"One ought, everyday at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture and speak a few reasonable words." --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Irrational Fish Fear

"I discovered I scream the same way whether I'm about to be devoured by a great white shark or if a piece of seaweed touches my foot." 
–Kevin James, Sweat the Small Stuff

This quote reminded me of an amusing BFF experience, so I thought I'd share. {L} and I have been best friends since we were both part of a marching cymbal line in Marching Band at 14 years of age. Yes, I said the cymbals. No, neither of us made a career out of playing them. We just had too many flutes in our band, so we both converted to drum line for marching season. We had WAY more fun making super awesome high-fives than we ever would have hanging out with the flute section. But I digress... 

I have always had an irrational fear of fish. In my *mind* they are harmless, but if one touches me, my body goes absolutely berserk, thus polluting my mind into an uncontrollable panic - kind of like the quote suggests. I have no idea why this happens, but it is unpleasant and humiliating to turn into a screaming, flailing, banshee-woman in front of strangers. So generally I try to avoid swimming in bodies of water that contain fish.   

Don't ask me why my husband and I ever bought a jet ski, but we did. We were young newlyweds - about 20 years old - with no children to spend our dual income on and we thought it would be fun to go to the lake on the weekends. I was fully aware that my fish-fear may cause a problem, but I thought the jet ski would be fun enough to overcome it. Besides, I wasn't planning on falling off the thing.  

Well, one day I had a day off in common with my brother and {L} (hubs had to work), so we planned a day out at the lake together. My brother backed the jet ski into the water at the dock and waded waist-deep into the carp-infested water to disconnect the jet ski from the trailer. Without touching the water, {L} and I hopped on and drove the jet ski over to the dock and waited while my brother parked the truck. By the time he came back, {L} was standing on the dock and I had removed the seat on the jet ski so that I could store the car keys underneath. 

But when my brother went to hand me the keys, he let go of them before I was ready and...plop! They dropped down into the disgusting water. We blamed each other for a minute (as siblings usually do) before the horrifying realization hit me that if we ever wanted to leave the lake, someone had to dive about 10 feet down in that cesspool to get the keys…and my brother was wearing contacts.

I refused to do it and so did {L}, who apparently had equal fish fears.  My brother tried to do it anyway, but after several dives, found the task impossible without being able to open his eyes under water.

So, between my irrational fear and my brother’s contacts, we were at an impasse. And by this time, we had attracted a LOT of attention from other boaters at the dock. I was absolutely refusing to dive down there, and my brother was starting to get extremely irritated at me. Other boaters tried to offer me incentives, “Lady, I’ll give you $20 if you’ll dive down there!” Yeah…I don’t know about you, but I don’t know anyone whose irrational fears can be overcome by a measly $20! I wondered if they were willing to pay me $20, why weren’t they willing to help me out and dive down there themselves? Oh yeah. Because they wanted to WATCH me freak out! I was entertainment! At that realization, I dug in my heals. I WILL NOT DIVE IN THAT WATER! I would rather LIVE at the lake forever than sell myself for the entertainment of half drunk fools!

So, after about 10 minutes of this, {L} shouts out, “Oh, everyone just SHUT UP! I’ll do it! I don’t see why I should have to,” she glares at me, “but someone has to do it! I’m not getting stranded over some DISGUSTING fish!”

It took her about 5 minutes to mentally prepare herself with a series of squeals and shudders, but jump in she did, while the gawkers looked on. 

About 10 seconds later, my hero launched herself out of the water like a dolphin. She plopped herself belly first on the dock, chucked the keys down in my direction and screamed at the top of her voice, “FRIENDSHIP ISN’T WORTH THIS MUCH!” Then to the great amusement of the gathered crowd, she started jumping around making all the sounds and gestures you would imagine a completely disgusted person making.

I was entirely cowed and utterly ashamed of myself, but we ended up having a fabulous time that day.  I did get my comeuppance, however. That was also the day that I was thrown from the jet ski in the middle of the lake. A stupid underwater weed scraped my leg and I had a panic attack that manifested as a vision of a giant carp, mouth agape, chasing me back to the jet ski. I don’t think I ever swam like that before or since.   

But the experience wasn't entirely without merit. I now know I would be utterly useless in an emergency…but fabulous comic relief. Yay. And I learned that I have the most breathtakingly phenomenal best friend on the planet! Love ya, {L}! Maybe someday I’ll be brave enough stand between you and one of your monsters shouting, "FRIENDSHIP ISN'T WORTH THIS MUCH" like a contradictory battle cry.


  1. LOL that was great!! And you call yourself a Griffyndor...geez!! Here's to bravery in the face of the heeby-geebys! Your forever friendship with {L} was cemented that day. I've said it before and I'll say it again...oceans aren't for the faint of heart! ;-)

  2. I have swam in many lakes, but totally understand your fear!!!! Sounds like a day for the history books!!!!