Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Jumping the shark
It was there – while surrounded by warm, green crystal waters of paradise under a brilliant blue sky and a sun that seemed so close I could reach out and touch it – that I realized a simple fact.
I was going to die here.
As I began to slip deeper into the water, I gave one final kick toward the surface, threw my head back and yelled to my fellow victims, “OK, whose #*& idea was this anyway??!”
“Why don’t we go snorkeling?” my mom-in-law asked at breakfast.
It was day four of our fabulous vacation in the Caribbean, and our family had spent the time swimming, eating, parasailing, eating, kayaking, eating and then eating again.
As I peered around my stack of 18 pancakes dripping with butter and syrup, I answered, “Sounds like fun!” I grabbed a fork and silently thanked God for whoever came up with the concept of “all-inclusive resorts.”
Later that day we placed our lives into the hands of a tour guide named Pedro, who kindly asked if we’d sign a waiver absolving him of all guilt in case one of us was eaten by a shark…or…something.
I had no idea what the “something” could be since I’d stopped paying attention after he uttered the word “shark.”
I tapped my husband on the shoulder and quietly asked, “There are sharks here?”
He turned around, pointed to his 6’ 7” brother and laughed, “Don’t worry. They’ll go after him first. He’s the bigger meal.”
“Yeah,” I answered, “but I’m the slower fish.”
We grabbed snorkels and flippers, strapped on life vests and climbed aboard jet skis for our trip out to the Great Mayan Reef.
Since our 4-year-old son was too young for snorkeling, he left to join Grammy and Grandpa on a submarine ride around the bay. We waved a friendly goodbye at the pier and headed off into the bright Mexican sun.
But something much more sinister awaited us that day in the warm Caribbean waters. Something hideous. Something that would reach down our throats, latch onto our stomachs and pull them back up through our ears.
It started when Pedro stopped his jet ski in the middle of the ocean, instructed the rest of us to pull up and cut the engines. He announced, “We’re here,” and told us to put on our fins and jump in the water.
And then we had to swim. And far, by the looks of it. I could barely make out the bright yellow buoy lines drifting along the top of the water, marking the snorkeling zone in the distance.
“Uh, there was nothing in the brochure about swimming,” I complained. “I thought we just floated around and looked at the pretty fish.”
My husband answered, “They have to keep the jet skis away from the zone, so people don’t get hit by accident.”
Screw safety, I thought. This is supposed to be a vacation!
OK, so it was only 100 yards. But it could have been the English Channel as far as I was concerned. I hadn’t swum 100 yards in a row since…well…ever.
How hard could it be?
The first cramp hit me about 10 strokes in. Starting in my lower calf, it traveled up my leg and lodged itself into my rib cage and never let go.
I yelled out, “HOLY MOTHER OF GOD!” and reached out to my husband for help. “THE SHARK GOT ME!”
He would have laughed – if he could breathe. Instead, he was sucking some serious wind himself. I tried to laugh but swallowed a gallon of salt water in the process.
I heard a chugging, thunderous noise behind me and turned to see both of my brothers-in-law turning purple with exertion and using every swear word in their vocabulary.
OK, now I didn’t feel so bad.
My two sisters-in-law – the only ones in decent shape – swam ahead, valiantly protecting the family’s good name.
I eventually made it by using the line markers as a tow rope, while desperately trying to keep down the 18 pancakes from breakfast.
And it was there above the beauty of the kaleidoscope-colored reef, with tiny fish swimming around me that I cursed the person who invented “all-inclusive resorts.”
The diet starts tomorrow.
OK, maybe the day after tomorrow. Or – better yet – next week. I was – after all – on vacation.