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Into the Sharknado

Last summer, I wrote to you from the top of a tower, chronicling my days as an intern in corporate America. It’s been a whirlwind of a year since that time, and I admit, from where I stand now, my cozy little cubicle seems very distant.

But I had a random internship memory today that made me smile. Would you think me an entirely lame and boring person if I admitted to enjoying Tuesday afternoon staff meetings? Our six-man team would take an hour every Tuesday to update each other on what we were working on, highs and lows of the week, new things we had learned, that kind of thing. However, it was also late enough in the workday that sometimes it also turned into a time to swap stories, jokes, vacation photos, funny Facebook posts, and that kind of thing. The specific memory I had today was of one staff meeting where somehow the conversation had devolved so far that we were talking about the Sharknado movies, of all things. One of our coworkers had never heard of them so we ended up watching the trailers to the movies. All five of them. In a row.

If you haven’t heard of the Sharknado movies, allow me to enlighten you. It’s pretty much like the title sounds. Basically the plot, from what I gathered in the trailers, is that a tornado forms over the ocean and… picks up a bunch of sharks. In a tornado. And then it moves over to a populated area (with sharks still swirling around in this giant tornado of water) and they start eating people and wreaking havoc and the heroes have to fight them with chainsaws or something.

I’m not making this up. Somebody actually thought, “hey, let’s make this into a movie,” five times.

Correction. Six. The sixth installment of this masterpiece of cinema is apparently arriving in 2018. Spare us all.

But to continue on in a sharky vein for a while—can we all agree that sharks have it a little rough? Give em a break! They seem to always be the bad guys.  It’s easy to laugh at the ridiculousness of a tornado full of sharks spewing angry sea life down the street. It feels noble to join in the outcry against the portrayal of sharks as mindless eating machines (and to chuckle at the reformed sharks trying hard to be nice in Finding Nemo.) Sharks are beautiful to gaze at from behind bulletproof glass in an aquarium tunnel. They’re fascinating to learn about (hit me up if you want some cool shark facts!) and Shark Week is probably the best program there is on Discovery. I even follow a couple of tagged Atlantic Great Whites on Twitter (Yes, that’s a real thing. The future is now, folks.)

But even as pro-shark as I am, when I found myself in the wildly tossing Atlantic ocean and circling between me and the sandy bottom was a literal sharknado, my first thought was to jump back in the boat as fast as my snazzy yellow flippers would carry me.  Instead, I let my brand new husband stuff a five pound block of solid lead into my pocket, because that’s the logical thing to do in these situations, right?

And so down we went, swarm of sharks and all.

waters fine
Come on in, the water’s fine!

(That’s an actual pic from John’s GoPro while we were still near the surface. If you looked down and saw this, would you jump in?)

I think it’s time for me to introduce you to my husband, John. He’s pretty much the coolest person I’ve ever met, and literally the only person I would jump into a school of sharks with. John’s a bit of a fish nerd (understatement.) He’s worked at an aquarium, been stung by a lionfish—that was a difficult injury to explain to the ER staff in a landlocked Midwestern Urgent Care—tracked down eels in the Caribbean, lived on an island in the Great Barrier Reef, observed wild Platypuses in their natural habitat (which I know are not fish but it’s a super cool fact about John so I thought it deserved mention here) and cruised around on a live-aboard dive boat off the coast of Australia. Casual. *swoons*

Our first conversation that I can remember was actually about sharks. So it seems fitting that we picked our honeymoon destination based on where we could go diving to see some together. When we told our friends and family that we were going cageless shark diving on our honeymoon we got responses ranging from “that’s super cool” to “YOU ARE CRAZY DO YOU WANT TO START YOUR MARRIAGE BY GETTING EATEN?!”

It’s fine, it’s safe, I would answer the skeptics in an enlightened voice. They’re actually small sharks, just between five and six feet. Not that big.

Guess who else is small, between five and six feet? Yup, it’s that little first-time SCUBA diver flailing about in the pink and purple wetsuit and suddenly reconsidering her definition of a “small” shark.

Oh, did I mention that jumping into shark town was my first dive as a certified SCUBA diver? Yeah, I actually finished my certification about an hour before the shark tour left the dock. If it’s not cool enough to descend into open ocean water for the first time without my instructor’s supervision—let’s make it interesting and throw 30 hungry sharks into the mix.

Oh yeah, the sharks were also hungry. Did I mention that? We actually planned on them being hungry, because our guide brought them treats and we paid to come down here while he gave them fish heads—literally putting blood in the water in the presence of hungry sharks because we are actually crazy.

nic for scale
A hungry Sharknado, with the dive master for scale

My brain screamed in shark-induced terror for about 3 seconds. It shut up when the first of those shiny grey beauties glided past me, almost close enough to touch, and then disappeared gracefully into the watery gloom.

I don’t know if you’ve ever visited a predator in his own natural habitat who was so indifferent to your presence that he could just swim past you without a glance, cruising along on his sharky day, just doing his thing. If you have, you know what it feels like. It makes you want to break the number one rule of SCUBA which is always keep breathing, and just sit there and stare in breathless awe.

More and more of those lovely sharks passed us by. Some looked like they were headed straight for us only to veer off at the last second, giving us up-close views of their sleek bodies and their dark eyes. One of them had a jaggedly torn jaw that made his mouth droop open, giving him the appearance of having a big goofy grin. When our dive master brought out the fish, it was like a shark magnet. Suddenly there were more sharks—they were everywhere. Sharks have little regard for personal space, it seems. As they swarmed and jostled each other for some fishy snacks, they’d swim right between my head and John’s head. One of them just almost tail-slapped me in the mask. I felt the whoosh of the water on my face as he charged on by to try to get a treat.

I’ve seen the colors of the Grand Canyon. I’ve hiked along the edge of the Cliffs of Moher. I’ve stood at the top of the Eiffel Tower. I’ve held the tiller of a sailboat as the wind drove me across the waves. Those are all spectacular things. But holding hands with my life companion on the bottom of a sea that’s pulsing with life everywhere, with sleek, beautiful sharks swimming above us, behind us, and between us?

That’s something else.

I think it’s safe to say I am now even more pro-shark than I was before. If you visit our home, you’re likely to notice our shark mug, shark fridge magnet, shark bumper sticker, wooden shark figurine, and shark t-shirts. I guess it comes with the territory… if you don’t get eaten by the sharks, you have to buy all the merchandise to prove you actually swam with them. And even though the sharks didn’t bite me, I definitely got bitten by the diving bug. Now that I’ve got a lifelong dive buddy, I doubt you’ll be able to keep us out of the ocean. It will be hard to top sharks though, but I think I have an idea.

Next stop… whales???

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