As my wife Kara and I headed deeper out into the ocean, I couldn’t help but scan the foamy brown water for any signs of creatures higher on the aquatic food chain than ourselves. I know that the odds say that my time would be better spent scanning the sky for any incoming meteors that might knock a winning lottery ticket out of my hand while a Nigerian prince is moving a large sum of money into the domestic checking account that I have graciously provided for him, but I still just can’t get comfortable when I’ve put myself in the position of potentially becoming reverse sushi.
Kara and I were swimming with my family off the Outer Banks of North Carolina, the place that received national media attention several years back for an unlikely string of shark attacks. This was back in the time when shark attacks were the most important thing for us to know about, mostly because Brad Pitt hadn’t gotten together with Angelina Jolie yet.
I couldn’t shake that uneasy feeling the whole time we were in the water, improbable as a shark attack may be. A fresh reminder of sharks’ presence in the area had washed up on shore earlier that day, about a mile down the beach from us, in the form of a nine-foot carcass. By the time I happened upon it — “There’s a stinking, rotting shark carcass on the beach? Let’s go check it out!” — all of its teeth had been removed. The following day, its head and tail had been sawed cleanly off. I never get any good souvenirs like dead shark heads. Mostly I just bring home sand in my body crevices. Here is how that gift-giving scene must have gone:
“Thanks for the shark head, Cletus! I’ll set it on the mantle by our wedding picture. Oh, you got the tail, too — we’re gonna be eatin’ good tonight!”
Anyway, after we swam back to shore, my cousin-in-law Dave smiled and said, “I’m glad the sharks didn’t feel like Italian today.” It was nice to hear that I wasn’t the only one worried about becoming a razor-toothed creature’s meatball.
While we were there on vacation, I found that the Outer Banks is the perfect place to go if you’re looking to justify your SUV purchase. It’s the only place I’ve ever been to where I didn’t automatically think, “I guarantee that the person driving that thing is a jerk,” every time a Hummer H2 went by.
Many places in the Outer Banks simply don’t have access roads at all, and the only way to get to some spots is to drive down the beach in an SUV with slightly deflated tires, jumping over huge sandy ruts and splashing through small tidal pools, and occasionally running over small children’s sand castles. I’ve never seen a place in real life that looked more like an SUV commercial. None of these activities would have been possible riding in my wife’s Honda Civic, unless it was being dragged across the sand by a large tow truck or Barry Bonds.
The most important lesson I learned on vacation was this: Always tie your bathing suit on tight. I can’t think of a single situation in which this could ever be a bad idea. And as I found out the hard way, you never know when your three-year old cousin is going to mistake you for a maple tree and try to climb up you. He will do this by grabbing a fistful of your pants and pulling as hard as he can. Also, he will wait until you are holding a glass of water and standing in front of several family members, so that you only have one hand with which to attempt to recover your swimsuit and your dignity.
You can show Mike Todd how to tie a double knot online at firstname.lastname@example.org.