I’ve always been a bit of a smart ass; often times it has been to my own detriment.
Once upon a time, before gravity wreaked havoc with my bits and bobs and wearing a bikini in public was still a possibility, I loved the beach. As a child I would often go with my family to the same beach each summer; a surf beach called Woolamai, in a lovely little place known as Phillip Island. From Woolamai, one can almost see another popular tourist attraction, Seal Rocks. As the name would suggest, this is basically a small, rocky island which houses a rather large seal colony. So here’s a question for all you Animal Planet buffs – what likes to eat seals, is big and ugly and lives in the warm waters off our Australian shores?
I have many fond memories of summers spent at Woolamai. One year we stayed in a caravan park close to the beach, and in the reception area there was a photograph pinned on the wall. It was a photograph of the ugliest, deadest Great White Shark that my youthful eyes had ever seen. After much “Ewwww”ing and Grossss”ing, a mischievous plan began to take shape.
As often was the case, we shared our holiday with my aunt, uncle and their children. One of those children was my slightly older cousin Tanya. She happened to be with me when I was ewwing and grossing at the spectacle of the big, ugly, dead shark, who for the sake of this story – and because it amuses me – shall henceforth be known as Jaws. She was deathly afraid of sharks, and quite rightly so. Jaws was caught just off Seal Rocks, the very same rocky island that is almost, but not quite visible from the shore at Woolamai. By the time we got to the beach my fledgling plan was fully formed.
If you’re brave enough to swim out to it, there is a sandbar at Woolamai where you can stand merely ankle-deep in the ocean. From the shore this looks remarkably like you’re walking on water. As small children this was obviously far too tempting to resist, and we would often swim out through water that was well over our heads to have our photo taken pretending to be The Messiah. Yes, the surf was rough, and yes, we knew big, hungry sharks lived out there, but we were Aussie kids; bronzed, invincible and oblivious to danger. With the image of Jaws still firmly planted in my mind, I decided that it would be most amusing to scare the crap out of my cousin. I waited until she was looking at me, then I looked back over my shoulder and screamed in my shrill, ten year old girly voice – “SHARKKKKK!!!”
The reaction was instantaneous and acute. Tanya screamed and took off like a rocket! I treaded water and giggled uncontrollably, bobbing like a cork in the surf and trying not to ingest the entire ocean. I thought, at the time, that it was the funniest thing I’d ever seen, and I was feeling quite pleased with myself. Then came the music …
Duh Dun … Duh Dun ..
(That’s weird. Where is it coming from?)
Duh Dun .. Duh Dun .. Duh Dun ..
(Ok, so now it’s not quite so funny.)
By this time Tanya had reached the shore; I was alone in water over my head and feeling distinctly like I was on the dinner menu. I don’t know if I set any kind of speed record, but I feel sure that I would have been a serious contender for the Australian Olympic Swim Team that day. I swam my ten-year old heart out, convinced that Jaws was right behind me, and that at any second I would go the way of the bikini-clad lovely in the opening scenes of the movie from whence that ominous music came. I reached the shore and collapsed.
To this day I have not ventured into water deeper than my knees again, and I am even kind of wary in a swimming pool. Serves me right for being a smart ass.