness and the OCD from here on out, so you all have that to look forward to. Also, second takeaway, suck it, nature. You sent a shark to take me out, but I bested you this time.
I opened my shore odyssey with a quote from Mitch Hedberg, so it’s only proper that I close it with one from him. After all, no one screams “beach” like Mitch.
“You know when they have a fishing show on TV? They catch the fish and then let it go. They don't want to eat the fish, but they do want to make it late for something. ‘Where were you?’ ‘I got caught!’ ‘I don't believe you, let me see the inside of your lip.’” – Mitch Hedberg