The Summer of Jaws

February 8, 2012

Essays for Giggles, Me vs. Nature

For me, 2010 was the Summer of Jaws.  My husband, daughter and I had just arrived in St. Augustine for an extended holiday weekend.  We drove straight to the beach upon arrival, which happened to be around the standard dinner hour for sharks, also known as, “dusk”…

I should have known better.  The sun was low in the sky.  The water was gray.  I stood on the sand holding our dachshund on his leash, at water’s edge, while my husband and daughter played in the surf a few feet in front of me.

The beach was deserted and only folks eager to be a shark’s appetizer seemed to be in the water while the sun was setting.  A family about 30 feet to my right came out of the water to tell me that they had just seen a shark near the shore.

I immediately called to my husband who was holding steady my 4 foot tall daughter in knee-deep water… the point being, it was SHALLOW, and they were only a few feet from me… “Come in… there is a shark”… I called, gesturing urgently.

Now, those that have known me since childhood, when I was irreparably damaged by seeing “Jaws” at age 12 at the drive-in theater in Franklin, KY with my parents, would be amazed that I handled the situation so calmly.  After all, I didn’t want to freak out my daughter.

I got both of them safely out of the water, still not seeing an actual shark, and not even entirely sure that the people who warned us were not crazy… and then my gaze fell closer to shore… and there it was… the telltale dorsal fin of a shark, not 20 feet in front of me, leaping in and out of the surf as it chased its dinner.

The reason I did not spot him before is that I was looking OUT to sea… and the damn thing was swimming where the surf broke at approximately the height of my knee… I could have skipped twice and reached out and touched him…

Strangely, I wasn’t THAT afraid, knowing my child was out of the water… and not particularly afraid for myself… it was approximately 4 feet long and I could have beaten the crap out of it, if I were so inclined…

But I looked to the left… as it traveled in that direction… and noticed sporadic groups and families down the next mile or two.  The people who warned us seemed to think their obligation was complete.  My husband seemed to feel like the day was done… but forgive me for being, I don’t know what you would call it… a HUMAN BEING?… I didn’t want the folks a couple hundred yards to my left to lose a toe or a hand or a toddler to a shark bite when WE, people who were in sight of them, knew a shark was in the water.

I also knew I would never hear the end of it , if I pursued my natural instinct, which was to run screaming down the beach like Chief Brody yelling, “SHARK… there is a shark in the water… GET OUT of the water!”… so doing both my civic duty and maintaining my marital pride at the same time, I very casually told A. that I was going to walk the dog down the beach.  He laughed knowingly.  I ignored him.

I did not hurry.  I was slow and deliberate… but with purpose, as if I was just casually walking the dog while simultaneously trying to save my fellow Man.  As I came upon each group, I said, “Hey, there is a shark in the water.”  The first group of portly Eastern European women that I came upon seemed to ignore me.  It occurred to me we did not share the same language.

I said, “Do you speak English?” as I held up my hand sideways, waved it back and forth in the air like a swimming fish, thumb up to represent the fin… they immediately recognized the  international sign of the shark and started backing their behinds out of the water.  My heroic actions that day saved folks from all over the world.

I got a surfer out and a family dipping their babies’ feet.  I saw the shark once more as I walked, bobbing in and out of the surf… its belly had to be grazing the sand… at one point, I almost panicked for the shark, thinking it was going to get stuck just this side of the breaking waves and I was going to have to rush in and frantically push it out to sea.  Which would have been highly ironic.

This reminds me of the wildlife documentary that I saw many years ago… probably Mutual of Omaha,  back when companies’ sponsorship seemed to define the program and company as one and the same… and the footage showed a lioness trying to track down a gazelle for dinner – and more importantly, her babies’ dinner… I was in a state of panic for the prey… run… run… live!…. and it did… then moments later, I saw footage of those poor little baby lions crying for food for the third day in a row that Momma was not able to catch their dinner… and I was devastated that they were hungry… “No, you must have something to eat!”… The gazelle, perhaps?  Damn you Circle of Life!

And here I was again, decades later… not wanting the people to die… and not wanting the shark to die either… I just didn’t want it to eat my dog’s feet.

I was a hero that day, as I strolled purposefully… yet casually… so as not to look like an idiot… down the beach warning people to save their lives.  I had prayed for my own year-of-the shark every day since 1975 and here it was… my chance to battle the ultimate predator and win.  Would I do the right thing?  I walked until the beach was deserted.  I endured the humiliation of my husband teasing me and you should hear HIS version of this story.  But I saved untold dozens that day from the possibility of an abrasive scratch from a rough shark’s skin.  They should thank me.  But no one did.  They were too busy getting out of the water.

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About reneadijab

Renea Dijab

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2 Comments on “The Summer of Jaws”

  1. Kevin Ternes Says:

    I’m jealous. Many times when Craig and I were at Mexico Beach, we talked about wanting to see a shark. We never did. And here you go and get to see one and all you do is run up and down the beach flailing your arms and screaming like a woman.


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