Encounters of the Phobic Kind

Last week, Tom and I flew from Houston to Atlanta to Savannah to be picked up and driven to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. My family was vacationing there, and we got to spend a week in a great beach house with GORGEOUS views of the ocean and the wetlands leading to the ocean.

But that is not what today’s post is about. Today…we talk about…Sharks.

I am terrified of sharks. Have I ever mentioned that before? I hate them. I really, truly, hate them. They simultaneously scare me stiff and have me running in the opposite direction. The result of that on my body is chills, a wildly beating heart, and a brain that is in full-out self-preservation panic mode. They completely undo me.

I’m not sure why this is. Other than the obvious. The rows of razer sharp teeth.  The immense power. The lightening quick speed. The ability to swim right by you undetected. The fierce predatory instinct. The incredibly enhanced power of smell, and the fact that I’ve always got a cut or scab somewhere on me. And the way they just look menacing.

But other than that…I mean, I’ve never had a “bad experience” with a shark. Never lost a family member to one or known someone who was attacked by one. I just am terrified. To a phobia level. I can’t watch Jaws. I can’t watch Shark Week. I literally came to the verge of tears once in high school when I realized Tom caught sharks bigger than me in Florida. Too scary.

Every time I go snorkeling, I ask the guides about whether they frequently have sharks in the area. Because buddy, you can’t PAY me to get into water where I MIGHT see a shark. By the way, they lie. They all lie. Every time I finish snorkeling, someone is telling me about sharks that were in that area last time they went. Ugh.

All that to set you up for this. One day during the week at the beach, I decided I was hot. I was getting in the water. My family and friends that have ever been to a beach with me…or even swimming with me anywhere…know my fear. They know I hate sharks. This was the first time in over a year that I’d actually gone out into the water. The water is not clear, and you can’t see what’s coming up next to you. It’s creepy. Also, you have to go out pretty far in the water before it gets deep. Just keep that in mind.

Anyway, I decided to get my legs wet. I went in, and Tom, and our friends Lee and Melissa, who had come up from Savannah for the day, came in with me. My sister-in-law, Lisa, and my nephew and nieces, Tyler, Madeline, Anna Kate, and Violet, were all at the water as well. Melissa said it was too cold to go in past her calves. Lisa and the girls were in similarly shallow water. Tyler, Lee, and Tom were out a bit deeper.

I slowly worked my way out to where the guys were, up to about my hips. Then I started playing a game with Tyler, chasing him and tossing him into the water. We ended up deep enough that the water was up to my ribs and just his head (he’s 7) was sticking out of the water. Then I went back and got Violet, my 1& 1/2 year old niece. Lee said to me, “something just hit me in the leg.” I moved away from where he was.

We went out to Tyler again and were playing when all the other adults got quiet. Tyler, Violet and I  came in a bit closer to them, and I noticed Melissa, Lisa, Tom and Lee glancing at me. Then Tom said, “Meghan, look at what that guy’s pulling in.”

About ten yards away from us, a guy was fishing…and he caught a shark. It was about 3 feet long. All I could manage to say was, “NUH-UH.” Then I ran for it. I came charging out of that water, clinging to my little niece. She was shark bait waiting to be chomped. Melissa was still laughing at me ten minutes later saying she’d never seen anyone get out of the ocean so fast. I managed to hit dry sand before the people who were in the most shallow water, so I guess I was moving. Regardless, they all enjoyed seeing the terror stricken look on my face. I’m sure that’s why Tom told me to check out the shark while I was still in the water instead of getting me on dry land first.

I thought that was the worst of it. Until the same fisherman said, “yeah, this one’s little. Yesterday, I caught a 5 and a half foot shark that had to weigh over a hundred pounds.” Then he got out his camera to show us the picture. Sucker was HUGE. And the dude had a bruise from reeling it in for fifteen minutes. He must be a little crazy, because he said he had to go out INTO THE WATER WITH THE SHARK to get it deep enough to swim off again.

No, thank you. Just let it die. I don’t care. PETA can kiss it. I don’t need any angry, people-hating sharks in the water with me or the children in my family.

Now that I have conclusive evidence of sharks in the waters directly in front of my tanning spot, I have a strong opinion: If I can’t see what I’m swimming with, I don’t need to swim. It’s just not that important. I’ll swim in the pool instead.

In conclusion, Hilton Head Island is pretty, a nice vacation spot, and very relaxing. Enjoy the view, get a tan, and avoid the water.

I’m not kidding, y’all.


7 thoughts on “Encounters of the Phobic Kind”

  1. Replace ‘shark’ with ‘spider’ and you have me. :}
    In general, swimming where I can’t see what’s in the water kind of bugs me. Like lakes. Even if I know it’s probably just a bass or carp or some stupid little harmless fish. We went rafting this weekend but not before I noticed two FAT snakes sunning themselves on the rocks in the river. So… I clung to the raft like a koala to the eucalyptus the entire time.

    So.. I’m guessing you don’t do the ‘touch the nurse sharks and manta rays’ thing at the Aquarium either huh? :}

    1. I am that way about spiders and roaches also. I abhor them.

      And I don’t blame you for clinging to that raft! Smart. Better than getting bitten. Water snakes are usually poisonous. At least, in Georgia, they are. Yikes.

      Actually, the second time we were at the aquarium, Tom forced me over to that “touch tank” and told me I HAD to touch a shark. I’ve been swimming with stingrays before, but they had their stingers clipped. They didn’t bother me without the stingers. But touching a shark? Even a nurse shark? It took me about ten minutes to work up the guts. And then I screamed. I mean, I literally squealed, loudly, at an ear-splitting pitch. And all the little kids and their parents, delightfully and willingly putting their hands into a pool of sharks and stingrays, laughed at me. I decided it was time to go look at the otters. haha

  2. Please. Ignorance is bliss. You would’ve been fine had you never seen ’em (so I take responsibility for that one).

    Seriously, I don’t get it but that’s cool. Maybe you can just pretend really hard they are unicorns?

    1. I don’t think so.

      That’s kind of like the time you told me that if I pretended really hard, I could speak Russian. Not gonna happen, dude.

  3. I didn’t want to tell you, but guess why James didn’t swim in the water after the first day at the beach? A really big shark swam into his leg when he was out in the water, and he decided it was time to get out for good.

    Also, James said that he was talking to some guys who fly helicopters for the Coast Guard, and they told him that if people could see what is swimming just off the shore, right beside them, they’d never get into the water.

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