When most people think of their honeymoon, they envision sipping drinks on a beach, touring the museums and art galleries of Paris, or eating their way around Italy. My husband and I dreamed about scuba diving with sharks.
So when my grandpa gave us a very generous gift and made us promise we’d spend it on a honeymoon, we booked tickets to Australia and found a place that offered a no-experience-necessary chance to breathe underwater and face one of the world’s scariest predators.
After two hours of training in the classroom and pool, we swam out into OceanWorld Manly’s Shark Dive X-Treme tank, coming face to face with giant turtles, stingrays big enough I could have used them as a blanket, and sharks ranging in size from three to 10 feet and weighing up to 770 pounds.
They gave us three very simple rules to follow when it came to the sharks.
(1) Don’t touch the sharks.
(2) Don’t hop up and down or wave your hands in front of the sharks.
(3) Whatever you do, don’t go into the section of the tank where they feed the sharks.
Makes sense, right? The idea is to avoid notice. Don’t mark yourself as food, but don’t mark yourself as a threat either. If you’re either, even a peaceful shark will bite. If you’re neither, a shark will swim by, even brush against you, without danger.
It’s the perfect advice for real sharks, but I think it might be the opposite of what we need to do with the sharks in life.
We often use the term shark to refer to a person who preys on others by cheating them or otherwise tricking them out of something.
With the sharks in life, you want to be noticed. You need to punch them in the nose to show them you’re not afraid.
I’m a softy and painfully shy, making me easy shark bait because I rarely stand up for myself. But this past weekend, I faced a shark and I don’t know what happened. Whether it was the sleep deprivation, the elation from the agent requests, or that I’d just had enough of sharks taking advantage of me in the last couple months, for the first time, I stood up and made sure the shark noticed me.
My co-writer (Lisa Hall-Wilson) and I went to New York for the Writer’s Digest conference, and because we’re both navigationally challenged, we stayed on-site at the hotel—where everything costs extra, including the Internet. We decided to buy just one day’s worth of Internet access so we could communicate with our families, and asked questions of the reception staff until we were sure how it worked. When we got our bill at checkout, they’d charged us twice (once for each of our laptops) even though we were told they wouldn’t because we were sharing a room.
Maybe they thought the amount was small enough we wouldn’t bother to argue over it.
What they didn’t count on was that to me it sounded like a lot of money. It represented my husband needing to work two additional hours at a job he hated, or no coffee for a month, or no treats for our dog.
Lisa and I told the lady at reception about the mistake, and she told us the charge was automatic and they had nothing to do with it. She wasn’t going to refund the second charge.
I gathered all my trembling insides together and stared her in the eye. “It’s unfortunate that we have to pay for a mistake made by your desk staff.”
And then I waited, making it clear we weren’t leaving until she fixed it. And grumbled a bit to Lisa the way you see really rich people do in movies when something isn’t to their liking.
And she removed the charge.
I’m realistic enough to know that I won’t always have the courage to face life’s sharks and force them to notice me, but maybe this is the start of a trend where I will be brave enough to punch at least some of those sharks right in the nose and win.
How do you usually deal with sharks? Have you ever challenged a shark and won?