Thursday, July 19, 2007
Everyone has fears. The type of fears that are for a large part unfounded....being robbed, burning alive, an intruder hiding in your back seat, losing a limb, air travel or even alien abductions. I even have a close friend who refuses to drive anywhere without emptying her bladder because she heard that if she were to get in an accident her bladder could explode.
I pride myself on being level-headed and not subscribing to even more sensible fears that could potentially alter my level of comfort or peace of mind. But there are two fears I have failed to escape: hitting someone with my car and being attacked by aggressive sea life i.e. shark, octopus etc.
My fear of hitting a pedestrian started with I was 15 years old in drivers education when my teacher, the awkward Mr. Tilley who was well known for his in-car flatulence, distinctive breathing pattern and monotone directives, told us about his daughter hit a college student when she was in Pocatello. The deep mental anguish and that he explained she went through has stuck with me for years.
Where the fear of ocean life attacking stems from, I don't rightly know. I fight the urge to beach myself even if I am in a lake, river or pool that is not lit because its the unknown — what is swimming under me that I can't see — that gets me. One time I was swimming in a canal with Ange. It was around midnight and the water was really dark. Out of the blue she said "what if there was a 'Jaws' in here." I freaked. We were out of there in an instant.
Well last week I had to meet my fear head on. I had decided to solely re-enact the famous last scene in the movie Gattaca where Ethan Hawk swims out in the ocean as far as he can. I hold to my assertion that that scene is the most powerful and moving scene in the history of moving pictures. But, I digress. As I was well away from shore I had slowed my strokes down and was taking a bit of a breather when it happened. Pain shot through my foot and I was certain my little toe had been bitten off. I don't think I have ever swam so fast in my life. I was pretty much just waiting for what would surely be a subsequent bite but I had to try and get away. Only the Christmas of 1989, where I received a giant Barbie house, a bike AND an Easy Bake Oven, can compete with the happiness I felt when I reached the shore with my leg still attached. And though it was covered in blood, so was my baby toe.
After a humiliating ruckus on the beach that may or may not have involved a beach jeep, three fine lifeguards, some crying and intermittent expletives, it was determined that I was nailed by a stingray. And should I not get to a tub of hot water to put my foot in to break down the poison then the searing and excruciating pain that I was feeling then would double — something I couldn't even imagine.
I haven't gone through anything overly traumatic. I have jacked my ankle more than a few times and wrecked on a dirt bike, dislocated a shoulder and had my lower back go out a couple of times. So yes. I have a limited frame of reference but I have honestly never been in that kind of pain in my entire life. People keep asking me how it feels. I think the best explanation is imagine setting the top of your foot on a hot burner for 4 seconds. Then take it off and constantly rub a rough washcloth over the burn for three hours and there ya have it. There were times I was pretty much sobbing and just wanted to crawl out of my skin. Thankfully the hot water helped substantially. As long as I kept my foot emerged then the pain was bearable. After about 3 hours I was able to walk again and it just turned into an ugly bruise with puss pockets covering the puncture wound.
So now I am among the elite few of 1,200 to 1,500 people in the US that get barbed by a stingray each year. But my toe is still sore and I still haven't been able to wear real shoes so I am yet to wear the designation with pride. It was an experience that I don't want to have happen again and thanks to the fact that I subscribe to convenient and twisted rational I am confident there will never be a repeat incident — kind of like chicken pox. The way I figure it since people seldom have to face their deepest fear and I have already faced off with one of them I both a) will never have to go through it again and b) are exempt from facing any other of my deep-seeded fears. Armed with that logic the next day I took to the waves worry free since I have already paid my dues. That was the best boogie boarding day I have had to date.