When i was a kid, I had a lot of different dreams. One of my dreams was to be a marine biologist (because isn’t it the dream of every desert-dwelling kid to live a life immersed in water?). I guess I wanted it because I can swim really well… The only thing is, my fat ass doesn’t sink. Literally. I have to force myself to not float like I’m in the Dead Sea when I’m swimming in a pool. I can tread water without doing anything–this is also known as the vertical float. I can’t teach the art of floating to my own children because it’s like teaching them how to breathe. I don’t know how I do it, I just do
All of this leads into the day the marine biologist dream died.
In all honesty, it had been on its way out for probably a couple of years anyway, since I wasn’t very good in Math. Or Science. I was good at Biology, but I didn’t get Chemistry until about a month ago. 20 years after my last Chemistry class, and I finally got it. The irony.
But I digress.
So, the family went on a vacation down Loreto, Mexico–my parents, my brother, a family friend, and Marit, the foreign exchange student. Marit and I didn’t get along that great (she lived a more sophisticated, worldly life than I did), but I think she was happy to go on this trip.
Anyway, we were two days into the trip when we chartered a boat to go scuba diving. My brother, father, and the family friend were dropped off on one side of an island, while Marit, my mother and I were dropped off on the other to go snorkeling.
I actually wanted to go snorkeling closer into the beach, but no one listens to me. So we went snorkeling in water near a very sheer drop off (the water went from rocks on shore to at least 40-50 feet deep just like that–no beach, no shelf, just deep water). Now, I should have realized this was a bad idea–the rocks were littered with seals. Bathing, barking, doing “seal” things (whatever that may be… in any case, it looks fun).
Here we arrive at Mistake Number One: swimming with shark food when the unsinkable you actually resembles shark food.
To go snorkeling, I had to take out my contact lenses. Given how I was well beyond legally blind when uncorrected, this left me able to make out only indistinct shapes.
Mistake Number Two: Swimming with shark food while shaped like shark food, and blind, to boot.
So, we’re snorkeling around, when I notice something that I took for A VERY BAD SIGN: the seals all began coming in to shore. Not lounging, not loitering. They were coming into shore and launching themselves on the rocks.
I looked up for the boat, which I could make out as a fuzzy white shape barreling toward us. I looked for my mother, who was snorkeling about 20 feet away.
“Mom?” I called. “I want to get out of the water.”
“Don’t be melodramatic,” my mother responded.
But the seals were coming to shore quickly, and launching themselves out of the water, because, well, they’re smarter than we were. There was nothing slow and gradual about this: they were literally throwing themselves out of the water. Not only this, but the boat, which had drifted away from us, was roaring toward us, and the driver (pilot? boatman?) was yelling at us in Spanish.
I don’t speak Spanish, because my father convinced me in 7th grade that German (German?!?!?!) was more practical.
But I didn’t have to see the wild gestures I was later told he was using, because I already knew what was about. I may have been blind, but I could recognize a bad situation when I was in one… Not only that, but a very large shadow was swimming underneath me, and, given that seals were flinging themselves out of the water, I was pretty certain I knew what very large shadow was.
And thus, we come to Mistake Number Three: For future reference, trying to crawl out of 40-50 ft. deep water on to rocks covered in barnacles while very large shadow swims beneath you is NOT a good idea. But it will leave your knees and hands and elbows abraded.
Convenient, if you want to chum the water with your own blood. Not so much if you think you might want to, I don’t know, live.
Mistake number three leads almost immediately into mistake number four. At this point, I decided my best bet was to get to the boat, and fast.
Mistake Number Four: Listening to my mother (we’re all guilty of this one at one point in time or another).
I was the first one back to the boat–blind desperation is a GREAT motivator, but my mother insisted I allow Marit to get in the boat first. So Marit took the hand of the driver (there was no ladder to assist us in getting in), climbed into the safety of the boat, and promptly lost her bikini top.
Mistake Number Five: Believing my life might be worth more than ogling a topless, large-breasted German chick (FYI, it’s not).
To this day, I’m not entirely certain she wasn’t trying to kill me. I mean “Whoops, my boobs just happened to fall out of my top at the worst possible moment for you! So sorry!” Really??? Because I guess she hadn’t learned her lesson when she lost her entire bathing suit in Malibu (This begs the question: Who loses an entire bathing suit? Unless the wave that hit her was the special five-fingered kind, and had some help, I’m not seeing it.).
The boat driver completely lost his bearings in assisting said German girl with her top, leaving my mother and me in the water with very large shadow swimming beneath us. But whatever. I was getting into that boat if it was the last thing I did, so I grabbed ahold of the side of the boat and started hoisting myself in.
And then my mother wailed, “Meg, you have to push me into the boat!”
Seriously? Oh, yes, seriously. And pulling her in once I got in wasn’t going to do–I had to stay in the water and push her out.
So much for survival of the species.
Anyway, I looked down, and I could swear very large shadow had gotten bigger–and closer.
So I grabbed ahold of my mother’s bathing suit, and, with strength born of sheer adrenaline and the desperate, illogical fear I would die a virgin, threw her and myself into the boat. By this time, the most pressing concern–that Marit had most of her clothes on–had been resolved, and so, exhausted and terrified, we went back to the other side of the island to pick up the boys.
And the identity of very large shadow? Well, that was a hammerhead shark. This was confirmed by both the boat driver and several scuba divers on the other side of the island who saw it.
The unsinkable Meggan Connors could have potentially become the very edible Meggan Connors. I am sure I would have been tender and juicy, like veal. Oi.
That was the day the dream of becoming a marine biologist died, never to be resurrected. Because as much as I like fish, I don’t want to be fish food.