In its usual randomly informative way, Twitter just let me know this is Shark Week and I instantly cringed.

I’ve always had a severe fear of sharks.  This may or may not be rational.  From childhood I had to periodically hear how my birth father narrowly escaped the jaws of, well, Jaws.  It’s programming that at this point I can’t change much less erase.

Objectively, I understand that sharks perform a necessary role as apex predators and that, in their environment, we humans are demoted to items of curiosity.  Not actually prey, but odd fleshy things that bear investigation.

Unfortunately for us, sharks lead with their teeth.

The good news is that they tend to spit most people out.  The bad news is… not necessary to belabor.

Sharks are now in trouble, we’re told, and I have no doubt it’s true.  They’re sought after vigorously, for food, sport and material for expensive cowboy boots.  Which, in one of Life’s little ironies, are not waterproof.

But sharks are also great gist for entertainment, thus popular advents like Shark Week.  Why mothers get a single day and sharks enjoy an entire week of devotion, I’ll never understand.

I suspect that hype like Shark Week is meant to endear us to nature’s most efficient killing machine, to put them into a warm and scaly Finding Nemo context that helps us sympathize with their plight.  But no cartoon can overwrite mental images like the jerk fisherman in Port Aransas who chummed for the ruthless things fifty yards from carefree swimmers.  That swirl of silver bodies in bloody water wasn’t playing Words with Friends.

We were just fortunate that sharknados were unheard of at the time.

True story:

Right after I finished high school, a horde of us graduates descended on Corpus Christi, Texas for the first week of June.  I will confess that there was a great deal of alcohol consumed.

One day several of us were floating a way out from shore, dutifully encircling an ice chest stuffed into a car tire inner tube.  We were doing our best to lighten the tube’s load.

At one point someone started hollering “shark!  shark!”.  At first the rest of us didn’t believe…

Until we saw the fin cut the water.

You never saw a half dozen or so boozed-up graduates move through water so fast.  I’m talking Olympic speed.

We finally reached shore, gasping and puking, only to realize that Tom had not gotten the word.  He floated lazily out there, pale feet dangling deliciously into Sharkville, waving drunkenly at us each time we screamed his name.

We were terrified.  Horrified at the fate we knew would soon befall our naive buddy.  We’d seen that fin.  We’d all dragged our girlfriends to the movie Jaws years earlier.  We were aghast, afraid and now sick for what seemed like a valid reason.

Until we saw the big dolphin leap joyously behind Tom, the only one now not looking foolish.

Anecdotes aside, I get that shark attacks are rare and I shouldn’t let their occasional shoreline forays keep me in the ankle-deep end of the ocean.  But I’ve always tended to attract disaster and, as a true adherent to Murphy’s Law, it’s only a matter of time before I’d be that odd statistical example with which parents scare their children.

So, during ocean visits these days you’ll find me for the most part on dry land, baking my flesh and cooling off with Mai Tais.

It’s a much more pleasant way to go.

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