So, this just happened.
In 2010, when I first got my dive certification, my dad asked me whether or not I was afraid of sharks. I merrily responded with a blithe chirp about how sea creatures only bother with you if you’ve directly provoked them in any way or made them feel threatened (a quote I took almost verbatim from the PADI handbook). And, as the years have worn on, and my logbook has started to fill up, I’ve found this to be pretty true. Happy manta rays, reef sharks, and all numbers of nonchalant creatures have come and gone without so much as a backward glance at my flapping, inefficient body. PADI didn´t lie: unless pushed, most life down there just wants to be left alone.
Except for this guy.
So, I don’t really know anything about marine life. While other divers excitedly snap photos of rare and exotic species, I try to stuff my finned legs into the lotus position and play Buddha. When everyone congregates back at the dive shop to look up the fish that they saw, I race upstairs to be the first in the shower. That being said, when this character showed up, I took him for an cross-eyed shark with a backwards head.
I only noticed him after he’d swum around us a few times, flashed up to the surface, lost interest in the snorkelers, and lapped Sebastian once or twice.
And then he stopped.
In front of me.
With great interest.
For the couple of seconds or so that we stayed that way, my brain only absorbed 2 things: 1- the fact that his head looked as if someone had sat on it, and 2 – that he had teeth. Big ones.
It´s a strange thing, being regarded by a fish– especially when you aren´t sure what kind it is. True to my PADI training, I tried to stay perfectly still so that he’d lose interest and move on. He didn’t. I tried to shoo him away with my fin. He came closer. I tried backing away. He followed.
I’m not proud of what happened next. As I frantically wheelbarrowed my arms backwards and howled into my regulator, I became painfully aware that I’ve absolutely no underwater abilities, save for the ability to be there, which is only afforded to me by thousands of dollars worth of equipment. That being understood, I thought it might be in my best interest to flap wildly about and make a spectacle of myself.
Then, this happened.
The next few minutes consisted of the dive instructor using air from his secondary regulator to shoo it away, it bounding back and forth between divers and dive groups, and me praying for for a sign that we were good to surface.
All in all, our visitor turned out to be nothing but a large-ish remora- a suckerfish that looks to attach itself to a bigger host and survive by feeding on that host’s feces (which it apparently mistook my hair for). It was merely trying to figure out whether or not we made good vessels, and whether our feces would be ripe with nutrients. There was no real danger to speak of… but it served as a good wake-up call for me, as Sebastian so unlovingly chided me afterwards, “Every time you step into the water, you’re entering the food chain… and you may not always be at the top.”
So, this is a short post. The only other thing of note is our brief encounter with Belize immigration, where Sebastian found himself to be on the receiving end of a highly irregular inquiry into his personal effects that went something like this:
“Do you have any graphic materials with you?”
“You mean art?”
The illustritious immigration official then continued to list different kinds of sexual paraphanalia in his strong Caribbean accent (“Vai-breh-tahs!…. Six Tays!”) while we hastily cinched down our packs and tried to disguise our chuckles as respectful “No, sir”s.
Anyway, we´re in Tulum, now… working on our belly tans and waiting for Sebastian´s credit card to turn up. The summer is winding down to a stop and I´m starting to look forward to the beginning of school again. We´ve got about 2 and a half more weeks to go. My last post, (hopefully a meaty one) will be forthcoming!
“Avoiding danger in the long run is no safer than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.” – Helen Keller